Transfers

Mark Hughes planning summer swoop for Joe Allen

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According to recent report, Southampton boss Mark Hughes is planning a move for Stoke City midfielder Joe Allen if the Saints manage to retain their Premier League status beyond this season.

Hughes emerged as head coach at Southampton last week, replacing Mauricio Pellegrino. The Welshman took on a short term contract with the St Mary resident which will only last till the end of the season.

It is understood that Hughes could be rewarded with a long-term contract if he manages to steer the club away from the Premier League relegation zone in the final weeks of the campaign.

The report further stated that Hughes is already making plans for the coming season, with the Welshman identifying Stoke midfielder Allen as the perfect arrival.

Hughes signed Allen to Stoke from Liverpool in the summer of 2016, and the versatile midfielder has recorded 10 goals in 70 appearances for the Potters.

West Ham United have previously been linked with Allen, but Southampton will seemingly make a summer swoop if they manage to stay in the top flight.

Although Stoke are not having a good season, Allen has been consistent with his play whenever he appears for the club.

Indeed, he has scored four goals and provided seven assists in 31 games, which is an impressive record for a team that has performed miserably all through the campaign.

Southampton are in dire need of a good talent in the central park, and Allen who is valued at £16.2m by transfer market, would bring innovation to the Saints squad and this speculation will give fans lots of betting offer to choose from.

All this could also be dependent on whether Stoke survive in the Premier League this season, and it might well be that both parties remain in the top flight.

Even if that happens, Southampton have the upper hand and they could be successful in convincing Allen to move South due to his close relationship with Hughes.

Harrison Reed: I don’t want to go back to sitting in the stands

 Harrison Reed has expressed his desire to continue playing on a weekly basis next season, after gaining his first taste of regular competitive football with Norwich City.

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The 23-year-old joined the Canaries on a season-long loan last June and has featured for the club on 32 occasions – already surpassing the 30 appearances that he made for the Saints across four seasons.

Reed, who still remains a favourite amongst the Southampton fan base, has displayed great maturity in the heart of the Norwich midfield, showing his technical capabilities to dominate a game and his terrier-like work-rate that’s won the hearts of so many fans.

But while a number of Southampton supporters remain hopeful that he could return and fight for his place in the side again, it seems that Reed is fearful of falling back into the cycle of U23’s football.

“Being at Southampton and a Premier League club is great. But playing in the under-23s and not really coming up against men maybe halted my career a little bit,” Reed told the Eastern Daily Press.

“I don’t feel like I want to go back to sitting in the stands, training all week and then on a Saturday not being involved.

“That’s not something I want to do and I think if you asked many footballers, they would agree.

“So next season I’ll look to progress again, whether that be here or we’ll see what other opportunities arise.

“Coming to Norwich and playing week in week out, getting the game time I have done has really opened my eyes and I feel like I’ve progressed.”

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It’s clear that Reed’s enjoyed his time working under Daniel Falke, and is it any wonder when for the first time in his professional career, he’s had the joy of playing a key role in the weekend’s results.

Having witnessed his debut under Mauricio Pochettino back in December 2013, it would be upsetting to wave goodbye to the tenacious midfielder this coming summer. Especially when you consider the initial promise that he showed for the club.

But given that he’s 23-years-old and that Southampton currently boasts a plethora of midfield options, it’s imperative that his next career decision is made solely with his own development in mind.

Transfer updates: Guido Carrillo, Quincy Promes and Matt Targett

24 days of countless rumours and club-fed stories have passed, but now it finally seems that Southampton have made some serious developments in the January transfer window.

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Southampton agree £19.2M fee with Monaco for Guido Carrillo

According to Sky Sports and The Telegraph, Monaco and Southampton have agreed a fee of £19.2M for Guido Carrillo.

Personal terms are still needing to be finalised with the Argentinian forward, but Southampton remain confident that they’re capable of completing the deal

Les Reed and co initially hoped to agree a fee of £15M for the services of the center forward, but after seeing their first bid rejected last week felt that they needed to act swiftly in the final week of the transfer window.

