Southampton’s lack of depth this season has seen their campaign fizzle out and, while both QPR and Burnley may not have collectively made the grade at Premier League level, they have both had some standout players.
Here are five who I think could give the Southampton squad an edge.
1) Tom Heaton
If I were in charge of Saints, Heaton would be on my list of priority signings. The Burnley stopper has been exceptional and the Southampton travelling fans saw that first hand on their trip to Turf Moor. With Fraser Forster out for the foreseeable future, having to use Kelvin Davis and Paulo Gazzaniga at this level has cost the club dear. Heaton was, rightly in my opinion, touted for England honours earlier in the season, and he could be just what the club needs to…
Southampton’s point at Chelsea will mean nothing if they lose to Burnley (Picture: Reuters)
Saints know their objective for the rest of the season. If they consistently pick up points, as they have done so far (with a couple of minor blips) they will qualify for Europe.
Getting a point at Stamford Bridge last weekend could perhaps be seen as a bonus, but as skipper Jose Fonte has pointed out in the week, lose to Burnley on Saturday and it will have been for nothing.
The chance for Saints to qualify for Europe for the first time since 2003 is great, and were both Arsenal and Liverpool to make it to the cup final, then even greater. But they won’t want to take anything for granted and slip-ups at home to a relegation battler would be nothing short of unacceptable.
Saints have already lost to the Clarets once though this…
Southampton v Burnley – Saturday 21st March, 15:00
A Man of the Match performance from Fraser Forster helped Southampton hold Chelsea to a 1-1 draw in an enthralling encounter at Stamford Bridge last weekend. It was an important result for the Saints, very much keeping them in the hunt for a top-6 finish.
When discussing the state of the Premier League, the lack of English players regularly featuring for their clubs is a topic hot on the agenda. One area, though, where England don’t appear to be short of quality is in goal with ‘keepers Joe Hart and Ben Foster, amongst others, making a compelling case for inclusion. One goalkeeper who must be firmly in Roy Hodgson’s thoughts is Southampton stopper Fraser Forster, who was in inspired form against League Leaders Chelsea. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates that the former Celtic man made a total of six saves – which was the most in the league in the last round of Premier League fixtures.
Central midfielders Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama put in a big defensive shift to help keep Chelsea’s fine array of attacking talent at bay. Between them, the duo covered a total of 23.5km with Schneiderlin covering 12.2km and Wanyama 11.3km respectively.
Many expected the loss of Dejan Lovren to hit Southampton hard at the start of the campaign, as he had been a mainstay of the Saints defence in their impressive 2013/2014 season. In his absence, though, skipper Jose Fonte has stepped up to the mark, becoming a rock in the heart of Ronald Koeman’s back line. The Portuguese defender was in imperious form against the Blues, stifling any attacks as they approached the Southampton goal. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates how impressive his performance was, as it shows that he made a total of 23 defensive contributions (based on blocks, tackles won, clearances and interceptions), the second most of any defender in the league in the last round of Premier League fixtures. If you fancy Fonte to head up the other end of the pitch, head to 888sport.com who have him at 15/2 to score at anytime.
Burnley travel to the South Coast with their tails up, after an astounding victory over champions Manchester City in their last Premier League fixture.
George Boyd may have scored the winner on Sunday with an expertly taken finish, but to say he was the only Burnley midfielder making inroads into the City defence would be doing a disservice to his teammates. Both David Jones and Scott Arfield showcased their excellent creative ability against the Champions, completing an impressive 23 passes each in the opposition half – more than any of their teammates.
Finding the back of the net was a just reward for George Boyd for his endeavours, as he covered every blade of grass for his team in an attempt to thwart Manuel Pellegrini’s men. In total, Boyd covered 13.3km for his side – more than any of his teammates. If you fancy Boyd to make it two in two this weekend, head to 888sport.com who have the Scotsman at 7/1 to score at anytime!
Michael Keane is a defender who has always shown a lot of promise and Sean Dyche will have been delighted to purchase him on a permanent deal in January. In particular, this season, he’s shown an excellent eye for a tackle – winning an impressive 74% of the challenges that he has attempted.
