Transfers

Three is the magic number

As the final stages of Southampton’s clash with Arsenal came to a close last Saturday, I was left with two overriding positives from the gut-wrenching defeat – the return of Ryan Bertrand, and the complete midfield performance from Oriol Romeu. Since signing for the club, the pair have most definitely forged their way into the hearts of the Southampton fans, but it’s the way in which these players were sourced by the club that has left me excited.

If you look at the signing of Bertrand in 2014, Romeu in 2015 and even Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in 2016 (admittedly, on a bigger scale) Southampton Football Club appear to have found themselves a new transfer strategy, and I’ve got to say, I like it. I like it a lot.

Quite simply, Southampton have placed their focus on scouting and securing third tier talents from Europe’s big clubs. When Bertrand signed for Southampton on loan in 2014, he had just come off the back of a loan spell at Aston Villa – his eighth loan move away from Chelsea. Similarly to Bertrand, Romeu had also fallen out of favour at the Blues and spent two seasons out on loan in Spain and Germany, before Southampton came calling. Then we have Hojbjerg, a player who despite being labelled as the next Sergio Busquets, found first team football at Bayern Munich a premium to come by – two loan moves over two seasons was the end result.

A top tier player is one that the manager believes should always be in the starting XI. A second tier player is one that the manager often uses to change the game, to replace a player, or is a young project. Then, we have a third tier player; at a big club, this player was most likely filled with much promise at one point and had stages of greatly impressing onlookers, only to be cast away from the teams first team plans along the line (often due to a ludicrous amount of quality in the top two tiers). Simply take a look at the numbers below to see why I categorised Bertrand, Romeu and Hojbjerg in the third tier at their previous club…

Ryan Bertrand: appearances for Chelsea – 28

                         Loan appearances – 183

Oriol Romeu: appearances for Chelsea – 22

                         Loan appearances – 40

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: appearances for Bayern Munich – 17

                         Loan appearances – 39

What must be said however is that there is no shame in being a third tier player at a club like Chelsea or Bayern Munich – Southampton and the players themselves have certainly proved just that. In fact, Southampton have come to realise that there is many benefits in snapping up such players.

Firstly, and perhaps one aspect that us Southampton fans can appreciate most, their attitude is spot on. Due to previously only being handed first team minutes when they were a young star, others were injured or whilst out on loan, Bertrand and Romeu clearly value the trust that has been placed in them under both Koeman and Puel. Not to mention that the pair also have an exceptional relationship with the fans too. After so many years of uncertainty in their position, they are now eager to prove to everyone that they are the real deal – this can only benefit all parties.

However, whilst they were held back in not being rewarded with first team minutes at their parent club, Southampton are now reaping the benefits of all the training sessions that Bertrand, Romeu and Hojbjerg took place in. During their time at Chelsea and Bayern Munich, these three trained with some of the greatest players in the game and any football expert will tell you just how beneficial this can be. Training with these top tier players helps to raise the bar of the third tier players as they are forced into learning about how to handle and outsmart a stronger opposition at all times.

In addition to this, Bertrand and Romeu appear to have realised what they believe is important in football – gametime, appreciation from fans and feeling valued – and therefore, have no desire to leave. They have experienced life at a big club and don’t want that back. In turn, this builds a strong core in the Southampton side, helping to not only churn out more consistent performances, but also create a good feeling around the squad. This means that Southampton can continue to ship in those players who carry that extra special touch of quality – by that I mean the players who see us as a stepping stone and ensure that our club’s balance sheets are looking healthy in two seasons time. Continuing to strike a good balance between players that are here for the long run and those that are here for their big money move is key to Southampton’s success.

The final benefit is one that most certainly keeps in line with Southampton’s transfer policy; they are cheap. The simple reason for this is that the selling club will so often struggle to justify a large price tag if the player is struggling to get minutes for the club itself. The signing of Bertrand at £10M, Romeu at £5M and Hojbjerg at £12.8M is living proof of that. If any of these players were plying their trade at a mid table side, then you would have to expect the club to demand at least double the fee that Southampton paid to acquire their services.  

For me, there is no doubt that the club have placed a clear focus on snapping up gems from the big boys, and oddly, the position of all three of these player’s seems rather fitting with what Southampton have been about since returning to the Premier League. Despite the doubts, questions and pressure piled on from many, we are good enough and we will continue to progress.

