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.