For me, as someone who was never his biggest fan, having Rory Delap as our record signing felt like a monkey on our back. How could we ever be taken seriously with a player of Delap’s quality holding such a prestigious title?
Finally, on Sunday that record was broken. In what was seemingly a long drawn out process, and after much journalist/supporter speculation Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez signed for the club for a fee believed to be in the region of £6-7 millon. Whether or not the club intended to announce it on that day is questionable, but after an eagle eyed hotel guest/member of staff took the snap below, the cat was out of the bag!
Nigel Adkins has clearly been a long time admirer of “JRod” with the club being continuously linked with the England U21 international, and both staff and supporters alike will be glad to have got their man.
Having scored 15 goals in the Championship last season, 21 in all competitions, the 22 year old proved to be hot property last season, with the likes of Everton, Sunderland and Fulham also believed to be interested.
Immediately, to me it looks like we have bought a player who would be ideal playing off Rickie Lambert, and certainly one who has bags of potential. Many have scoffed at the nature of the transfer fee, but effectively we have gone to Turf Moor and taken their Adam Lallana. How much would you want for him?
To know what we can really expect I sought out those who know him best, and got the opinions of Jamie Smith of Burnley blog NoNayNever and Tony Scholes, editor of Clarets Mad.
Jamie – “Burnley fans have known for at least a year that Jay Rodriguez would be a Premier League player. I think it’s fair to say – with no disrespect intended to Southampton – that many of us hoped he would get a move to an established side in the top division, but at least a move to the south coast means he’ll have his mate Jack Cork around and the chances are he’ll start most games.”
Tony –“I’m sorry to see Jay Rod go because we are, without doubt, losing our key player. But Southampton are now in the Premier League and Jay needs to go and play there to take his career onto the next step. I watched him come through the youth team via the reserves to the first team and even in our promotion season of 2008/09 he scored some vital and some stunning goals coming on as a substitute.”
Value for Money
Jamie – “A lot has been made of the fee Southampton have paid for Jay and from an outsider’s point of view, this is understandable. £6-7m is a lot of money. But there aren’t many young English strikers out there as good as Jay. I firmly believe it will look like a bargain in a couple of years.”
Tony – “You are getting a player who, in my view, will prove to be very good value for the money you’ve paid, I believe it to be £7 million. He’s a young player who has just got better and better since getting a place in the first team in September 2010.
I don’t think you’ve paid too much for him. It might seem that way right now with him having such little experience but more than one Championship manager last season described him as the best forward in the division.”
Type of Player
Jamie – “It’s hard to describe exactly what sort of player he is. When he first came through into the squad he was seen as a bit of a specialist finisher, coming on to score the winner a few times in our Carling Cup run helped. But he had a bad injury at the start of our season in the Premier League and barely got a look in.
His appearances/goals ratio isn’t really fair to judge him on as he played a lot from the bench in his early days. But the last two seasons saw him secure a place in the side. Brian Laws put his faith in him and Jay repaid him well and last season he was even better, breaking 20 goals for the first time, even though he didn’t play after mid-March because of injury. His goal record in the last two years in the Championship is as good as anyone’s.
Jay can score all sorts of goals. He’s not afraid to have a pop from distance, but he’s far from the sort of player who just shoots whenever the ball comes. He’s intelligent and confident enough to play with his head up – and that’s rare. He’ll drop deep and link the play, his touch is excellent. He’ll run the channels, look to go in behind, get on the end of flick-ons. He’s not great with his back to goal against a big, strong defender, but should provide a good foil for Rickie Lambert. He’s very good in the air for his size, despite not looking like the sort of striker who’ll score headers.”
Tony – “In looking at his strengths and weaknesses I think it is fair to say he has a lot of attributes. He’s a player who doesn’t necessarily do all his work inside the penalty box although he definitely has an ability to get more than his fair share of goals. He scores different kinds of goals too. He’ll get the close range centre forward type goals, he’ll score with headers, he’s a clinical penalty taker (one spot kick apart) and has the ability to hit shots from distance. He’ll say he’s a central striker but I think he offers most when playing that bit deeper enabling him to pick up balls from deep and make runs. He’s strong, and getting stronger, he’s quick although we are not talking Theo Walcott type pace here.”