 

Sofiane Boufal: a man who can bring more than just talent to Southampton FC

Earlier this morning, Southampton Football Club announced the signing of Moroccan International, Sofiane Boufal, for a club record £16M fee. With this transfer, Southampton are acquiring one of the finest talents in Ligue 1 and with good reason, it’s left every fan of the South Coast club eager for the International break to end already.

Before we touch on anything else however, we must first look at the most obvious and important reason for signing Boufal, his immense ability. Over the past two seasons, Boufal has been linked to some of Europe’s greatest clubs – Barcelona, Juventus, and Chelsea amongst others – and with the following stats, it’s not hard to see why.

Over the 2015/16 season with Lille, Boufal managed to record 11 goals and four assists in just 29 appearances. Alongside this, he created 69 chances for his side, completed over 124 successful take-ons and found the back of the net seven times from his last eight shots on target. All of this was accomplished at the age of just 22 years old. But speaking in terms of his style of play, Boufal is similar to a certain Eden Hazard. Whilst it’s an easy comparison to make – due to Hazard once working under Puel and also playing for Lille – they both look to take control of the game in a similar fashion. Both players love to search for space between the lines of the opposition, can beat two-three players within a split second and have the ability to finish off a move with one final touch of quality. Boufal can single-handedly switch a game on its head during desperate moments and this will no doubt come to fruition at some point over the 2016/17 season.

But as I mention in the title, this signing holds far more value to Southampton Football Club than just procuring an exceptional talent, and I’m here to explain why.

The first reason why Boufal has proved to be so valuable is already at work. So far, Southampton are yet to win their first game of the Premier League season, and despite only being three games in, two of those fixtures were against Sunderland and Watford at home. Combine this with the fact that we allowed our two top goalscorers and first choice defensive midfielder to leave, and it’s understandable for some fans to be worried about what this season could be. But with the signing of Boufal, there appears to be excitement found in every last Southampton supporter. This signing has well and truly placed the trust of the fans in the board at Southampton, and given the departures in recent years, that is quite some achievement. Fans of Southampton have now seen outright proof of the ambition held at their club, and this will surely be shared by the players too.

Secondly, the signing of Boufal has given Claude Puel a comfortable option called “plan B”. Puel has come to Southampton with the idea to implement his tried and tested 442 diamond formation, but whilst this formation may prove to be a success and deliver some beautiful performances, this is football, and therefore, nothing is a given. With Boufal in the side, Puel possesses a player who can naturally operate on the left wing in a possession-based style that fits his footballing ideologies. Therefore, if Puel decides that his 442 diamond isn’t for the Premier League, he can switch into a 4231 formation that allows all 11 players to play in a natural position – without sacrificing Puel’s ideologies. Without Boufal, this wouldn’t be possible.

Finally, the signing of Boufal can be put to great use over the next 48 hours. The reason being is that with such a short time until the transfer window closes, a club needs to use everything in their power to pull each deal over the line in time. So, when the player is looking for an ambitious club that holds an abundance of talent, Southampton Football Club now looks like an ideal location to  develop their career after breaking their club record transfer fee for Boufal. Negotiations over an attacking talent in the coming days can certainly be aided by the prospect of that player starring alongside Boufal. It’s undeniable that this signing has now placed Southampton in good stead for the remainder of the window.

Boufal is yet to kick a ball for Southampton Football Club, but despite that, he’s already placed each and every one of us on the edge of our seats. From here, we can only hope that the world-class facilities and training at Boufal’s disposal will nurture him into the star that he has promised so many to be. If Boufal is willing to keep his mind focused and work hard, then Southampton will ensure that success and progression will shortly follow.

 

Southampton fans and the summer transfer window – a hate-love relationship

 

Hate – the summer Transfer Window opens.

Rumours fly around Twitter and the tabloids, even before it starts. We lose some big names straight off the bat. Fans fuss.

We get in a couple of lesser known players. Fans fuss.

Weeks go by and there’s no news of replacing all those goals we let go. Fans fuss.

Big rumours of big signings come and go, or, don’t come at all. Fans fuss.

