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Podcast: Talking Saints, Hughes and Hasenhuttl

With Southampton sitting 18th in the Premier League after only one win this season, Mark Hughes was relieved of managerial duties. 

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Defeat in a crucial match against Fulham was followed by Hughes’s side surrendering a 2-0 lead against Manchester United as time ran out for ‘Sparky’.

Former RB Leipzig manager Ralph Hasenhuttle is set to replace the Welshman at St Mary’s as Southampton look to pull away from the relegation zone.

Join us on the EPL Round Table where we discuss…

  • Mark Hughes’s appointment
  • The summer transfer window
  • Hughes’s shortcomings
  • And Hasenhuttl’s imminent appointment

Fulham: Hero and Villain

Just as you thought Southampton’s season couldn’t get any worse, Mark Hughes’ team surrendered three points to Fulham in a match we couldn’t afford to lose.

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The Welshman’s future at the club is now in serious jeopardy as Saints look like a relegation waiting to happen. Last season, we slept walked into a relegation scrap, but this year we’re hurtling towards the drop zone with an inability to turn our season around.

Hero

The only true positive to take from yesterday’s defeat was the performance by Stuart Armstrong. The Scotland international was at the heart of all that was good from Saints and he took both of his goals expertly.

His first opened the scoring as he calmly chested down an attempted clearance to slot past Sergio Rico; and his second was arguably the pick of the bunch. He latched onto a Cedric back heel to slam the ball into the top corner.

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Saints have been crying out for goals from midfield for the past two seasons and after an injury hit start to life at St Mary’s, bagging a brace at Craven Cottage will bring back some much needed confidence as Armstrong tries to cement his name on the team sheet.

Armstrong’s performance yesterday was the only positive to take from our defeat as Saints failed to maintain a lead and adapt to shifts in momentum.

Villain

Wesley Hoedt. The Dutchman, once again, proved more of a hinderance than help as his inability to deal with the pace and power of Premier League attackers was there for all to see.

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He was caught ball watching for Aleksandar Mitrovic’s first as the Serbia international was unchallenged to head past Alex McCarthy.

Mitrovic’s second and Fulham’s third was inexcusable from Hoedt’s point of view as he gifted possession away on the touchline. As a result, he found himself out of position as Mitrovic volleyed home the winner.

During his Southampton career, he hasn’t shown any signs of leadership and it’s still a mystery how he maintains his place in the side after consistent poor performances.

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Following Huddersfield’s 2-0 win away to Wolves, Southampton have slipped into the relegation zone whilst having the least amount of wins to our name.

The defeat yesterday has left us with more questions than answers and with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur up next, our winless run looks set to continue.

Preview: Fulham vs Southampton

Premier League action returns this weekend as Southampton aim to bounce back and gain some momentum going into a busy Christmas period. The 1-1 draw with Watford prior to the International break certainly felt like a defeat and a missed opportunity to pick up three valuable points.

Both Southampton and Fulham have only one win to their names this season with each side looking to restore some confidence.

Saturday’s fixture at Craven Cottage proves to be nothing but a relegation six pointer and anything less than three points will simply not suffice for Mark Hughes’ men, who currently sit out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

Fulham currently sit bottom of the Premier League table and to gain an insight into what we can expect from the Cottagers this weekend, I spoke to Matt Baldwin from Fulham Focus.

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What have you made of Fulham’s season so far? 

Whilst most of the results are on par with what you’d expect a newly promoted side’s to be, it’s more the performances that worried me & then towards the end of Slav’s reign you could just tell that the players had lost faith in his methods. Thank the Lord we got Burnley when they were in Europa League mode or it could have been a lot worse.

Fulham appear to be struggling at the foot of the Premier League table; what do you put this lack of ability to perform down to? 

Whilst injuries did play a role in the ever changing back line, I don’t think Jokanovic knew his best side & the constant chopping and changing meant we couldn’t get a settled side together. I also think that Slav’s refusal to change his style of play from last year cost us badly because teams figured out a way to stop us & we never had a Plan B.

Fulham spent £100m in the transfer window to bolster the side ahead of their return to the premier league; how did you rate your clubs summer dealings? 

