Based on the evidence so far this season, Southampton will be one of the clubs hell-bent on splitting up the Premier League’s traditional Big Six to secure some form of European qualification.
That role is usually taken up by Wolves, but it’s been a mixed start to the campaign for the Midlands side - eight games have produced four wins, but also three losses and just nine goals.
Which begs the question ahead of Wolves’ meeting with Southampton this coming Monday of whether they’ve been overtaken by Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side and Saints are instead establishing themselves as the Premier League’s best of the rest.
While we will only know the true answer to that once all 38 games are played, perhaps a combined XI comparing the most talented players from each team will give us some indication.
Here’s GIVEMESPORT’s Wolves vs Southampton combined XI…
Goalkeeper - Rui Patricio
There’s been incredibly little to choose between Rui Patricio and Alex McCarthy this season, with both goalkeepers amongst the best performing in the Premier League.
But statistically speaking, the Wolves man has the slight edge. While they’ve kept the same amount of clean sheets, four, Patricio has conceded less goals and produced a better percentage of saves to shots faced.
Perhaps the situation would be different if Saints hadn’t capitulated against Spurs in the second half of their 5-2 defeat, but due to such fine margins we’ll have to follow the numbers on this one.
Right-Back - Nelson Semedo
Kyle Walker-Peters has hardly put a foot wrong this season and looks well-settled at St. Mary’s after a jumpy start to his initial loan spell, but Nelson Semedo was an incredibly shrewd signing for Wolves.
The former Barcelona man currently ranks joint fifth in the Premier League for dribbles per game this term while he’s also played his part defensively with 1.7 tackles and 1.3 interceptions each Premier League outing.
It’s another closely contested position but with more established pedigree we think Semedo is the right call.
Right Centre-Back - Willy Boly
Jan Bednarek will feel slightly aggrieved to have missed out - the 24-year-old is enjoying another solid campaign at the heart of Southampton’s defence.
But the Wolves backline has conceded the joint-fewest goals of any Premier League side this term and that can’t be ignored.
We’ve chosen Willy Boly to represent that resilience as Wolves’ most action-packed centre-half; this term has seen him register 1.6 tackles, 1.8 interceptions, 3.8 clearances and 3 successful aerials per game.
Left Centre-Back - Jannik Vestergaard
Jannik Vestergaard is one of the most improved players in the Premier League this season.
He leads Wolves and Southampton’s squads for aerials won and clearances per game, and his all-round influence has vastly improved from the early days of his Saints career when the Dane appeared a cumbersome centre-half struggling with the pace of the Premier League.
Vestegaard has been making his influence felt at the other end of the pitch as well, having twice latched onto James Ward-Prowse deliveries to find the net.
Unfortunately, that means no room for Wolves skipper Conor Coady - although his performance rating on Whoscored this season is a lowly 6.69.
Left-Back - Ryan Bertrand
Whereas all the slots so far in our combined XI have been highly competitive, this one was a pretty simple shout. With resident left wing-back Jonny out injured, Romain Saiss, Marcal and Rayan Ait-Nouri have all tried to fill his void this term with very mixed results.
Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand, meanwhile, is quite simply a safe pair of hands. He can function as a left-back or a wing-back and tends to do a pretty good job in either role, while at this stage of his career he offers vast experience.
As well as once featuring for Chelsea in a Champions League final, the occasional England man has 236 Premier League appearances to his name.
Right Central Midfield - James Ward-Prowse
Since Hasenhuttl took the reigns at St. Mary’s, James Ward-Prowse has just got better and better.
It feels as though the England international has really elevated his game at the start of this season though, having already netted three times in just eight outings - in no small part to that incredible free kick brace against Aston Villa.
But most impressive has been his ability to combine deadly set pieces with real industry in all-round play. Oriol Romeu is the only player in either squad to average more tackles per game than the Saints skipper this season.
Left Central Midfield - Ruben Neves
Much like Wolves in general, Ruben Neves hasn’t quite been at his best this season - and for that reason, Ward-Prowse’s midfield partner Oriol Romeu can have some justified complains about missing out on a spot in our midfield.
Nonetheless, the Portuguese’s pedigree is undoubted. At 23 years of age he’s an 18-cap international, boasts the title of the youngest captain in Champions League history and is well-established as the bedrock of one of the better sides in the Premier League.
An uplift in form wouldn’t go amiss but after a stodgy start to the season at Molineux, Wolves are likely to come into their own in the coming months.
Right Midfield - Adama Traore
He may have surprisingly fallen out of favour this season - potentially due to an ongoing contract saga - but in GIVEMESPORT’s eyes Adama Traore is still by far the best wide player on the books at either club.
Last season, the Spain international simply terrorised Premier League defences. As well as registering 13 goal involvements, Traore averaged an incredible 4.3 dribbles per match and even in the three games he started this term, he registered at least seven dribbles in each of them.
With so much natural dynamism we’ll always find room for Traore in our XI, even if Nuno Santo mysteriously can’t.
Left Midfield - Pedro Neto
Spare a thought for the likes of Stuart Armstrong and Theo Walcott, who have amassed an impressive five goal involvements between them this season and played important parts in Southampton’s campaign.
But Pedro Neto earns a place in this combined XI on credit. He’s one of the players keeping Traore out of Wolves’ starting XI and with one goal and two assists to his name already, the 20-year-old is enjoying a superb start to the new season.
He’s also top of both squads for key passes with 15 in total.
Right Striker - Danny Ings
Before his recent injury, Danny Ings was picking up exactly where he’d left off last season.
Seemingly determined to go one better this year and lift the Golden Boot, Southampton’s star man racked up five goals in seven outings - as well as two assists.
Saints didn’t struggle in his absence against Newcastle but they’ll be desperate for him to return to the fold as soon as possible.
His place in this combined XI, meanwhile, was always a foregone conclusion. No player on either team has scored more Premier League goals this term.
Left Striker - Raul Jimenez
Despite Wolves’ mediocre start to the season and, in truth, a rather unspectacular beginning to the campaign individually when compared to his form over the last few seasons, Raul Jimenez has still managed to net four times in eight games.
That only highlights the Mexico international’s quality and if they start picking up the pace at Molineux in the next few weeks, he could soon start to fly up the Premier League’s scoring charts.
Unfortunately, Jimenez’s inclusion in this XI means there’s no place for Che Adams, Ings’ strike partner whose busy start to the new campaign has seen him register five goal involvements.
But Jimenez simply has a more established reputation in the top flight, and we think Wolves and Saints’ top goalscorers would make a lethal combination.
While Southampton may be fourth-place in the Premier League table, it's Wolves who dominate our combined XI with seven players to Saints' five.
In part, that attests to the fine job Hasenhuttl is doing at St. Mary's - although Southampton have a handful of elite players in their ranks, the Austrian has by and large created a side far greater than the sum of its parts.
For Wolves, meanwhile, Nuno Santo will hope their quality can tell in the coming weeks. There are no doubt some top-end players at Molineux, it just hasn't quite happened for them this season.News Now - Sport News