The season starts and we don’t win both games. Fans fuss.

 

But then comes the love.

Saints will now go back to promoting from the academy. Fans Rejoice.

‘Confirmed’ leaks of big names coming in. Fans Rejoice.

‘Confirmed’ reports that Fonte will stay soon arise. Fans Rejoice.

Next up, the points are placed on the board. Fans Rejoice.

This is the ‘Hate-Love’ (chronological order) relationship that Saints fans have experienced each and every summer with the transfer window.

We are now in the final week of this annual rollercoaster, but the Hate-Love will continue. It’s inevitable that Southampton will continue to be linked to numerous players that won’t result in a transfer, and perhaps even more likely, we will sign someone straight out of left field that no one expected.

As it stands it seems highly likely that Sofiane Boufal will sign from Lille for a club record fee. He is an attacking midfielder or winger, depending on which YouTube expert you talk to. But what cannot be debated is that he’s highly rated, with rumours of Barcelona and Chelsea being interested earlier in the summer.

That still leaves us probably needing another out-and-out striker and maybe another centre back, depending on movements on the last day.

All in all however, it has once again been another one of those summers: lots to hate, lots to love and everything in between. But as all good Saints fans will attest, once that window finally slams shut, it is the boys who ARE running around in the Southampton stripes that we care about and that we must get behind.

Talking Nicolae Stanciu with Alecs Stam

With the departure of both Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle this summer, Southampton fans have understandably been left desperate for their club to bolster their attacking options in preparation for the 2016/17 season. But over the past 48 hours, reports from Romania are suggesting that Southampton Football Club have found their man in Steaua București’s, Nicolae Stanciu. Understandably however, few of us on the South Coast are avid followers of Romanian Football. So, we spoke to Alecs Stam – someone that most certainly is!

How would you describe Nicolae Stanciu’s style of play to someone that has never seen him play?

Stanciu looks dangerous every time he gets the ball, creates chances and knows how to make his teammates better, but he’s not afraid to take it on his own when the opportunity is right.

Do you believe that Stanciu has what it takes to cut it in the Premier League?

I tend to believe that Stanciu is from a different category than the Romanian players who left in the last years from the Romanian league and failed to adapt in Europe’s top leagues. He can be a solution and make the difference for many teams if he can cope with expectations. He is tipped to be the star and leader of the Romanian national team’s next generation.

How has he performed in larger European fixtures?

This season Stanciu qualified FCSB on his own against Sparta Prague scoring all three goals in the 3-1 aggregate win. Last season FCSB were eliminated quickly and he didn’t have time to shine. He scored four goals in his first five international games, quickly taking the number 10 shirt, and played at the Euros.

Reports suggest that he’s a versatile player that is able to play in central midfield, attacking midfield and right wing. Where do you believe he is best deployed?

His best position is attacking midfield.

Southampton are desperately needing a number ten that can find the back of the net. Could Stanciu be the solution to that problem?

He is an excellent finisher and has great vision. He is a player who can make the difference.

How would you value the deal if Southampton were to secure Stanciu for the reported £7M fee?

Nicolae Stanciu is the best player to come out of Romania in a long time and one of the most wanted players in Eastern European football. He was linked with many clubs this summer and it will be a big surprise if he doesn’t leave. The thing is that the owner of FCSB, Gigi Becali, is very greedy and he is asking too much or he is waiting for the perfect offer. He said a few days ago that the club received an offer of £7M from a Premier League club, but he wants £10M. He could be trying to force other clubs to pay more and act quickly so they don’t lose him to the mysterious “PL club”. Sport.ro claimed that the club is Southampton, but they’re not the most reliable source.

What’s next for Jay Rodriguez?

We all remember that heartbreaking moment. It was April 2014 and Southampton were on course to reaching their highest Premier League finish with the help of Jay Rodriguez’s immense goalscoring form; but upon Southampton’s trip to the Etihad stadium in search of yet another three points, Jay Rodriguez and his World Cup dreams came crashing down. The loyal and loving Southampton fans backed him with great pride during his spell on the sidelines – 13 months to be precise – but it’s now been 28 months since that injury and some would say that there has been little to suggest that we will ever witness that fine form again. With that, Rodriguez has been linked with a loan move away from Southampton and that has many fans talking.