I think a few of the signings were superfluous, the team from last year had earned the right to be starting in the top flight, but the influx of new players didn’t exactly help with the harmony in the camp in my belief. That being said there have been a few players I’ve been impressed with, Maxime Le Marchand being chief amongst them, who’s proven himself very capable both as a left back & centre back.

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Who do you expect to be your key man in a bid to get you out of a potential relegation dog fight?

Alfie Mawson. I truly believe if he’d been fit from the start of the season we’d be in a much better position than we are now. A good old fashioned centre back but above that, you can clearly see he’s got some leadership in him and that’s been one of the huge things we’ve been missing so far and will be very important going forward.

What do you make of the appointment of Claudio Ranieri? How do you think he can make an impact? 

It certainly took me by surprise, but the more I look at it, the more sense it makes. Claudio said in his first press conference that he thinks the defence is the most important aspect of the game & that’s what we need to fix the most. I think the main impact he’ll make will be with the morale of fans, he’s more upbeat & energetic than Slavisa & that’s going to rub off, even more so if results start to pick up.

Ahead of this weekends game, which Southampton player do you fear the most? 

James Ward Prowse. Predominantly going to be a threat from set pieces but just his general play is incredible, it’s an outrage he hasn’t got more time in the England squad by now.

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Finally; a score prediction for this Saturday. 

Fulham 2-1 Southampton.

Is sacking Hughes the answer?

Southampton’s disappointing start to the season continued following the draw at home with Watford as the Saints failed to maintain a lead once again, but if our poor run continues away to Fulham, would sacking Mark Hughes be the answer?

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The Welshman took the reigns at St Mary’s with the club battling against relegation at the back end of last season. Hughes had only eight games to save the Saints and after a 1-0 win away to Swansea in a relegation shootout; he did.

His initial contract was only until the end of the 2017/18 season and after Southampton maintained their Premier League status, Hughes was the obvious choice to guide Saints into the 2018/19 season.

Much like last season, Saints’ opening fixtures to this campaign looked favourable on paper.

But as the Premier League season kicked off, the same problems that saw Saints sleepwalk into a relegation battle last campaign were apparent to see.

Saints have had an inability to put the ball in the back of the net whilst keeping it out of their own for the past three seasons. During Hughes’ 20 league games in charge, Southampton have scored 16 goals whilst conceding 33.

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A lack of confidence, especially when taking the lead in games, has cost Saints immensely. Against Leicester City, the second home match of the season, Saints were arguably the better side up until Ryan Bertrand gave Saints the lead.

However, it took the Foxes only four minutes after conceding to equalise as Demarai Gray slotted past Alex McCarthy.

Leicester had their tails up and were in the ascendency as Saints couldn’t handle the shift in momentum.

The defence held strong up until the second minute of injury time when Harry Maguire’s tame effort found its way into the back of the net.

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Since the Welshman has been at the helm, his side have dropped 18 points from winning positions from the end of last season and the beginning of this current campaign.

Neither Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino or Hughes could prevent a gradual slide down the table and fans began to direct their frustration to the hierarchy of the club.

After poor transfer dealings alongside uninspiring managerial appointments post Ronald Koeman, Vice-Chairman Les Reed and Technical Director Martin Hunter left the club by mutual consent.

Reed undoubtedly played a big part in the club’s rise to European football but he was ultimately responsible for the recent failings at the club.

Since Reed and Hunter’s departure Saints have been linked with Norwich City’s technical director Stuart Webber, Leicester’s head of recruitment Eduardo Macia and former Southampton head of recruitment and current RB Leipzig sporting director Paul Mitchell.

It’s unclear at the moment what affect this will have on the pitch, but it’s a change that was long overdue.

Saturday’s fixture against Fulham is a relegation six-pointer; there’s no two ways about it.

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Fulham currently sit bottom of the Premier League and on the back of six consecutive defeats, Slavisa Jokanovic was replaced by Claudio Ranieri at Craven Cottage.

The Italian returns to the Premier League after spells with Chelsea and most recently Leicester; where he masterminded arguably the greatest feat in English football history.

