Southampton season preview: This year’s Swansea?

 

RC Celta de Vigo v Southampton - Pre Season Friendly

Big season for Victor Wanyama

Last Season
The Saints board made a very bold and somewhat controversial decision to replace then manager Nigel Adkins with Mauricio Pochettino in January. Pochettino had Southampton playing some great football and the team looked confident and organised, by getting the team moral high by playing attractive football this was rewarded by beating Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and getting a well earned draw against Arsenal. Pochettino took on the team playing attractive football and continued this but made the defence a stronger unit which was hard to break down.

Off-season report

Pochettino has managed to bring in Victor Wanyama from Celtic and Dejan Lovren from Lyon – both players defensive minded so will give the defence a bit more of a presence and will sure up an already steady back four. Southampton have released and sold a few players this summer, which is creating space for more signings but the ethos looks to be two average players out and 1 quality player in, this will work for Southampton in the long run and this is how many great teams start.

Season objectives
Southampton should be looking for a top seven finish and a place in the Europa League. An anonymous mid-table would be a let down for Southampton with the squad they have, and the standard of football, which has been set by Pochettino. Ambition in the transfer market should yield at least a Top Ten spot.

Manager
Mauricio Pochettino took over from Nigel Adkins in January and the appointment was negatively received by football fans but having seen what Pochettino brings to the club, he has impressed and shown he can get a La Liga feel to a Premier League team. Pochettino’s first job was to keep the number of conceded goals down and he done this to brilliant effect with his pressing game. Has the calibre of name to attract, and importantly, keep quality at the club.

Strengths
The main strength of Southampton is their counter attack. Adkins and Pochettino both managed to get the team attacking with purpose and bring out the best in Gaston Ramirez, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana in midfield. Morgan Schneiderlin filled the space behind the 3 attacking players and by filling this space you slow down the opposition counter attack. The Southampton counter attack will give natural finisher Rickie Lambert a lot of chances and he could score 15+ goals again if he can stay fit.

Weaknesses
The main weakness this season maybe the lack of goals if Lambert gets an injury as even though Jay Rodriguez, Billy Sharp, Lee Barnard and Mayuka Emmanuel are good enough to lead the line, they are not going to score 15+ goals a season or even double figures, so a lack of depth upfront is worrying for Southampton. If Pochettino can get a new forward in before the window ends it will help with the form of Lambert as he can be rested and stay fit, if Pochettino can’t bring in a new forward then a complete change in the formation is needed and this will effect their form.

Key Player
Morgan Schneiderlin. He is the Yaya Toure, Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane to Southampton (granted he is not at the standard of the for mentioned players) as his endless running and maturity has become a major part in the Pochettino era so far. Schneiderlin has the best tackle and interception stats for a midfielder last season, a rare and mightily impressive double feat.

It’s a big season for
Victor Wanyama. He came to Southampton after being linked with a number of clubs during the summer from Scottish Champions Celtic. Crossing the boarder to play in the Premier League will be a huge test for the highly rated Kenyan. Wanyama came into the spotlight when he had put in a wonderful performance against Barcelona in last season’s Champions League and then was tested and brought back down to earth when Celtic played Juventus. If Wanyama is to survive he has to perform against some of the best midfielders in the World on a regular basis, he will be given a fair chance but only time will tell. Certainly has the ideal size and power combination to be dominant.

Emerging star
James Ward-Prowse is coming into the Southampton team after Luke Shaw shone in the Premier League last season. Ward-Prowse is an extremely talented midfielder and should get more games this season as Pochettino will have to rotate his squad and see who can take the club forward. He can play in the box to box role or take up a role behind the forward. The latest off the production line.

Prediction
Top ten. The Saints have a quality manager, backing from the board and a hugely reliable youth team. Southampton have shaken off their selling club title and now look to build a team which will compete in Europe. They have a young team, but you can only get experience by playing regularly, and this is something which done properly can do something special. A cup run will be on the agenda but will be sacrificed if they feel the team has a chance at qualifying for Europe. The FA Cup and League Cup are on the radar for the future but this season is to make their mark and cement a place in Europe on a regular basis.

Keeping his squad together will be another headache for Pochettino as Southampton are not a selling club, but if a Champions League team came in for a player with a huge transfer fee, it would be very hard to say no for both player and club. Pochettino can keep the Southampton train momentum going and keep the team playing quality football which we know they are capable of. They are a threat to pinch a European spot next season like Swansea achieved last year.

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