Jamie – “It’s anyone’s guess how Jay will adapt to the top league and his first few games will shape that to some extent. If he gets off to a flier like Shane Long did last season, he could be in the England squad by Christmas. A slow start will test him. He is a player of huge, vast potential, but the fear for Burnley fans is that he doesn’t get enough service to impress and Southampton come straight back down. I’m sure the Saints survival next year is worth a few quid for us.
The recent transfers of Danny Fox and to a lesser extent Jack Cork haven’t endeared Southampton to Burnley fans, but we’ll certainly be looking out for you on Match of the Day next season to see how Jay gets on.”
Tony – “I personally think he can go all the way and play for England, although we’ll need to be quick because he does qualify for Spain through his dad. He’s English through and through though, a local lad who has lived his entire life to date in Burnley. During his time in the first team he’s become hugely popular with the Turf Moor crowd and there is no doubt he’ll be missed. Because he’s so highly thought of the reaction has been, in the main, one of wishing him the very best of luck. Nothing would please us more than to see Jay Rod become a top Premier League player and pull on an England shirt. You might just have got yourselves a bargain.”
It is great to see the confidence in him from the fans of his former club, and my reference to Lallana at the start of this article was no coincidence, he is “one of their own” and they are rightly proud of him and confident in his abilities, like we are with Adam. I for one am delighted with this signing.
Welcome to Southampton Jay Rodriguez.
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Since Sky television made it’s presence felt in the world of football broadcasting, the traditional Saturday three pm kick off time has become less set in stone. Particularly in the Premier League, but also in the Football League, fans will find their clubs kick off times changed to suit the demand for television viewing.
In the Football League they have an allocated slot of twenty past five on a Saturday afternoon, so Sky Sports can instantly hook the viewers of the ever popular Soccer Saturday straight into another ninety minutes of action.
Saints took part in one of the most entertaining of these fixtures on this weekend a year ago, Nigel Adkins’ men travelled to London Road to take on Peterborough United and played out a 4-4 draw in front of the cameras. Richard Chaplow, Rickie Lambert (2) and Dean Hammond giving Saints 0-2 and 2-4 leads before a second Posh equaliser deep into injury time.
As fate would have it Saints head to a St. Andrews tonight (weather permitting) for the Sky evening fixture in what looks to be a difficult game against a Birmingham side in devastating form.
So how do Saints fare in these games? Better than you might think.
We have a notion that we are poor in front of the Sky camera’s, but our record in the Saturday 17:20 fixtures is pretty reasonable. Losing just two of their eight games since entering the Football League in 2005 (both coming in the ill fated 2008/09 Championship relegation season), what Saints do seem to guarantee at this kick off time is goals. Of those eight fixtures there has been an average of 3.25 goals in the game!
Saints in fact, opened their time in the Football League in one of these fixtures, a goalless stalemate with Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. Mary’s on the 6th August 2005.
They didn’t feature again until the 27th October 2007, where goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips, Jason Euell and Stern John saw Saints beat Burnley at Turf Moor by three goals to two.
What followed was a disastrous season in Saints history and it coincided with the two 17:20 defeats. A crushing 1-4 loss at the Ricoh Arena was soon followed by a 0-1 home reverse by Bristol City. Not overly surprising in a season that saw Saints record just ten league wins.
Last years goalfest in Cambridgeshire was next and then in the following month Saints took to the St. Mary’s pitch for an evening kick off again for a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte securing the points.
Saints opened this season as they had their first in the Championship, at home in front of the cameras for the evening kick off. Dean Hammond, Adam Lallana and David Connolly netted to give Saints the best possible start, convincingly beating Leeds United 3-1.
Saints were less convincing at the Madejski Stadium in October, Steve de Ridder rescuing a point with a late leveller against Reading.
Southampton Saturday 17:20 kick off record:-
Played – 8
Won – 3
Drawn – 3
Lost – 2
Goals For – 14
Goals Against – 14
Incidentally today’s opponents Birmingham City’s record in these fixtures is P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 GF 5 GA 5.
What do these statistics prove? Well not a lot really, other than in terms of form they don’t make a hell of a lot of difference!