Ranieri lit up the Premier League whilst in charge of the Foxes due to his heart-warming, entertaining and honest press conferences and these factors reflect from his teams on the pitch.

Southampton have reached the stage in the season where they’ll take three points any way they’ll come. Ideally, the players will show they have the qualities to start climbing the table, but after the poor start to the season it’s about getting points on the board instead of glittering performances.

If Hughes is to keep his job, his team need to leave West London with three points; anything other than that could potentially see the fans lose patience with the Welshman entirely.

After working and implementing the 5-3-2 formation that kept Saints in the Premier League throughout pre-season, Hughes brought the players back to square one only 45 minutes into the new season.

During the first half of the campaign opener against Burnley the formation proved to be ineffective and, rightly, Hughes switched to a 4-4-2 which saw an improved second half performance.

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Despite matches against Liverpool and Chelsea, Saints have lined up in the 4-4-2 or most recently in a 4-3-3. This suggests that Hughes himself doesn’t know his best team or formation which potentially causes confusion amongst the players.

The dilemma Southampton face is that they run the risk of following clubs such as Aston Villa and Sunderland if they decide to change managers.

Looking at those available, Saints will only appoint another like for like manager as the club are reluctant to look at those already in jobs.

Going down the route of firing and hiring for short term success isn’t a sustainable model, but after the appointments of Puel and Pellegrino proved unsuccessful, the club may shy away from a ‘left-field’ appointment.

Results are everything in football and ultimately if Southampton don’t turn their season around the club will be left with no choice but to sack Hughes.

Hughes has arguably taken over the club in it’s weakest position since promotion to the Premier League and the current squad lacks the quality we had under Koeman and the momentum it had under Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino.

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At the moment it appears the dressing room is still behind the manager as a number of players have publicly backed him in interviews.

Last season the club showed that they will give the manager time to turn the situation around as Pellegrino maintained his job far longer than anyone expected he would.

With Hughes in charge, the club has someone with a vast amount of Premier League experience and appointing someone on the basis of bringing in top flight experience wouldn’t make sense.

The results against Fulham and Cardiff will ultimately decide Hughes fate as the club will reportedly review the managerial situation after Saturday’s match.

The season so far…

Seven games into the 2018/19 Premier League season, and the cracks from last season are already reappearing at Southampton.

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Apart from a trip to Anfield, many would argue that, on paper, Southampton’s opening games were favourable. But after picking up just five points in seven games, it’s looking to be another long season for Saints’ supporters.

In home matches against Burnley, Leicester City and Brighton and Hove Albion, the Saints picked up an underwhelming two points following draws against the Clarets and the Seagulls whilst surrendering a second-half lead against the Foxes in a 2-1 defeat.

Things haven’t been much better on the road, either. Our only win of the season came at Crystal Palace thanks to goals from Danny Ings and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg.

Other than the victory at Selhurst Park, Southampton have failed to gain any points in away fixtures against Everton, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers – and despite two victories in the Carabao Cup, it’s the same issues that are costing Saints points in the league.

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Southampton’s Achilles heel last season was their inability to hold onto a lead, and this is haunting them yet again this season. 21 points were dropped from winning positions last campaign, and this season Saints have already dropped five points in games in which they’ve taken the lead.

Fingers will start to be pointed at Mark Hughes, but this has been an issue ever since Ronald Koeman left the club. Since then, Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino, and Hughes have all struggled to adapt their squads to shifts in momentum during games.

At home to Leicester, Southampton were rewarded for their control of the game as Ryan Bertrand fired in the opening goal on 52 minutes. However, as the Foxes turned their focus into getting back into the game, Saints looked like a different side and capitulated. Demarai Gray equalised four minutes later before Harry Maguire snatched all three points in injury time, leaving fans bewildered as to how the team threw the points away.

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Although the same issues have been holding Saints back across the past three seasons, Hughes isn’t entirely blameless for this season’s failings.

Throughout pre-season, the Welshman implemented and worked on the 5-3-2 formation that kept Saints in the Premier League last season. However, during the opening day fixture against Burnley the system failed to have its desired effect and Hughes adapted to a 4-4-2 which saw Saints improve in the second half.