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The Southampton target may have only found the back of the net on four occasions this season, but despite this he still ranks as one of Ligue 1’s most deadly forwards. Not only do 31% of his shots find the back of the net, but since the start of the 2016/17 season, only Cavani, Lacazette and Neymar have recorded a better minutes per goal return than Carrillo in Ligue 1 (91.11).

The 26-year-old is considered to be a powerful centre-forward who excels statistically in aerial duels and flicks-ons, suggesting that Southampton are on the hunt for a focal point in their frontline – something that’s been missing with Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long under  Mauricio Pellegrino.

While his quality is general play remains to be seen, we know that at the very least Carrillo has some outstanding attributes in the air, and in all honesty, that’s a quality we’ve sorely missed since Pelle’s departure.

Southampton remain interested in £30M Quincy Promes

The Guardian and The Telegraph have also reported that Southampton have a keen interest in Spartak Moscow winger Quincy Promes.

The 26-year-old is reportedly valued at £30M, which will require Southampton to smash their current transfer record – a record that will have been broken once already this window if the Carrillo deals goes through.

This rumour is without a doubt our most thrilling of the January window so far, but with such a high asking price it’s no wonder why. A transfer of this magnitude will no doubt swallow the majority of the Virgil Van Dijk money.

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So is he worth it?

It’s safe to say that in recent years Promes has consistently produced in the final third, registering 13, 18, 12 and 15 goals in each of his last four seasons. Totalling 53 goals in 101 for Spartak.

From the outside looking in he appears to be perfect for Southampton’s current shortcomings; he’d act as our second biggest goal threat, add some much-needed pace close to the forward and add a direct style of play to our frontline.

The Dutch Internationals quality is undeniable. The real question is whether Southampton are willing to meet Spartak’s valuation of the winger.

Fulham secure Southampton’s Matt Targett on loan

Matt Targett has joined Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham on loan for the remainder of the season, in desperate hunt of first-team opportunities.

The 22-year-old has been handed just two appearances so far this season, and these arrived at a time when Ryan Bertrand was sidelined through injury.

The Southampton academy graduate has showcased his talent on numerous occasions in the first team, but understandably, opportunities have been hard to come by when challenging a player of Bertrand’s consistency.

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Targett’s shown over the years that he can tackle intelligently, defend well in corners and deliver a delightful cross in behind the defence, but question marks remain over his ability to beat his man and his defending in open one v one situations.

While at Fulham, however, Targett will be working under a progressive coach in Jokanovic, who will no doubt inspire confidence and allow him to flourish offensively.

With hope, Targett will now be playing in an incredibly attacking side and take the place of teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon at left-back, who will now be given a more advanced role on the left of their midfield.

Podcast: Talking Virgil Van Dijk with Anfield Index

The saga is over. After months of deliberation, countless meltdowns and the helping hand of a £75M sum, Virgil Van Dijk has finally received his ‘dream move’ to Liverpool Football Club. 

The Dutchman will be registered with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds on the 2nd of January, and at this moment in time holds the title of being the worlds most expensive defender – smashing the previous record held by the £52M Benjamin Mendy.

But is it the right time to lose a player of Van Dijk’s quality? Who will have to step up for the Saints? And what should we do with the £75M?

To hear our views on the above and much more, be sure to give our podcast with Anfield Index a listen here…

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Virgil Van Dijk: updates regarding Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City

As we edge ever closer to the January transfer window, more and more stories regarding Virgil Van Dijk’s future on the South Coast are making the headlines.

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So to save you the hassle of the searching through the endless ‘ITK’ reports on Twitter and online, we sieved through the latest updates and collated them all here. You’re welcome.

In the last 24 hours the Independent have claimed that Liverpool are cooling their interest in the Dutchman, unless Southampton are willing to lower their asking price.

The report claims that Liverpool are now being forced into looking elsewhere for defensive reinforcements, with Southampton showing no signs of giving in. It’s believed that Liverpool hoped to make their move in the January transfer window.

However, It’s not just the Reds hesitance to meet Southampton’s asking price that’s causing them to look elsewhere. Liverpool insiders are currently fearful that they simply can’t match the financial power that their Premier League rivals boast.