Early yesterday morning it was reported that Hull City have enquired for the availability of Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez on loan, and this has truly been a topic of split opinion for Southampton fans.

But first things first, let’s think about this situation. At this present moment, it seems that Claude Puel has found his favoured attacking combination in Nathan Redmond and Shane Long – meanwhile, Austin appears to be the first call from the bench. For a forward who is in desperate need of game time, this can understandably be a worrying situation going into the new season. So much so that this link to Hull City may well be Rodriguez’s agent at work.

In addition, it must be pointed out just how tough of a summer those poor Hull City fans have been forced to endure – if anyone can sympathise, then it’s us Southampton fans. After such a summer, being linked with a player of Rodriguez’s calibre will most likely give the Tigers fans a much needed boost. And whilst I’m sure that Hull City would love to acquire the services of Rodriguez, they will know full well that it’s an optimistic move. A move that can only result in good PR for the club, regardless of the result in negotiations. If Hull City secure the deal, then their fans are delighted, and even if the deal breaks down, the fans will be left optimistic over who the next target may be.

But, if this deal were to go ahead, how could it benefit Southampton, and most importantly, Jay Rodriguez?

When you consider that the fan favourite had the entire duration of pre-season to impress and show his qualities to Southampton’s new boss, Claude Puel, Rodriguez clearly isn’t in the blueprints of the first XI. At a time when Rodriguez is reportedly “100% fit”, he needs to be playing regular football; anything other than that for the former England International is an act of willingly allowing his career to simmer out. It goes without saying that Hull City will be desperate for goals this season in their chase for Premier League safety, and if they were to acquire Rodriguez’s services, he would no doubt gain those valuable first team minutes and be used in his favoured role – an inside left forward.

With that move however, Southampton of course would be left one man lighter in attack, so what do they have to gain from this possible opportunity?

Firstly, Southampton would no doubt be able to receive a reasonable fee for the loan, and alongside this, the wage bill would also be freed up. This could present Southampton the opportunity to carry out a more stable loan move themselves or reinvest the small fee into some young/lower League talent.

Another benefit to this move could be that whilst Southampton carry out their season under Puel, Rodriguez can be progressing as a player at Hull with the aim to once again make his mark in the Southampton side over the 2017/18 season. A season of almost guaranteed football with less pressure on his performances may well reinstall the confidence that Rodriguez once thrived upon – this could only be seen as a benefit.

However, the obvious disadvantage to Rodriguez heading away from Southampton is that the moment an injury in attack occurs, Rodriguez will be needed as third choice. Not to mention that if two injuries were to occur (a perfectly plausible situation) then Rodriguez would be a sure starter.

For this reason, I struggle to see an agreement being struck with Hull City unless at least one attacker was shipped in to bolster Southampton’s attack. Only then could Southampton afford to take the gamble on allowing Rodriguez to find game time elsewhere.

But whilst we sit here discussing what is best for Rodriguez in his current situation, why exactly are we doing just that? If we think back to Rodriguez’s greatest qualities over the 2013/14 season, it was no doubt his ruthless physical approach in both attack and defence. Rodriguez used to drive with the ball in a fashion that would put fear into the oppositions defence, because they knew that even if they won the ball back, he would quickly be going shoulder to shoulder with them to regain possesion. Since then however, Rodriguez’s superb mentality has been replaced by someone who is now scared to put his body on the line, is reluctant in going for 50/50’s and doesnt charge into the box with his old effective approach.

Every last Southampton fan would love nothing more than to see the Jay Rodriguez of 2014 once again firing in red and white, but to tell the truth, the progress needed to make that happen simply isnt occuring right now. If Southampton manage to secure another attacking talent in the market and the interest from Hull is genuine, then maybe, just maybe, a deal that suits all parties can be met. Until then however, we must place faith in Puel’s selections, encourage Rodriguez at every opportunity handed to him, and most importantly, Rodriguez must push past the mental barriers that were placed before him in April 2014.

 

Southampton see £6.8M bid rejected by Dynamo Zagreb

After Southampton placed a £6.8M bid for the services of Croation midfielder, Marko Rog, reports are suggesting that Dynamo Zagreb have rejected the initial offer (TheDailyStar)

On the 1st of July 2016, Southampton announced that Claude Puel will be marching the Saints into the new 2016/17 Premier League season. But with new management comes new demands, and it seems that after having the time to analyse his squad, Puel wants fresh legs in the midfield.