Apart from the trip to Anfield, Hughes has opted to use the 4-4-2 since the draw against Burnley; scrapping the system worked on during pre-season. As a result, the players and management have had to go back to square one in terms of transferring the ideas from training ground into matches.

Hughes’ substitutions have also been questionable this season; in particular in the match against Brighton at home. With Southampton trying to maintain their lead after Shane Duffy pulled a goal back for the visitors, James Ward-Prowse and Manolo Gabbiadini were introduced for Mohammed Elyounoussi and Shane Long.

With six minutes remaining, Steven Davis replaced Danny Ings to try and add more defensive stability to the side. Not only did we have a similar player in Ward-Prowse on the pitch, it also prevented us trying to kill the game off. Brighton predictably claimed a late point, when Glenn Murray netted a 90th minute penalty and Saints once again let a lead slip.

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Although Southampton have continually struggled to score goals, our defence this season has been our weakest department. The centre back partnership of Wesley Hoedt and Jannick Vestergaard has given Southampton a fragile spine in defence.

Neither defenders have seemingly taken control of a backline lacking a commanding leader leaving Southampton vulnerable from set pieces and quality attacks. 13 Premier League goals have been conceded so far this season and it may be time for Hughes to experiment with the other defenders in his squad.

Individual errors alongside our inability to prevent soft goals have ultimately cost us so far this season. Hughes needs to stick to his guns, and create the identity he originally wanted to see from his team in order to keep his job.

There is potential in this squad, but if players and management continue to make the same mistakes, then we won’t be able to progress.

Nathan Redmond-It’s time to kick on

After a difficult and uneventful 2017/18 campaign, this season, Nathan Redmond means business.

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During sections of last season, the weight of fans’ frustration fell on Nathan Redmond’s shoulders, as he was arguably targeted as the scapegoat for Saints’ misfortunes. The pressure of replacing Sadio Mane looked to be hindering and holding back his talents.

The Englishman started life perfectly at St Mary’s by netting the equaliser in Claude Puel’s first game in charge against Watford. However, following his goal against Manchester City in October, Redmond went 15 games without scoring; his next coming in March as Saints faced Watford at Vicarage Road.

At the end of his first season at Southampton, Redmond registered seven goals and one assist in 37 league appearances. As a young, promising winger in his debut season, it wasn’t a bad return by any stretch of the imagination – but the club had wrongfully given him the responsibility of being our second largest goal threat.

We were demanding all too much from Redmond all too soon, and we desperately needed another attacking threat; for the benefit of the team and Redmond’s own development.

Last season, as Mauricio Pellegrino’s turgid, defensive football dragged Saints into a relegation battle, the lack of results and performances effected no player more than Redmond. Under the Argentine, Redmond failed to score in the league and it took until Saints’ trip to Everton in May until he bagged his first goal.

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The 2017/18 campaign was the worst in Redmond’s career and, at times, he deserved the criticism from fans after failing to show his talent on a consistent basis.

In some ways, Redmond has been an embodiment of Saints’ transfer policy across the past few seasons; sell high and buy low. And when you’re seeing Mane reach a Champions League final, while Southampton scrape for their Premier League status, it leaves somewhat of a bitter taste in the mouth of the St Mary’s faithful.

He knew he had to improve, and as a result he made his way to a training camp in Los Angeles prior to pre-season training. Alongside Daniel Sturridge, Redmond kept fans posted on Instagram of his hard work stateside; a far cry from his cryptic posts during last season’s disappointment.

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Heads began to turn after seeing Redmond work vigorously during the off season and the hard work paid off in pre-season, as he grabbed back-to-back goals in Southampton’s matches against FC Schalke 04 and Jiangsu Suning in China.

Redmond looks a completely different player from that of last season and he’s been one of our most consistent performers during the opening five games of the season. So far in the league, Redmond has averaged 2.3 shots and 2.3 successful dribbles per game, which is far better than what he averaged during the last campaign when he averaged 1.4 shots and 1.8 dribbles per game.

