With 12 games gone in the Premier League this season, Southampton F.C. currently sit 10th in the table. This means that now, we can start to see where our strengths and weaknesses lie in this new-look Saints side under Claude Puel.
The Saints have not set the world on fire, nor have they been totally under-impressive, but we all knew that it would be a tough transition period after Koeman’s departure. With that said, there have been some who have performed to an excellent standard. Virgil Van Dijk has arguably been the best centre-half in the Premier League, Oriol Romeu has been fantastic over the last two months in defensive-midfield and the ever-reliable Charlie Austin has the highest goal tally of any English, Premier League player this season – so where do we need to improve?
Firstly, Austin needs some support.
Shane Long is yet to find his first goal of the season despite a very successful campaign last term. In addition to this, Jay Rodriguez has struggled to get into the side even when fit and, lastly, Nathan Redmond has only scored three after his conversion to a striker under Puel.
In a formation where we are relying on two strikers to get our goals, we simply haven’t scored enough goals. Jay Rodriguez’s Southampton career could be over after the summer fiasco, and if Long does not start scoring soon, unfortunately the same could be said for him as well, having fallen to the bench under Puel. We need to buy a fresh young European striker, who can provide more goals and healthy competition in the hopes that Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez could start to fire again.
For this position, look no further than 22-year-old Andrea Belotti of Torino, who has manage to record ten goals and three assists in the Serie A this season. With a shot conversion rate of 65%, Belotti is an all round strong centre-forward, with decent pace, strength and most importantly, a clinical edge in front of goal. He may command a hefty fee given his age and attacking prowess, but if Southampton truly want to push on into the upper echelons of English football, they need more goals. With regards to prizing him away from Torino, Southampton would provide a club that nurtures young domestic and foreign talent, a club with ambitions of hitting the heights of European football and a springboard for him to push on to other clubs if he desires (as has happened with Clyne, Mané, Schneiderlin etc.)
Secondly, in spite of the fact that we hold great quality in the heart of defence with Virgil Van Dijk and Jose Fonte, we must be prepared for the future. The reason being is that whilst Fonte is still a fantastic defender for us, I think all fans can admit that a decline is underway (even if it is a small one at that). On top of this, Van Dijk has been receiving praise from all angles in recent weeks and in such fine form, a bid from a big club cant be too far away. For these reasons, it would be valuable and worthwhile for Southampton to snap up a young defender that can provide competition and be eased into the side at the time of Van Dijk’s potential departure or Fonte’s downfall.
Southampton are constantly linked with Rúben Semedo, a centre back who has been superb for Sporting Lisbon this season. He is a young, versatile Portuguese defender who can play both in the centre and on the right of the defence, and at only 22 years of age, he would fit the “Southampton philosophy” of signing young European talent. Not to mention that he could also settle in easily with his fellow Portuguese compatriots, in Fonte and Cédric.
He would provide cover and competition in two different positions and he has the ability to make a name for himself in the Premier League. With regards to prizing him away from one of Portugal’s biggest clubs, we’ve already done it with Cédric, and players of Semedo’s class at his age will want to push on and play in a more competitive league.
Thirdly, with our narrow diamond we desperately need to make sure that there are players in the club that can play in one of three positions; holding midfield, central midfield and attacking midfield.
We have a plethora of creative options in Dušan Tadić, Sofiane Boufal and the young Jake Hesketh, but at holding midfielder we only have Oriol Romeu. Personally, I would like to see Southampton bring in another player who can play in both the centre and the holding roles, offering cover for Romeu but also healthy competition in the centre.
Morgan Schneiderlin is the name on every fan’s lips. He is a player that is undoubtedly still a fan favourite at St. Mary’s, a player that would slot perfectly into our formation, a player that would not need time to settle into the club, and finally, a player that would probably be favourable to Claude Puel given his nationality. I genuinely believe that we could tempt Morgan to come home, offering the push towards European football that he so desired and a good contract at a club that he is very fond of. However, it’s undeniable that Manchester United would want to recoup a large proportion of the £25m+ they paid for him.
Those are my thoughts on the three areas where Southampton need to strengthen, and I believe that getting those three players along with some other additions for squad depth and hopefully more youth promotion, Saints could continue to push on and cement a Europa League place in the Premier League. There have been rumours of takeover bids at the club in recent weeks too, so maybe our money concerns will be put to rest and we could finally financially compete with the next tier of Premier League sides.