Rog, 21, is a versatile box-to-box midfielder that is capable of taking up a number of positions in the midfield – making him almost ideal for the style of football that Puel wants to implement at Southampton Football Club.

In Puel’s 4-4-2 diamond system there are no wide midfield players, and therefore, this demands a high work-rate and great quality from the two central midfielders. In such an intense system, reinforcements will be needed in midfield to ensure that the shape of the side is always intact.

However, whilst Puel appears keen on the Croat who forged his way into Ante Čačić’s Euro 2016 side, Zagreb are holding out for almost twice as much as Southampton’s original £6.8M bid.

With reports suggesting that Villareal and Napoli are also interested in the Southampton target, Les Reed can’t afford to waste any time if he wishes to secure the deal over such hot competition.

Be sure to tell us what you think of this possible transfer @freshsaints on Twitter!

 

 

The 2016 summer transfer window: What’s next for Southampton FC?

It’s now just 11 days until the 2016/17 Premier League season gets underway, and so far, Southampton’s business has been astute as ever. Having spent just under £26 million pounds, the South coast club have managed to secure the promising midfield star that is Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, have snapped up their long-term target in Nathan Redmond, have applied pressure on Cedric with the signature of Jeremy Pied and finally, have added capable backup to Fraser Forster in Alex McCarthy. So, with Southampton now four targets down and still holding plenty of money left in the bank, where should we look to improve next?

In my opinion, Southampton Football Clubs priority should be placed on securing a player who can carry out the most important role in Claude Puel’s attacking system; the number ten. Whilst at this moment Southampton hold two players that are capable of filling this role – Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond – I believe that if Southampton want to improve on last year, they need a player that is naturally suited to this role. But what is it that’s needed in a player to make this role so effective?

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is the need for Intelligent movement. This role demands the player to persistently hunt for space and vacate areas of the pitch that give his side the best attacking option. Without this movement, counter attacks are rendered near enough useless, and unpicking a ten man defence becomes an impossible task. A player can hold all the ability they want, but if they lack the intelligent movement needed to take up the correct position, it’s almost no use at all. In the system that Puel is currently implementing at Southampton, the movement of this player is especially important as he helps to determine the positioning of the two strikers. If this key player isn’t finding the right areas, then the threat of the two forwards will most likely be nullified.

Secondly, the player must possess the ability to quite simply, put the ball in the back of the net. An asset which in truth, has been lacking from Southampton’s attacking midfielders in recent years. Due to the way that the two forwards drift wide and make runs between the channels in Puel’s 4-1-2-1-2 system, the ball will often be cut back to the number 10 – typically on the edge of the box. It is for this reason that a dangerous finisher must takes up this position. Failure to do so would be waving goodbye to some potentially crucial goals.

Whilst Tadic holds immense creative ability – the third most Premier League assists over the past two seasons in fact – he has built up the tendency to miss clear cut chances. In truth, Puel needs someone who can not only bury clear cut chances, but also creep those half chances into the corner of the goal too. As for Redmond, he’s looked very promising in this role so far, but his past would suggest that he is not yet ready to reach the required goal tally. Not to mention that this would be a position change for both Tadic and Redmond too, having spent the previous season on the wing – this adjustment would take time.

No one in Southampton’s current squad fits the number ten role to the standard that they should be aiming for. But with the acquisition of Hakim Ziyech of FC Twente or Sofiane Boufal of LOSC Lille, that problem would be no more. Both of these players are comfortable in the number 10 position, continually find space between the lines, have the ability to unlock a defence and both reached double figures in goalscoring over the 2015/16 season.

Next up? the Mane replacement. Over the past two seasons, Southampton fans have had the joy of watching Sadio Mane bare down on goal and at times, single-handedly destroy a side. In games where the opposition stands with their backs against the wall, it was so often Mane that would find the much-needed yard of space, and in times where you need a moment of brilliance to overshadow the genius of Mourinho, Klopp or Wenger, Mane was the man.