However, these stats need to be taken with a pinch of salt due to how early we are into this season.

Examining his promising start to this season, it appears that this could become a defining year for Redmond at Southampton. As his confidence has grown under Hughes, he’s started to utilise his pace and dribbling ability. A fine example of this is against Brighton & Hove Albion in the Carabao Cup, as he undoubtedly ignited our forward line when he was introduced from the bench.

Deep into the second half with penalties looming, Redmond cut inside, beating two Brighton defenders, then delivered a perfectly chipped ball into the box for Austin to head home the winner.

It’s great to see Redmond playing with a smile on his face again, as Mark Hughes seems to have inspired confidence into our forward, but he’s still yet to register a goal and an assist this season; something he’ll desperately be wanting to add to his game.

The talent is there, so let’s hope that he can build on these promising signs and become the player we know he can be.

Podcast: Liverpool vs Southampton Preview

After picking up five points in the opening five games of the season, Southampton travel to Anfield on Saturday to face a Liverpool side who boast an 100% start to the season.

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This is undoubtedly Southampton’s toughest test of the season so far and to make it harder, Saints will be without top scorer Danny Ings this weekend.

Join us as we speak with Anfield Index to discuss a number of topics including…

  • Danny Ings’ start to life at St Mary’s Satdium
  • Last season’s struggles
  • Mark Hughes’ Saints
  • How we will approach Saturday’s game
  • And where the key battles take place on the pitch

 

The early promise shown by Danny Ings

We may only be four games into the 2018/19 Premier League season, but the early signs suggest that Southampton Football Club and Danny Ings are meant to be.

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Cast your mind back to the summer transfer window. After the acquisition of Stuart Armstrong, Angus Gunn, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Jannick Vestergaard, Southampton had shown that they were willing to spend, and at least improve the squad that so nearly slipped down to the Championship last season. But while these signings provided depth and hope for the future, there was still one area on the pitch that desperately needed addressing.

Under Ronald Koeman, Southampton scored 120 Premier League goals across the two seasons that the Dutchman was in charge. And in the two seasons following his departure to Everton, Southampton have registered a measly 79 Premier League goals.

The departures of Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle’ left Saints lacking firepower upfront, and ever since, the club have failed to re-discover the goalscoring touch that they once had. Injuries to Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin denied each striker a chance to build any goalscoring momentum, while our big money signings Guido Carillo and Sofiane Boufal failed to adapt to life in the Premier League.

So after an impressive start to his career on the south coast, Danny Ings has the Southampton fanbase questioning whether we’ve finally found our starting striker…

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During Saints’ opening match of the season against Burnley, the Clarets were unfortunate not to be leading at the break, with Mark Hughes’ 5-2-2-1 formation proving ineffective.

As a result the Welshman called for changes in the 56th minute, and handed both Elyounoussi and Ings their debuts, in addition to switching to a 4-4-2 formation.

The introduction of Ings instantly gave our frontline a new look, as well as raising the intensity of others around him. There was no denying it, Hughes’ men looked dangerous in the second 45.

Both of the goals that he’s scored this season have been typical of his former Burnley self, and it’s somewhat reminded the fans what we’ve so desperately been missing over the past two seasons.

His first came at Goodison Park, where he displayed intelligent positioning to find space inside a crowded penalty area to tap home Mario Lemina’s flick-on at the near post. And his second came at Selhurst Park, where his quick reactions, pace and mobility allowed him to latch onto a through ball by Cedric Soares, and slot calmly below Wayne Hennessy.

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Following an injury hit career at Liverpool, many believed that Ings was a busted flush as he failed to make his mark for the Reds. However, when you take a look at the statistics from his first four games for the Saints, they suggest that he’s still an incredibly dangerous attacking outlet.

Ings isn’t afraid to let fly when he gets sight of goal, having registered 3.5 shots per game. In comparison to Southampton’s other attacking outlets this is the highest out of the squad. Austin has registered 1.8, Long has registered 1.0, and Nathan Redmond has registered 2.3.

In comparison to the rest of the league, Ings also ranks fourth in xG (expected goals), with a figure of 0.74 per game.

