Our next article takes us down to the south coast of England, to focus on Southampton F.C. Formed as a church team in the late 1800s, Southampton has been a proving ground for young players to excel at. Players like Virgil Van Dijk, Dusan Tadic, Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane, and Theo Walcott have all proven themselves to be exceptional talents […]
Our next article takes us down to the south coast of England, to focus on Southampton F.C.
Formed as a church team in the late 1800s, Southampton has been a proving ground for young players to excel at. Players like Virgil Van Dijk, Dusan Tadic, Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane, and Theo Walcott have all proven themselves to be exceptional talents and have since moved on to larger clubs.
This season will be manager Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first full season at the club. He moved from RB Leipzig last December to replace a struggling Mark Hughes and has high aspirations. He is coming from an incredibly structured club and I’m sure he’ll want to mold Southampton after that model.
So far, the club has made a few attacking signings. Che Adams from Birmingham City and Moussa Djenepo from Standard Liege have come in to bolster the attack. I think these are good young signings, with plenty of room to improve. They should be looking to score more than last season’s top scorer James Ward-Prowse, who managed a measly seven goals in the Premier League. I’m sure the manager will want to bring in someone more defensive, but for now, he is going with what he has. Players like Jannik Vestergaard, Maya Yoshida, Wesley Hoedt and Jan Bednarek will all be competing for minutes.
The main thing for the club to do will be to hold on to Mario Lemina. He is a former Juventus player and is linked with a move to Everton. He is a crucial player for Southampton, partnering with Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg in the center of the pitch. While there is still room for both to improve, I think the longer they stay together, the more dominant they can become. Especially under a manager like Hasenhuttl, who managed midfield talent, Naby Keita. Lemina averaged 4.3 tackles and interceptions per 90 while maintaining a respectable 86% pass accuracy. Emile-Hojbjerg had similar numbers, with 4.2 tackles and interceptions per 90 and an 82.9% pass accuracy. These figures will only improve if they play together and stay healthy.
The Saints have sold Matt Targett, so they will need another fullback to help cover out wide. I think they should look to bring in someone who is comfortable attacking as a wingback, but who has the stamina to get back on defense. I think Bernardo from Brighton is a good prospect to bring in. It would allow them to take a player from a struggling side and maximize his potential. He averaged 4.3 tackles and interceptions per 90 but had limited attacking output with just .5 key passes and .3 crosses per match. Brighton struggled in a relegation dogfight last season, so if Bernardo was in a better side than attacked more, he could increase those numbers significantly.
I think that Hasenhuttl will be able to turn Southampton around. It was only a few years ago that the Saints finished 6th under Ronald Koeman, I don’t think they will finish that high this term, but they have a lot of potential going forward. That being said, a lot of other clubs have strengthened significantly. I think Southampton will finish 12th, having a season that all of the pieces start coming together. They just need to get a core group that can stay healthy and plays in a system that maximizes their potential.