Football News: Southampton Season Review

 

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Southampton Season Review
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Southampton Season Review

Finishing 8th in the Premier League, going out of the Europa League at the group stage, losing in the 4th round of the FA Cup and reaching the final of the EFL Cup seems like a good season for Saints on the face of it. Just looking at those bare facts does not tell the full story, nor explain why Mauricio Pellegrino replaced Claude Puel in the summer. To understand that you need to look more closely at their season and how Puel's team played.

In particular there was the style of play, not just the constant tinkering but the extremely defensive mindset, which saw the team score just 41 goals in 38 Premier League games. Worse, at home in 19 league games the fans got to see just 17 goals scored. That is not a way to get them on your side and build support for your regime. It is also not a way to inspire a board to back you.


Claude Puel

At times Puel got his Saints' team to play some good, even exciting football, such as the EFL Cup final, however most of the time it was negative, boring football. The French manager did manage to integrate more youngsters into his team, and managed to cope with the loss of the previous season's first choice defensive pairing. Jose Fonte's sulk and eventual sale in January, closely followed by Virgil van Dyke suffering an injury that ended his season early. Maybe that could excuse the defensive and negative football played. Perhaps his plan was merely to protect a second choice backline of Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida.

Whatever the reasoning, there was a lot of unrest amongst the fans as, in the aftermath of the EFL Cup final, Saints form and results dipped noticeably. In the end, despite managing to secure a top 8 finish, it was little surprise that Puel was removed at the end of the season, even if it was harsh.

Marks out of 10: 5


Fraser Forster

19 clean sheets and just 55 goals conceded in 48 matches would suggest it was a good season for the England keeper, but the bare stats do not quite tell the whole story. Forster was extremely well protected by a team playing a very defensive style and his positioning and movement across was line was called in to question a number of times. However he can take pride in being a part of a team that conceded so few goals throughout the season, especially with the turmoil it was under for most of the season.

Marks out of 10: 5


Alex McCarthy

After joining in the summer from Crystal Palace to be Forster's back up, McCarthy got a couple of games in the EFL Cup before a hamstring problem ended his season at the end of October.

Marks out of 10: 1.5


Harry Lewis

A young keeper who came through the Saints' academy and got a chance in the FA Cup matches last season.

Marks out of 10: 4


Virgil van Dijk

Despite an injury ruling him out of the team in January, van Dijk has done enough in his time with Soton to attract the attention of the big clubs in the English Premier League. Having lost club captain Jose Fonte before they were ready, Saints are not so keen to lose their other first choice centre back before they are ready for him to leave. The big Dutchman provides a power and strength that is lacking without him in the side.

Marks out of 10: 5.5


Martin Caceres

With Fonte having been sold and van Dijk ruled out for the rest of the season, Saints moved to pick up free agent Caceres in February, to provide some cover at the back. The Uruguayan had been released by Juventus and only made one appearance in the Prem for Saints.

Marks out of 10: 1


Jose Fonte

Since joining Saints ten years earlier, Fonte had grown into a top class Premier League centre half and leader. During the summer his performances were vital to Portugal's victory in the European Championships, as he provided his nation with a solid base to attack from. However those performances led to problems with the club. A split formed between the two, with Fonte claiming the club had promised he would be allowed to leave for a big club, and Manchester United showing interest in signing him, but Soton refused to sell him.

Puel continued to pick him anyway, even though it was clear his head was not right and his performance level dropped markedly. Fonte continued his sulk until the January transfer window, when the club acquiesced and sold him. By that point, his sulk and poor performances had seen most of the interest surrounding him vanish and left just West Ham United with their hat in the ring for him. The 33 year old veteran got his big payday, but had to drop down the table to get it.

Marks out of 10: -5.5


Florin Gardos

The Romanian defender is a back up for the back ups nowadays, which showed when he did his chance. He managed one game for the first team, an FA Cup 4th round match with Arsenal, which saw the Saints slump to a 5-0 defeat.

Marks out of 10: -3


Maya Yoshida

Yoshida has been a good servant for Southampton, covering for right back and centre half over the years he has been there. Never able to hold down a first team place, always ending up as a back up, last season was a big chance for him to stamp his mark on the centre back slot, with Fonte leaving in January and van Dijk suffering a serious injury. His performances did not let anyone down.

Marks out of 10: 5.5


Jack Stephens

With both first choice centre backs out for the second half of the season, Stephens got his chance to impress and made sure he did so, with some extremely competent performances. While his performances were not spectacular, he also avoided making spectacular mistakes as he was solid in the final run in.

Marks out of 10: 6


Ryan Bertrand

This was not Bertrand's best season, though he was still one of the best left backs in the league, it was just that he seemed stifled by the style of play last season. In previous years he had been an excellent attacking left back, with plenty of license to get forward. Last season he was not given as much freedom and so did not get himself as involved as he would have liked. It is more down to how well he played in previous seasons, rather than him being poor last season though.

Marks out of 10: 6


Matt Targett

Targett must be considered unlucky with injuries, concerningly so now. His big break in the first team was delayed by injury, with Luke Shaw getting the chance to shine ahead of him because of it. Since then he has been plagued with injury problems, last season he was out from October to April with a hamstring problem. The injuries must be a serious worry for both the player and club, with regards to the youngster's long term future.

Marks out of 10: 2


Cedric Soares

Another of the intelligent acquisitions from Saints' recruitment team, the Portugese right back has proven himself to be a very good attacking full back in the Premier League, as well as helping his country to lift the Euros in the summer of 2016.

Marks out of 10: 7


Cuco Martina

Acting as cover for Soares, the right back showed some promising signs at times, but was a clear step down in quality from the Soares. He left on a free in the summer to join Everton.