During his first four appearances, Ings has even regained possession of the ball 2.16 times per game, showing that he’s not only effective on the ball, but off it too. This is no doubt some of Jurgen Klopp’s influence shining through – and this proactive mentality can only be positive for our squad.

What was particularly pleasing against Crystal Palace, however, was the way in which Ings combined with Long upfront. In truth, many believed Long’s days were numbered at Saints following the arrival of Ings, but if they continue to work in the same fashion that they did at Selhurst Park, Long may prove to be a useful asset once again.

He’s no goalscorer, granted, but if Ings, Redmond and Elyounoussi can deliver, then he’s got a number of particularly useful assets that he can offer to the side.

What worked so well against Crystal Palace was that Long provided effective hold up play, which in turn allowed Ings to make ground behind the defensive line. They also complimented each others strengths and weaknesses. Long’s capable of playing the more physical game and peeling off out wide, while Ings is the more technical player and the better finisher.

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The only question mark that looms over the Englishman now is his injury record. At Liverpool, two long-term injuries saw him on the treatment table for a combined 498 days, making him unavailable for selection in 85 fixtures. During the 2015/16 season, Ings ruptured his cruciate ligament – and only five months after returning to full fitness, he had an operation on his knee which saw him miss the entirety of 2016/17 season.

But above all else, at a time when football fans feel more distant from the players and club than ever before, it’s nice to see a player on the pitch that seemingly cares for the club as much as those in the stands.

I’ve got a funny feeling that Ings could prove to be a real fan favourite.

Season Preview: Southampton FC

Southampton are marching into their seventh consecutive Premier League season this afternoon, after narrowly avoiding the drop in the penultimate game of the 2017-18 season.

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Such a campaign came as a shock for all Saints fans who, prior to last season, had seen their team finish in the top eight for four successive seasons since their return to the big time in 2012.

In a largely dismal campaign for everyone involved at the club, there was no single issue that could front the blame for our poor season, with our squad falling short at both ends of the pitch.

Of our 450 shots across the season, just 37 found the net. This gives a conversion rate of 8.2%; level with West Brom and above only Huddersfield on 7.7%. This resulted in a mere seven league wins from a possible 38, which was the team’s lowest total since the 2004/05 season; notably when the Saints were last relegated from England’s top division.

SUMMER BUSINESS

Southampton spent a grand total of £54.5M over this summer’s transfer window – the most they’ve ever spent as they attempt to steer clear of the relegation zone ahead of the forthcoming campaign.

Southampton secured the services of Celtic’s Stuart Armstrong, Basel winger Mohammed Elyounoussi, Borussia Monchengladbach centre-back Jannik Vestergaard, Liverpool forward Danny Ings, and goalkeeper Angus Gunn from fellow Premier League outfit, Manchester City.

Meanwhile, the most notable departure is that of Dusan Tadic, who’s returned to the Eredivisie to join Ajax, after the creative midfielder’s late surge in form guided us away from the relegation zone.

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So all in all, things could have gone far, far worse. We’ve restored some physicality back into the heart of our defence in Vestergaard, added some legs and class into our midfield through Armstrong, and attempted to directly replace Tadic’s creativity and output through Elyounoussi.

Gunn’s been drafted in to provide some much-needed competition for Alex McCarthy, and while fans are still concerned that our frontline will once again fall short, the deadline day signing of Ings has helped to recover some lost confidence. Liverpool boss, Jurgen Klopp believes that the former Burnley forward has never been in greater physical shape, so if he can find his role in the side early on and hit the ground running, we’re surely guaranteed 10+ goals over the course of a full Premier League season.

Elsewhere, club record signing Guido Carrillo has re-joined former Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino at Leganes on a season-long loan, while Sofiane Boufal’s lacklustre relationship with current boss Mark Hughes has seen him shipped out to Celta Vigo on loan. First-team outcasts Jordy Clasie, Stuart Taylor and Florin Gardos have all moved on from St Mary’s too. Clasie has re-joined Feyenoord on loan, whilst Taylor and Gardos were released by the club early in the window.