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Meanwhile, the Mirror believe Chelsea are now set to rival Manchester City for Van Dijk’s signature.

During a recent press conference Antonio Conte remained respectful when asked about Van Dijk joining his side, but the Italian didn’t hold back in urging numerous other top sides to challenge runaway leaders City, in the battle for Southampton’s £70M man.

Every team, every club, must pay great attention. Because if a club like Manchester City takes all the best [players], it will be very difficult for us to fight. Not only in England but in Europe.” said the Blues boss.

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Conte went on to defend City’s right to continue spending big, but insisted his own club and their title rivals must try to keep pace.

It seems that the race for Virgil Van Dijk is just as much about securing the talent of the man himself, as it is about denying your opponents of a world class talent.

There’s one consistency throughout all of these reports, however, and that’s that Southampton still appear to be standing strong with the Dutchman.

The club appear to be breaking no sweat over the future of the in-demand centre-back, and are happy to wait for their lavish £70m valuation to be met.

 

Basel’s Mohamed Elyounoussi on Southampton’s radar

According to Swiss newspaper Blick, Southampton scouts were once again watching over Mohamed Elyounoussi last Saturday, as the Norwegian winger scored Basel’s opening goal against Lausanne.

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The 23-year-old has been on Southampton’s radar for the past year, but interest appears to be growing ahead of the January transfer window. 

Elyounoussi, who plays on the left side of Basel’s front three, was in stunning form yet again last Tuesday scoring in a 2-0 win over Benfica, placing Raphaël Wicky’s side in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Elyounoussi has found the back of the net on four occasions in his last 15 league appearances – averaging a goal every 306 minutes – but it’s the creative side of his game that often receives so much praise. 11 assists from 23 appearences this season is sublime, and exactly the kind of numbers that Southampton could do with registering.

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Initially Elyounoussi has all the hallmarks of a typical Southampton signing; he’s performing at a high level in a lesser European league, has plenty of time on his side, and appears to be within their price range. 

However, the Saints aren’t the only Premier League club interested in Elyounnoussi. Blik say that severeal other Premier League clubs are monitoring the winger closely, including Claude Puel’s Leicester City.

Manchester City set to challenge Liverpool for Van Dijk this January

According to a report from The Mirror, Manchester City could be challenging Liverpool for Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk this January.

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Pep Guardiola’s City were once again victorious at the weekend defeating Leicester City 2-0, but the three points came at a cost, with John Stones being ruled out for up to six weeks.

Guardiola hinted, however, that his side have been hunting for defensive reinforcements even before this injury.

“We’re going to discuss when January is coming” said the Spaniard.

“We are going to think about it, but not because John is in that position.

“To play in all the competitions, you need a bigger squad because the players don’t have time for regeneration before the next game.”

The England International has played an important role in City’s remarkable start to the season, so with Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi being the only remaining cover at centre-back, Van Dijk makes for the perfect target.

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Not only does he boast the ability to grow with a squad of City’s trajectory, but he would also perfectly compliment Stones, who would no doubt be his long-term partner in the side.

Standing at 6 ft 4 in tall, and built like a genetically modified modern day centre-back, Van Dijk would add some much-needed steel at the heart of City’s defence, without losing even a touch of technical ability.

Liverpool were forced to make an apology to Southampton last summer, after their attempts of luring the Dutchman to Anfield failed spectacularly. That stance shown by the Southampton board received plenty of praise at the time, but Mauricio Pellegrino’s latest comments regarding Van Dijk’s future don’t stand quite as strong.

Pellegrino said: “I don’t know. I can’t control the market.

“You never know, because when we talk about money everybody has got a price.The budget is to sign players and the biggest teams have got money to try to sign players.

“I can’t decide about that. This is a question for our owners.

“Everybody is focused on their area, to try to bring the best players possible for their club. It is something that happens every single transfer window.

“We have got a lot of good players and most of the teams want to sign them.”