With West Ham playing in the other television spot, kicking off at half past twelve against arch rivals Millwall, Saints will get started at St. Andrews knowing what they have to do. Let’s hope they give the performance of the weekend! COYR!
Where better to get an all round overview of the thoughts of Championship fans on the coming season than the fantastic club specific blogs. I caught up with a contributor/tweeter from each of the twenty four Championship clubs and got their thoughts on the coming season…
What can we expect from your club this season? Expect to see a far more resilient and united team at Oakwell this time out. What we may lack in stand-out names on our team sheet, we will more than make up for in our approach and ethic. Many have Barnsley FC as relegation certainties, I disagree. We feel the time may be arriving when our Academy and shrewd acquisition may just begin to bare fruit.
Who is your most important player? It’s a very fresh (expected first eleven) this season, but I would highlight Jacob Butterfield who has featured last season, but would expect to make it in to automatic selection this season. He has excellent skills and vision, which would make him our natural playmaker to link our attacking force together.
Your predicted finishing position? Mid table.
Who might win the Championship? Big Sam will sort it at West Ham United.
Who definitely won’t? Peterborough United.
Most anticipated fixture? It would probably be Leeds United. Last term we took 4 points off our local rivals and love to destroy their so called mighty status. No Leeds fan would admit they were the weaker team last season and have attributed both results as a poor day at the office on their part. Let’s see!
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Champions League Final, to see if Barcelona really have re-written the football blueprint. Will Manchester United or any club overcome them soon? It’s an interesting situation.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Kevin Nolan will be different class in the Npower Championship. His willingness to compete and his goals mark him a class apart.
You find yourself stuck in Elland Road. How do you escape unnoticed? Wait until they score first, knowing that their demise will inevitably follow later in the game versus The Super Reds. Pride always comes before a fall and in this instance, there’s always so much smug self satisfaction going on, they would fail to see anything else happening … You only sing when you’re winning!
What can we expect from your club this season? Err, good question. Things are very odd at the moment, not even sure if we have a full squad! I hope some entertaining football though under Chris Hughton.
Who is your most important player? Any who are left? 😉 Difficult to say, but I will be really pleased if we can keep Scott Dann. He is an amazing defender.
Your predicted finishing position? I’ll be happy to be in the play off mix as a minimum.
Who might win the Championship? Got to between Leeds, Forest, West Ham, Leicester and I hope us! (Well you never know!)
Who definitely won’t? Peterborough. Sorry Posh.
Most anticipated fixture? Probably v West Ham as there is no love lost between our present board and our previous board. Also the way we knocked them out of the Carling Cup last season.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Leicester v Forest I would have thought.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only) who would it be? This is tough, because I didn’t pay any attention to the Championship last year mainly because I didn’t think we would be in it this year! 🙁
You find yourself stuck in The Ricoh Arena. How do you escape unnoticed? I would ask could they tell me where the other two Cathedrals were!
What can we expect from your club this season? More of the same. Gus Poyet is very definite in his views on how the game should be played: pass, pass and pass again. We have some exciting new players offering lots of attacking promise whilst we’ve yet to strengthen at the back. Maybe we’ll win every game 6-5.
Who is your most important player? That’s a tough one given our new blood. Craig Mackail-Smith is the big money big (and long) name but I have a sneaky feeling that Will Hoskins will turn out to be key for us this year. At the back we’ll be looking for Gordon Greer to lead by example, and that includes not picking up needless sending offs.
Your predicted finishing position? Hopes of ‘doing a Norwich’ are perhaps a tad optimistic, but I think we’ll have enough to ensure we remain free of relegation concerns. Mid-table mediocrity? Yes please!
Who might win the Championship? It’s an obvious answer, but West Ham or Leicester should be there or thereabouts with the squads they have.
Who definitely won’t? Crystal Palace. Woeful.
Most anticipated fixture? Crystal Palace at home. For the first time in a generation, we get to compete with our rivals on an even footing.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? I really can’t think of one. I’m not sure there’s another Championship game I’d pay the entrance price to see. But, given the source of these questions, I’ll say that sampling a derby between those other 2 South Coast Championship clubs probably holds the most appeal.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? Glenn Murray. It sounds like he needs a big hug already.
