Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Is Southampton finally suffering from player sales?

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman will be looking for his team's form to improve starting with tonight's Europa League play-off against Midjtylland

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman will be looking for his team’s form to improve starting with tonight’s Europa League play-off against Midjtylland

Southampton have made an absolute fortune selling off their prize assets in recent summers. The clubs bank balance must be busting at the seams, because only a bit of that money is being reinvested into the team.

Tonight the Saints face Danish champions Midtjylland in the Europa League play-off first leg.

The Saints will be favourites heading into the clash, but last weekend’s 3-0 mauling by Everton at St Marys may have Saints fans concerned.

Poor

In truth last Saturday’s performance against Everton was poor and everybody connected with Southampton will know that. The defence were poor, the midfield gave the defence no protection and the forwards were well marshalled by England pair Phil Jagielka and John Stones.

Lost

The players that the south coast team lost last summer were replaced adequately and Southampton actually looked a better team for their arrivals. It could be argued that the players who they have lost this summer have been harder to replace.

The Saints had the second best defensive record in the Premier League last season. That record was courtesy of having Fraser Forster in goal, with a defence of Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand.

Clyne left for Liverpool, on-loan Alderweireld returned to Atletico Madrid and joined Tottenham early this summer on a permanent deal. The biggest loss was maybe that of Forster, who sustained a knee injury late last season.

That means Southampton currently only have two of the five of that solid defensive unit from last season and even Bertrand has missed the beginning of the campaign.

The players who have left, or in Forster’s case are injured have been a major loss to the Saints. The defence was the foundation of Southampton’s seventh place finish last season.

Without that solidarity the Saints have conceded five goals in their opening two Premier League games and looked very vulnerable at the back. French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin was a superb protector of the defence alongside Victor Wanyama.

Schneiderlin joining Manchester United was a blow, but it was inevitable in the end, after speculation about the Frenchman’s future all last summer.

Replacements

This summer signings are maybe not of the same standard as last summers. The players that arrived to replace key players were either the same standard, or even better than the ones they replaced last summer.

It is difficult to claim that this summer. Dutch ‘keeper Maarten Stekelenburg arrived to cover Forster’s absence, while not making any big mistakes there are still question marks over the former-Fulham star.

Right-back Cedric Soares has arrived from Sporting Lisbon this summer and may take time to adjust to the Premier League. As a replacement for Nathaniel Clyne he has big boots to fill. The other new right-back Cuco Martina played 45 minutes against Newcastle.

It would be unfair to judge Schneiderlin’s replacements. Dutch midfielder Jordy Clasie is highly-rated, but is currently sidelined through injury and has yet to make his Saints debut. The other new central midfielder Oriol Romeu has only just joined the Saints from Chelsea and made his debut off the bench against Everton.

Distraction

Southampton worked hard to finish seventh in the Premier League last season and earn a place in the Europa League. However, for a club like Southampton with a relatively small squad it could prove a major distraction this season.

However tonight’s game also represents a chance for Southampton to get back on track after that poor display against Everton on Saturday.

Outsiders

Southampton will have been looking to finish in the top-six of the Premier League this season after such a good campaign last season. However, they are currently considered outsiders at odds of 4/1 to make a top-six spot.

Everton will be looking at a similar sort of position as the Saints this season, but they were a cut above the team from the south coast on Saturday.

Vital

It is vital for the Saints to start to pick-up wins and points this season. The clubs fans will be hoping that Saturday’s performance was just a one-off. They will also be hoping that the annual loss of players has not diluted the quality of their squad to the extent that the team are unable to enjoy a fruitful campaign this season.

Can Southampton finish in the top-six this season?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Nugent


David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.

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