Southampton keeping watch on Manchester City’s Bobby Duncan

Southampton are reportedly interested in Manchester City youngster Bobby Duncan, who looks set to leave City in the near future.

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The report from The Times claims that Southampton aren’t alone in their pursuit of the 16-year-old, however, with both Arsenal and Tottenham keeping a close eye on the front-man.

After losing Jadon Sancho to Borussia Dortmund only earlier this summer, Manchester City now risk losing yet another one of their highly rated stars; one can only assume that such decisions are made in the pursuit of first-team opportunities, given the frightening squad depth at City.

Duncan, who is a cousin of Steven Gerrard, showed his talent for England’s U17’s only last week, scoring a late winner to beat Portugal 3-2 after initially going 2-0 down.

Duncan is yet to sign a professional contract, but City hope to pen the youngster down on a new deal before his 17th birthday next summer.

It’s been awhile since Southampton had a young English forward leading their front-line, and with Sam Gallagher’s career stalling at Birmingham, on top of Ryan Seager edging closer to 22-years-old, this signing could prove to be a smart investment for the club.

It must be noted, however, that City will be entitled to receive compensation should Duncan leave.

Mauricio Pellegrino: are we right to be concerned?

As if firing blank for the fifth home game this season couldn’t possibly be frustrating enough, Southampton put the cherry on the cake last weekend by allowing Sam Vokes, a self-confessed Southampton fan, to snatch a late winner. The past week has been a tough one for Mauricio Pellegrino.

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But whilst these results will certainly be worrying the Argentine boss, his greatest worry should be losing the faith of the fans. Something that (if it hasn’t happened already) appears to be waiting around the corner of our next poor result.  

To neutral fans such a suggestion may be seen as premature or indicative of the modern game, and I can certainly understand that. But that’s a view from the outside looking in, and having watched Southampton week in, week out this season, there’s a number of issues that simply have to be addressed for the future of our club.

Just two seasons ago St Mary’s used to be a place of inspiration, where Southampton promised to give just about every and any challenger a true test. We weren’t a free-scoring phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination, but we had our own style and weren’t afraid to impose that on any opponent that made the trip down South.

As we know all too well, however, this is no longer the case. That identity has vanished, and ever since Southampton have been left in what feels like a transitional period.

Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a problem; except I’m not quite convinced we know what we’re transitioning into.

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Despite having over four months to install his own beliefs and ideologies into our players, I’m still none the wiser as to what Pellegrino is striving for.

Pellegrino arrived at the club claiming “with the quality we have we can play exciting, attacking football, taking the game to our opponents by playing a high-intensity game.”

But as time passes, this statement is growing increasingly untrue.

I know that managers need time to implement their own ideas and systems, and therefore I understand that the results won’t come instantly. Reforming the identity and style of a squad certainly isn’t an overnight job.  

However, It’s clear as daylight to see that the attacking intent Pellegrino promised just simply isn’t drilled inside our players. Once brave in the final third and willing to take risks, our frontline now fears the sight of goal, growing more and more paranoid as they cautiously enter the box.

On the odd chance that our players do take up a promising position in and around the area, it’s so often wasted as they seemingly begin to fret about their defensive duties and team shape. And whilst this may be the way Pellegrino liked to operate at Alaves or any of his former clubs, it isn’t what he was employed to do, and it certainly isn’t what he promised the fans.

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But what is it that’s caused us Southampton fans to lose faith so quickly in Pellegrino, especially compared to Claude Puel?

Whilst the Frenchman’s time on the South Coast didn’t prove to be successful, there was a clearly identifiable plan in place. There was a vision and at the very least we could see what Puel was striving for. We understood that his system would take time, and we bought into the potential of that.

But no identity, no entertainment, and no results? How can we as fans be expected to invest into that?

An effective method of judging a manager’s work is to identify players that have flourished or surpassed expectations under his management, and sadly, this is yet another worrying sign from Pellegrino.

Under Puel, there were a number of players that truly came into their own; Maya Yoshida and Oriol Romeu had their best seasons in a red and white shirt, Cedric Soares finally cemented his place in the starting XI, Nathan Redmond had his greatest goalscoring season to date, and Jack Stephens covered superbly for the injured Virgil Van Dijk.