You find yourself stuck in Selhurst Park. How do you escape unnoticed? I’d pretend to be Glenn Murray – nobody will be noticing him in a few weeks time.
What can we expect from your club this season? Hard to say with all the uncertainty still surrounding Nicky Maynard. He really is vital to any potential success we may have. After a turbulent (to say the least) season last time around, I’d expect us to improve upon that with a far more settled side. Mid-table finish after a short flirt with the play offs, maybe sneaking in should Mr Maynard stay the duration.
Who is your most important player? Maynard without doubt. Can produce something from absolutely nothing, something very few players in the Championship can do. If he leaves, then Albert Adomah who had a storming debut season on the right wing, and is on the verge of full honours for Ghana.
Your predicted finishing position? 11th.
Who might win the Championship? Hard to look past West Ham and Leicester at this stage.
Who definitely won’t? Barnsley are perennial top of the bottom 6 material.
Most anticipated fixture? With Swansea gone, our games with Cardiff should be reignited. West Ham at Upton Park will sure to be a popular one as well.
Most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club? Couple of fantastic derby games this year. West Ham Vs Millwall being the obvious one. The two South coast clubs (Pompey and Saints) on even standings should be interesting as well.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club (Championship only), who would it be? As our defence resembles the red sea in biblical times, Matt Mills would plug the hole I’m sure.
You find yourself stuck in the Memorial Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed? I hide myself in the large tent behind one goal (the away end) and wait untill the end of the season until its wheeled away to be used at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. I mean what sort of tinpot club has a temporary tent?
What can we expect from your club this season? That’s a good question and right now it almost feels as if we are about to step into the unknown. Since the squad reported back for pre-season training no less than three of them have left with a further two, Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears, expected to leave for Bolton at any time. To replace them we’ve signed two young defenders on loan from Manchester City and as yet, nothing else. There is time yet but it does feel as though we’ve wasted an opportunity by not getting the squad together early enough.
Who is your most important player? Hopefully all of them will be important but the stand out players are Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez who have both come through the youth system at Burnley. McCann is fit again after almost two years out of the game and at his best is as good a central midfield player as you will find in the Championship. He’s been so badly missed and it will be like having a new signing. Rodriguez, despite the name, is a real case of local boy makes good. He’s just enjoyed his first season in the first team and has become a crucial member of the side. He ended the season as leading goalscorer and not many players in the entire Championship scored more goals than he did. HIs 15 didn’t include a penalty and he could well step up towards 20 goals this coming season. He made an England debut last season at under-21 level and has an exciting future in front of him.
Your predicted finishing position? I would love to say first, but so would any supporter of any club. I’ll be realistic and I think if we could make a good start then we have a decent chance of making the play offs. In 2009 we finished 5th so I’ll go for that again.
Who might win the Championship? Not many eyes are looking too far beyond Leicester at the moment. Only today they have signed Manchester City’s Michael Johnson on loan and they are certainly putting a strong squad together. You know there’s money around once Sven Goran Eriksson shows his face, but for how long? Could it be another club where it all ends in tears? For now though they have to be favourites.
Who definitely won’t? I suspect there are a few who fall into that category. I think Peterborough will struggle and I don’t think there will be too many complaints if they do given they’ve got both Barry Fry and Darren Ferguson there.
Most anticipated fixture? Right now it’s Watford because it’s our first game. We’re stuck with hardly any local games this season with Blackpool as the only other North West club in the Championship. Personally I’m looking forward to going to Brighton and not having to suffer the Withdean but maybe Leeds will be the big games for us.
Most anticipate fixture that doesn’t involve your club? If that’s in the Championship then I’ve no real answer. Nothing stands out above anything else. Outside the Championship, and outside England, I’ll have the Barcelona v Real Madrid games marked in my diary.
If you could take one player from someone else’s club who would it be? It would have to be a goalscorer. They are the players who win the games for you. I’d have liked to have re-signed David Nugent so I’d go for someone like him or potentially Reading’s Shane Long.
You find yourself stuck in Ewood Park. How do you escape unnoticed? That’s easy. I’d just walk out. They’d be too busy tucking into their Venky’s chicken.
Part Two featuring Cardiff, Coventry, Palace, Derby, Doncaster and Hull coming soon…
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