Mane’s direct and relentless style of play helped to raise the tempo in Southampton’s attack, and without him, there is no denying that we are weaker going forward. It’s damaging to lose the intensity that Mane provided and for that reason, we need a like-for-like replacement. Even more so considering that Mane would have fitted perfectly into the plans of Puel.

At this moment in time, Redmond and Long are the only players in the Southampton squad that possesses pace and the ability to operate in the channels – two attributes that are key if you want to be successful in Puel’s two man up top system. But whilst Long holds both of the above, his dribbling is far behind that of Mane’s, and while Redmond also holds the two key attributes, he has a lot to learn about playing a more central role. So, for now, we need a player that is a proven goalscorer in both wide and central areas. Perhaps Carlos Vela of Real Sociedad could fit the bill?

With that, I conclude my transfer hopes of Southampton Football Club this summer, but by no means am I saying that doing otherwise would be a failure or a disappointment  – if it’s what Puel wants and it fits his system, then I’m on board. My only demand for this window? that Claude Puel enters the season as a happy man with a team that he believes, will make Southampton Football Club progress yet again.

Patience…

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.       

Talking Solly March with WeAreBrighton

For the second season running now, Southampton have been linked with Brighton and Hove Albion’s talented winger, Solly March. So, with the youngster most likely holding a place on Southampton’s list of long-term targets – rather like recent signings Charlie Austin and Nathan Redmond – we decided to speak to WeAreBrighton to help you gain a better understanding of just why the club are keeping such a close watch on the England U21 International.

For fans who don’t know about Solly March, what type of player is he?
A traditional winger. He will take players on, get to the byline and get the ball in. He can also play down either side and depending on which wing he is on, can either deliver a cross or cut inside and let one go. Not to mention that he has a hell of a shot on him too.

What are March’s greatest qualities on the pitch?
Before the serious knee injury he picked up away at Derby in December, it was his pace. Whether he remains as fast after that injury will be interesting to see but he also has the ability to go past a man. A skill which in this day and age of short passing is very underrated but one that we’ve used to great effect.

Are there any areas of March’s game that can be considered a weakness or a worry?
He does seem to pick up lengthy injuries. As already noted, he hasn’t kicked a ball since mid-December, he missed three months in the middle of 2013-14 and was out for two more three-month spells at the start and end of 2014-15. Currently, he might be considered a bit too lightweight for the Premier League.

What is the general conception of March amongst Brighton fans?
He is a popular player, being one of the very few local young players we have actually managed to bring into the side successfully. We didn’t pick him up until he was 17 so to credit the Albion with his development would be a bit of a push, but everybody likes a homegrown player, especially when he is an exciting match winner like March is.

What would be your feelings toward seeing the young winger leave?
We’ve got an absolute plethora of good wide players at the minute with March alongside Anthony Knockaert, Jiri Skalak and Jamie Murphy as guys who you would expect would walk into most other teams in the Championship. So losing him wouldn’t be a total disaster. Whether it would be a good move for his career is up for debate – he is still yet to complete a full season of Championship football and would he get that opportunity in the Premier League? The bloke is clearly talented and it would be a shame for his career to stall if he moved too early to the top flight and became just a bit-part player.

What price would you be wanting for March if you were to let him go?
Young and English seems to whack an obscene amount onto the price of a player these days and with the absurd amount of money that Premier League clubs have laying around these days, you can afford to hold them to a ransom a little bit. Financially, we aren’t under any pressure to sell either so around £10m would do!

Is March ready to take on the Premier League?
He’s looked like a star in the making in the Championship, but these have only been over one or two month periods. He is yet to consistently perform at this level and I believe that he would need to do that before you could say that he is certainly ready for the Premier League.

And finally, how successful do you believe that this signing could be for Southampton?
If you could get him fit and use him correctly, he could be a good signing. The one thing that a move to Southampton has in his favour is the number of young English players who have been given their chance down there in recent seasons. Whether that continues under your new manager remains to be seen, but it is clear that March has a lot of potential – he just needs to toughen up and receive a significant run of games to realise it

That concludes our interview with WeAreBrighton, but we want to know your view on Southampton’s interest in March – be sure to let us know @freshsaints on Twitter.
Also, don’t forget to check out WeAreBrighton for all the latest news about one of our fellow South coast clubs.