KEY PLAYER – STUART ARMSTRONG

Based off initial pre-season performances, Stuart Armstrong already looks to be a valuable member of our squad.

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Arriving from Scottish giants Celtic for a respectable £7M, Armstrong was often at the forefront of Celtic’s success under Brendan Rodgers. During his three-year stint at Celtic Park, Armstrong scored 28 goals, recorded 21 assists and has won four Scottish Premiership titles, two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups, earning six caps for Scotland in the process.

Armstrong is currently in and around his prime years as a footballer and the Premier League could prove the perfect next step for him in his career. Not only does he hold the ability to create the link between midfield and attack, he’s also capable of providing goals from the middle of the park – something Southampton lacked throughout the entirety of last season.

This one could prove to be an absolute bargain.

MANAGER – MARK HUGHES

Mark Hughes replaced Pellegrino in March 2018 on an initial deal until the end of the season, with his future being based on whether he could keep his new side in the Premier League or not. And after achieving this goal and guiding the Saints to their second trip to Wembley in successive seasons, the board decided to back Hughes; rewarding him with a three-year contract for his efforts.

But this year is different. This time round he’s had a full pre-season with his squad, financial backing from the board and he now has the opportunity to carry out his vision over three seasons. Premier League safety alone won’t be enough if want to consider this season a success.

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Hughes’ objectives over the forthcoming campaign won’t just be to steer us clear of relegation – it will also be about reinstalling confidence into our players, and encouraging a free-flowing attacking brand of football.

Our club has clearly neglected the values that they’ve publically prided themselves on in the past, so if Hughes is capable of turning a great deal of this fiction into fact, we’ll have made a promising start to life under the Welshman.

PREDICTION – 12TH

Southampton have made some impressive signings, but I feel as if they’re enduring too much of a transition period to currently consider challenging Leicester and Everton for a Europa League spot.

I strongly believe, however, that Mark Hughes has steadied and saved a sinking ship, and as a result, we must now focus on walking before trying to run.

Their dealings have been reassuring both on and off the pitch, and I feel that so long as Hughes has helped the squad to rediscover their confidence – and gained their trust in the process – there’s no threat of relegation.

We’ve got plenty enough quality to beat the drop, but as fans we need to be shown more over the course of this season before we can once again dream of European nights. Mid-table mediocrity would suit me just fine.

Saints have the lowest injury outlay in the Premier League

Injuries cost the likes of Manchester Utd £12million, Arsenal £12.9 Million but Saints managed to keep their injury wage outlay to 3.9 Million – The lowest in the Premier League.


A new tool from FreeSuperTips analyses official 2017-18 Premier League data and reveals the dirtiest team and players, as well as those who were unluckiest with injuries – and the impact that this had on each club.


West Brom were the dirtiest side, racking up 73 yellow cards and several missed games through suspension in a campaign that ultimately saw the club relegated to the Championship.


West Ham were among the unluckiest teams when it came to injuries, with their injury bill totalling a whopping £12.6 million. The calculator reveals that they would have finished ten league places higher and been in the Champions League next season, if not for injury.


The True Cost of Injury and Ill Discipline allows users to compare injury statistics for all Premier League clubs last season, including the total number of games missed, the average score when a team’s top scorer is injured, the cost to the club in paying injured players, and their estimated league position with no injuries.


Saints had the lowest outlay of all Premier League teams when it comes to paying injured players, however, this did not stop injuries having an effect on the team. Saints could have been sitting comfortably at 10th in the table if they and their closest competitors had better injury records.

Name

Team Name

Reds

Yellows

Fouls

Points

Wilfred Ndidi

Leicester

2

6

60

280

Oriol Romeu

Southampton

0

11

53

273

Granit Xhaka

Arsenal

0

10

57

257

Ashley Barnes

Burnley

0

10

53

253

Abdoulaye Doucouré

Watford

0

10

44

244

Jonathan Hogg

Huddersfield

1

8

32

242

Glenn Murray

Brighton

0

9

60

240

Simon Francis

Bournemouth

1

8

24

234

Luka Milivojevic

Crystal Palace

0

8

69

229

Idrissa Gueye

Everton