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Jordy Clasie

It has been a real struggle for Clasie to hold down a place in the Southampton midfield. He managed just 24 appearances last season, with 5 of those being started on the bench.

Marks out of 10: 2


Oriol Romeu

The anchorman in the Southampton midfield, Romeu came on leaps and bounds last season and would have been an ever present in the Prem but for suspensions, due to the accumulation of yellow cards he picked up. His protection for the makeshift central defensive pairing was vital to the team in the latter stages of the season.

Marks out of 10: 7


James Ward-Prowse

The academy graduate has been growing as a player year on year, this season playing his way into the England reckoning to get his first cap. Ward-Prowse's main strength is his delivery from setpieces, something that he does well enough to earn a lot of interest in his services.

Marks out of 10: 7


Steven Davis

Davis has grown in importance to the Saints over the years, last season his importance rose even further, as he replaced Fonte in the role of club captain following the Portugese defender's move away in the January window. While he is not the attacking and creative force he once was, Davis is still a vital cog in the midfield and helped provide protection to the backline with his workrate.

Marks out of 10: 7.5


Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

The young midfielder arrived from Bayern Munich in the summer as an established Danish international with 21 caps at the age of 21. Despite that, he struggled to force his way into the first team on a regular basis and to show what he can do. There were signs of quality from Hojbjerg, but he has a lot to do to prove he is capable of being a regular Premier League midfielder.

Marks out of 10: 3


Harrison Reed

A youngster just beginning to break into the first team from the Saints' famed academy. A few appearances here and there were impressive and gave hope for his future. Though it will be in the English Championship next season, as he has moved on loan to Norwich City for the 2017/18 season.

Marks out of 10: 5


Jeremy Pied

Arrived on a free from Nice but suffered a knee problem in August before he got a chance to show what he could do. It was not until April that he returned to the squad.

Marks out of 10: 1


Sam McQueen

McQueen has struggled to get the early breakthrough that so many manage at Southampton, but last season could well have seen him push himself forward. Mainly used as cover on the left side of the pitch, McQueen was also used on the right wing in one game last season and did not let anyone down. Still a raw talent with a lot of work needed on his game, there are signs of a bright future for him, if he can learn quickly.

Marks out of 10: 4


Sofiane Boufal

The Morroccan arrived from Lille known for being a mercurial talent with a few question marks around his attitude. Along with niggling injuries, he showed that his reputation was well earnt. At times he produces some breathtaking skills, but usually follows that up by trying to do it all on his own or just not taking care with his pass and giving the ball away. Sometimes he is uncaring and looks like a player who just is not bothered whether the team wins or loses and does little in the way of work. Other times he will chase around like his life depends on the result. In every facet he is inconsistent, but there clearly is a quality player there waiting to be brought out.

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Jake Hesketh

Another academy graduate on the verge of the Saints' first team, though he is very much on the fringes of the side. Just one game in the Europa League and one in the EFL Cup was his total last season, though he did manage to notch up a goal in the EFL Cup in those roughly 100 minutes of football.

Marks out of 10: 3


Dusan Tadic

The Serbian bore a huge part of the creative and attacking weight on his shoulders through last season. A lot was asked of him, though it was a burden he struggled with, picking up just 8 assists to go with his measly 3 goals. That is something that was not all down to him, as he, and the team in general, were very stifled by the way they were asked to play. More will expected of his talents next season.

Marks out of 10: 5


Lloyd Isgrove

Isgrove has never quite been able to make his mark, unlike so many academy graduates, with just one appearances in each of the domestic cups his only contribution to the side. Both times his performance was found lacking and he was taken off. It was no surprise he left on a free transfer this summer to join Barnsley.

Marks out of 10: -2


Nathan Redmond

Redmond was signed from Norwich City in the summer as an out and out winger who liked to run at his man, but Puel tried to use him behind a striker in the centre of the pitch. While his pace and ability to finish were suited to the role, Redmond never really showed an understanding of the role he was being asked to perform. Luckily for him, and Saints, Puel realised that and reverted back to using him on the wing, with freedom to roam. 8 goals was a good return, but just 1 assist has to be a worry.

Marks out of 10: 4


Josh Sims

Sims is at a crossroads in his career right now, last season saw him on the fringes of the first team, but never able to quite do enough to force an extended run.

Marks out of 10: 2


Manolo Gabbiadini

Gabbiadini arrived from Napoli in a blaze of glory, with 6 goals in 5 games following his signing in January, before he picked up an injury. Following his return from the injury, he failed to score again but the initial flurry of goals still left him with an impressive scoring ratio of 6 in 12 games.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Jay Rodriguez

The forward has never truly returned to the form he showed prior to picking up an ACL injury a few seasons ago. That put him out for a long spell and it has clearly affected him mentally, leaving him a shadow of the player he once was. It has not stopped West Bromwich Albion from taking a chance that he could return to form, as they have stepped in to sign him this summer.

Marks out of 10: 3.5


Charlie Austin

When fit, Austin is a goalscorer, adding 9 goals in 22 games this season, despite having (yet another) season disrupted by injuries. With a large portion of the blame for his injuries down to lifestyle issues, it is difficult to have much sympathy for Austin when he does spend time on the sidelines. His signing is fast turning into a failed gamble.

Marks out of 10: 2


Shane Long

You know what you will get with Long, lots of pace, workrate, effort and industry but little in the way of end product. 5 goals in 45 games is not a good return for a striker. However his constant running and determination has still made him a cult favourite amongst the fans.

Marks out of 10: 2


Olufela Olomola

The young striker got a run out in the EFL Cup.

Marks out of 10: 1

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