It’s almost August and the transfer window is now in full swing. Up until this point, it’s been far from quiet down at St Mary’s, with the inclusion of a managerial change and the customary player moving to Liverpool for a substantial transfer fee. Early on in the window, Southampton stated their intent by securing the signature of England U21 winger Nathan Redmond from Norwich, on the 25th of June. But since then, we have seen more outs than ins and very little transfer activity. This has caused some fans to quite understandably, feel a little bemused as to why we haven’t replaced the players who have left. However, there is no need to panic.
During July, Southampton received a minimum of £57 million from the sales of Victor Wanyama to Tottenham, Graziano Pelle to Shandong Luneng and Sadio Mane to Liverpool (a deal potentially rising to £38 million). Along with the £10M spent on securing Nathan Redmond, Southampton have also signed one other player this window – Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. Southampton confirmed the signing of the Danish international midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg from Bayern Munich for £12 million on the 11th of July. Højbjerg joins the Saints whilst being regarded as one of the hottest prospects in central midfield and by joining Southampton, he has been given the opportunity to consistently play at the level he has shown glimpses of at Bayern Munich. However, since then, it has all gone quiet on the Southampton transfer front.
With Pelle and Mane gone, we have lost 44 goals from the past two seasons. Due to this, some fans have called for the club to bring in a new striker to replace Pelle. But It seems that at the minute, the club are more than happy, as am I, to allow Austin, Long and Rodriguez to spearhead our attack. Last season Shane Long had his greatest professional campaign to date in terms of goalscoring and after an equally impressive Euro’s tournament, he will no doubt be ready to push on and better last season’s tally. As for Charlie Austin, the former QPR man will come into this Premier League campaign with a full pre-season under his belt and a better understanding of his potential strike partner – Shane Long – and the club itself. The only cause for concern with Austin is his injuries, but I don’t believe that this will be a problem – in the season before joining Southampton, Austin played 36 times for QPR in the Premier League and domestic cups, not bad for someone who is ‘injury prone’. Then we move onto Jay Rodriguez, who seems to have finally overcome his ACL and foot injuries. During the end of last season and the pre-season games played this year, the Englishman appears to have lost a yard of his quick pace and he also appears tentative when on the ball and going into challenges. However, these are psychological reasons and hopefully after a run in the team, and a few games under his belt, we will once again see the J-Rod who rightly earned his call up to the England side.
Next, I believe that whilst we can look back on Pelle’s time at Southampton with great pleasure, there is no need for us to worry about his departure. Judging from the friendlies played against DC United U23, PEC Zwolle and FC Twente, Puel looks to play two up front and use fast paced attackers in a style of football that is predominantly played on the ground. Under Koeman, Pelle was the focal point due to his immense aerial ability and his physicality that allowed him to constantly offer a passing outlet. Despite his qualities, Pelle’s style of play most likely would not have fitted into Puel’s plans – this would explain the decision by the club and Puel to let him move on so quickly.
If Southampton choose against signing a Pelle replacement this window and the strikers we currently have don’t quite grab the goals we need, then we can invest in a new striker during the January transfer window. I believe that in this moment, not buying a new striker this window is sensible by all at Southampton F.C. The reason being? if the three strikers we currently hold do score the goals we so hope they do and we signed another striker, we’d have to bench 2/4. This would place one forward as fourth choice and this would simply be throwing problems upon ourselves.
One of the main factors that Les Reed and the board would have considered when appointing a new manager, was whether the new boss could place faith in the youth team. The demands from the higher forces from the club would be that the new manager would oversee players progress from the development sides into the first team. Claude Puel wouldn’t have been appointed if he didn’t tick this box. Under Koeman, we thought he would have done this, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, he froze out youth team players deemed ‘not good enough’ and as a result, we lost two years of youth promotion. This could be a reason why we aren’t seeing a vast amount of players coming in this summer. Due to youth being a fundamental element to the ‘Southampton way’, perhaps Claude Puel has jumped onboard with the ethos of Southampton Football Club and has seen enough from players such as Harrison Reed and Yan Valery to stop him unnecessarily dipping into the market. Perhaps Puel harbours the ambition to plug the gaps within the first team with talent from the U21 and U18’s squad – I’m sure that this is something that we would all prefer to see.
I don’t believe the squad at this point in time is as strong as it was last season, and I’m not saying we don’t need anymore players, because we do. We need a replacement for Sadio Mane. Mane’s electric pace and unpredictable nature added a vast amount of quality to the side and without him, we become less dynamic and easier to defend against. Many names have flown around in the media for a replacement, including Hatem Ben Arfa (who has signed for PSG) and Sofiane Boufal, who is reportedly in talks with Watford. But one thing is for sure, and thats that we need to see a large amount of the £34 million transfer fee re-invested into a player of high quality. At this moment in time, we are seeing clubs of similar size to us – like West Ham and Stoke – bid up to £35 million on players. I don’t want Southampton to spend over the odds for players and I neither want to see us spend money we don’t have, but I think it’s about time we treated ourselves to some star quality with money that we certainly do have. One signing of real intent wouldn’t bend the transfer policies that our club holds.
Southampton are clearly not finished in the transfer market as of yet and as we all know, Les Reed likes to keep transfer deals under wraps until they are confirmed – the signing of Højbjerg proves just that. So, until the door slams shut on the transfer window of summer 2016, you can rest assured knowing that the recruitment team is working vigorously, Puel is analysing the players before him, and that as always, Southampton will continue to unearth more diamonds in the dirt. Afterall, that’s the Southampton way, and we do it damn well.