SAINTS defend­er Juan Lar­ios is begin­ning to play a more promi­nent role in the media team’s social media posts. 

The 20 year old will be eased back into action by boss Rus­sell Mar­tin, hav­ing been out injured since Novem­ber 2022.

How­ev­er, the posts indi­cate Lar­ios is being geared up for a return and could become an option again this sea­son. 

For­mer Man­ches­ter City young­ster Lar­ios is the back­up to the last remain­ing first-team posi­tion with­out nat­ur­al com­pe­ti­tion.

Cap­tain Jack Stephens, Kyle Walk­er-Peters and James Bree can all dis­place Ryan Man­ning but pre­fer to start else­where on the pitch. 

In a tac­ti­cal meet­ing with fans at St Mary’s ear­li­er in the sea­son, Mar­tin dis­played a pitch chart that illus­trat­ed squad depth. 

Daily Echo: Martin displayed a pitch map similar to this, illustrating Southampton's squad depthMar­tin dis­played a pitch map sim­i­lar to this, illus­trat­ing Southamp­ton’s squad depth (Image: SDE)

Each posi­tion shows the like­ly first-team starter for the rest of this sea­son in red with back­up options detailed in black text. 

Mar­tin has enough round pegs to fit into the round holes on the pitch with­out need­ing to devise any­thing clever over the inter­na­tion­al break.

Mar­tin has been keen to get Stephens into the team and he used him as a solu­tion to the injury absence of Walk­er-Peters. 

He has a dif­fi­cult deci­sion on his hands when Walk­er-Peters returns to fit­ness for the vis­it of Mid­dles­brough on March 29. 

As you can see on the pitch map, cen­tre-back is the only posi­tion with­out nat­ur­al cov­er for each indi­vid­ual first-team­er.

One is like­ly enough. Saints opt­ed to agree to a ter­mi­na­tion of Mason Hol­gate’s loan with Shea Charles also able to oper­ate out of posi­tion. 

Stephens is top back­up for the Cham­pi­onship but he is not bet­ter than starters Tay­lor Har­wood-Bel­lis and Jan Bednarek. 

Daily Echo: Captain Jack Stephens faces a fight to keep his placeCap­tain Jack Stephens faces a fight to keep his place (Image: Stu­art Mar­tin)

In mid­field, per­for­mances between Christ­mas and the March break made it appar­ent where each play­er fits in this team.

Will Small­bone was tasked with oper­at­ing as the mid­field six in home defeats against Hull City and Mill­wall in the absence of Fly­nn Downes. 

When he returned to the eight posi­tion for the next two vic­to­ries, he was among Southamp­ton’s best per­form­ers. 

Mar­tin will hope Downes is avail­able for every match but Charles rep­re­sents the clear choice to step in for him.

The North­ern Ire­land inter­na­tion­al’s pro­tec­tion of the back four and effec­tive­ness in tran­si­tion make him a more nat­ur­al replace­ment.

Equal­ly, it has emerged that Joe Roth­well is at his most effec­tive when he is enter­ing the oppo­si­tion box. 

His braces ver­sus both Hud­der­s­field Town and Sun­der­land in front of the Chapel end demon­strate his tech­ni­cal prowess. 

Play­ing in a deep­er mid­field role, where he had for AFC Bournemouth and for Saints against Hull City, he has lim­i­ta­tions. 

Daily Echo: Joe Rothwell's four goals have all been arriving onto the ball in a dangerous areaJoe Roth­well’s four goals have all been arriv­ing onto the ball in a dan­ger­ous area (Image: PA)

For many clubs, the likes of Stephens, Small­bone and Roth­well might be the best option in mul­ti­ple posi­tions.

Saints, how­ev­er, have the lux­u­ry of spe­cial­ists in every role and need not make any sac­ri­fices as they com­pete for auto­mat­ic pro­mo­tion. 

Che Adams is the lead­ing nat­ur­al num­ber nine with his work back to goal as influ­en­tial as the goals and assists he pro­vides. 

Either side, flex­i­bil­i­ty will remain. Adam Arm­strong has net­ted most of his 18 strikes while play­ing off the right of the front three.

The intro­duc­tion of loan sign­ing David Brooks — too good to play out of his pre­ferred posi­tion — has meant Arm­strong mov­ing to the left. 

Daily Echo: Adam Armstrong played on the left under Ralph HasenhuttlAdam Arm­strong played on the left under Ralph Hasen­hut­tl

Ryan Fras­er is sec­ond choice on the left but Kamaldeen Sule­m­ana and Sam Edozie can oper­ate on either side when need­ed. 

The start­ing team Mar­tin names on Good Fri­day after three weeks of think­ing may reveal where every­one lies on his updat­ed pitch map. 

It seems an obvi­ous call to keep all the spe­cial­ists in their nat­ur­al posi­tions with the inten­si­ty of the run-in com­ing up. 

Those names in black will all be need­ed as Saints look to tra­verse 10 games in 36 days to reach the Cham­pi­onship table’s sum­mit.