As for Pellegrino, the only player that I’ve seen perform at a consistently high level this season is Mario Lemina. And even then, I’d say much of that has been down to individual quality and flair, rather than work on the training ground.

The bottom line, however, is that Southampton and Mauricio Pellegrino need to act fact; not only for the safety of the Argentine’s job, but also for the future of our club.

A future that at this moment in time, is failing to shine bright like seasons gone by.

Fraser Forster: When do we say enough is enough?

Southampton Football Club boast a defence that’s rife with quality, depth and the versatitlity to operate in a number of tactical systems; in fact, I’d go as for to say that outside the Premier League’s elite top six clubs, you’ll be hard challenged to find a better backline than the side currently at Mauricio Pellegrino’s disposal.

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But as I so painfully had to once again realise last weekend, there’s still one area of our defence that’s failing to match the high standards set by others within our squad.

I’m of course talking about the demise of Fraser Forster…

Now at this point I must reiterate that Forster appears to be a true professional, a fantastic character inside the club, and an all-round good guy judging by comments from his team-mates.

But for as long as we continue to field a goalkeeper that’s slow on his feet and seemingly indecisive with any shot placed on target, Southampton remain helpless and vulnerable to conceding sloppy goals; a feature of Forster’s play that’s become a serious problem over the past 18 months.

This season alone mistakes against Newcastle and Brighton have already cost Southampton a potential four points, whilst his tendency to palm the ball into the oppositions frontman has also punished us twice; Romelu Lukaku and Chicharito being the fortunate goal-scorers.

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Rolling back to Glenn Murray’s equaliser on Sunday, I remember seeing a fair amount of criticism toward Cedric Soares after the fullback was bullied in his tussle for the ball, and I can understand that.

It was embarrassing defending from our backline to leave Brighton’s biggest goal threat with our smallest defender, but that was the only troubling shot Forster faced on target throughout the entire 90 minutes.

With a tight margin of just one goal in the Premier League you need your keeper to step up with efforts like Murray’s, and surprise surprise, Forster failed to do so.  

The best goalkeepers in the Premier League step up for their team when they’re called upon, and to be quite honest with you, I’d be stumped if you asked me just how often Forster has “stepped up” over the past year.

The same keeper that used to clatter players to claim crosses and throw his body on the line for a clean sheet, now appears scared under the spotlight and unaware of his physical strengths.

Given this shaky start to the 2017/18 campaign, It’s also worth noting that Forster had the second lowest save percentage among regular PL goalkeepers last season. Only Manchester City’s Claudio Bravo recorded a lower percentage.

What makes this form so worrying however, is our complete and utter shortage of options in what we can possibly do next. Time and time again Forster has fallen short over the past 18 months and failed to warrant a starting place, yet when the following fixture comes around, he’s instantly placed back between the sticks.

It’s all well and good saying that he deserves to be dropped, but for who? And where do we go from there?

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It seems that neither Pellegrino or Dave Watson trust Alex McCarthy to step up, and as a result, Forster’s place in the lineup has become somewhat untouchable. This is dangerous territory for a goalkeeper, as more often than not, this is when complaceny begins to creep in on a weekly basis.

During a summer transfer window when fans were crying out for a new number one or at the very least some competition, the board instead opted to reward Forster with a new contract.

And whilst at the time that decision could have been seen as an act of faith to motivate Forster, it now feels as if the board have rewarded mediocrity, and consequently sent Forster down a path of complacency.

If this same form was replicated by a Southampton centre-back or central midfielder over a time frame of 18 months, reinforcements would no doubt be shipped in; so why’s Forster exempt from such treatment?

Criticism toward the England International can’t be put down to “poor form” or a “lack of confidence” anymore, as this is no longer a short term problem that simply needs a quick fix.

Persisting with Forster beyond this next transfer window is becoming an increasingly worrying gamble to take, and I’m convinced that if the board opt to do just that, we’ll once again find ourselves discussing his shortcomings this same time next season.