It’s always nice to have an outsider take a look at Saints, especially when things aren’t going as well as we’d like, so here is a guest post by 90 Digital on who Ronald might want to take a look at in January… N.B. This was written before Saturday’s defeat at Crystal Palace. – Chris
Southampton haven’t reached the heights of last year’s impressive campaign so far this season, and the recent 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa will have only exacerbated existing frustrations. Having previously stated that he didn’t plan to do any business in January, manager Ronald Koeman may need to reconsider his options if the Saints are to make an impression on the top six markets.
Here are five names that could potentially be arriving at St. Mary’s next month:
Queen’s Park Rangers’ Austin will be on many managers’ wish-lists this year, with Southampton reportedly leading the race to sign the forward. In a relegated-QPR side, Austin netted 18 goals in the Premier League last term, meaning that he’s highly regarded by several top-flight clubs as a top goal scorer.
Koeman’s hand may be forced into going in for the striker, especially if one of his prize assets, Graziano Pelle, is poached during the window. But the Southampton boss will be confident that a bid in the region of £10 million would be enough to secure Austin’s services for a Saints team that has struggled for goals in recent weeks.
Things were looking very different for Townsend 12 months ago – he was a key member of Pochettino’s Tottenham side and his club form was rewarded in the form of England caps. But he’s been frustrated by a lack of playing time this season and he needs to leave White Hart Lane in order to resuscitate his international career, with Southampton a credible destination.
Koeman resisted going in for Townsend over the summer after Spurs put a £15 million valuation on the winger, but he’ll surely be available for less in January. Townsend is a direct runner and offers express pace, meaning that he’d certainly enhance Koeman’s offensive options, particularly if Manchester United target, Saido Mané, departs.
It would appear as if Koeman is preparing for the possible departure of Victor Wanyama in January, as Southampton have supposedly been monitoring midfielder Giannelli Imbula for a while. The 23-year-old only joined Porto in the summer, but is likely to be attracted by the bright lights of the Premier League.
The highly-rated Frenchman definitely wouldn’t be cheap, although after the sale of several big names in recent seasons, the South Coast club most probably have the cash available to them should they wish to pursue their man.
21-year-old Solomon March has played a key role in table-topping Brighton’s success in the Championship this season, which had subsequently made him a target for local rivals Southampton.
Koeman has apparently had March on his radar for the last 18 months or so, and the youngster’s excellent form over the first part of this season is likely to have convinced the manager of his quality. The England U-21 winger has a price tag of around £7.5 million, however, which Southampton may consider to be too much of a gamble.
Another Championship star under Koeman’s watch is Sam Byram of Leeds United who the Saints actually failed to sign last summer. The 22-year-old’s head has seemingly been turned by recent interest from a handful of Premier League clubs after rejecting the offer of a contract extension at Elland Road.
Consequently, Byram has been given an ultimatum by boss Steve Evans to decide where his future lies. Southampton will believe that they offer the best place for his development and will be further seduced by Byram’s current contract situation, which could see him being pinched for a fee in the region of £6-7 million.
We shouldn’t expect the Saints to be too busy this January – they sit in a comfortable position in the league and are not plagued by a lengthy injury list. Yet Koeman’s transfer policy may be dictated by incoming bids for his own players, although he may have a better chance of keeping his stars by adding a couple of marquee signings to the squad.
A decent month in all for Saints, opening with a convincing victory over the champions at Stamford Bridge, before a slightly disappointing draw with Leicester at home and culminating in a point at Anfield and progression to the Capital One Cup Quarter Final!
There were some stand-out individual performances but who was the Player of the Month? Vote below.
Football is as fickle a business as they come. Already this season we have seen fans on social media outlets ludicrously question Ronald Koeman’s position as manager after a shaky start, and as crazy as it seems now, the instantaneous medium that the likes of twitter offer means football’s fickleness is at it’s peak.
If anyone had seriously doubted Ronald’s credentials, it would be interesting to know on what grounds. It can’t be results, in that department he has surely exceeded expectations. It can’t be the standard of football, Saints on their day are as exciting as anyone in the league in terms of their approach. So perhaps it is signings? Wrong again, and that brings me neatly to the subject of this blog.
Nothing epitomises the Dutchman’s success in the transfer market than Graziano Pellè. If we are talking about kneejerk reactions, the Italian striker has suffered every type. Initially written off as not being good enough, then revered, before being written off again on the back of a lean spell in front of goal. Even during his run in the goals last season there were many who weren’t taken by Pellè and perhaps have allowed those initial thoughts to form into a stubborn prejudice that now refuses to acknowledge his contribution.
The reality is, Pellè has been a revelation. A bone fide fantastic signing. You might often hear people say that he doesn’t score ‘enough goals’, but given his all round contribution to the way the team plays I would argue that isn’t a disaster. Having said that 23 in 56 appearances isn’t bad in this day and age anyway. It is actually an almost identical goal ratio in English football to Romelu Lukaku for instance.
Over the Summer many Saints fans (myself included) were insistent that the club should be looking at other strikers. The likes of Charlie Austin were long talked about and perhaps we had all got a little carried away with ourselves and the now traditional Southampton need for constant improvement. So far this season Pelle has been fantastic. Sure, when the early season form was poor from the team as a unit, he suffered as he was getting little to no service at times, but as the team began to click so did the Italian, and he has been almost unplayable since.
Recent performances against Manchester United and Chelsea particularly highlighted his importance, and why Ronald Koeman has complete faith in him. Superb in the air, never letting the centre halves have a moments rest, setting up chance after chance with his back to goal before burying one himself. Mix all that up with the odd unnecessary flick or back heel and that is Graziano Pellè in a nutshell. I read a tweet (but I can no longer find it unfortunately to credit the author) that described Pellè as the ideal mix of old school English striker and fancy dan foreigner. Perfect.
After the rout of MK Dons, for which Pellè was rested I was amazed to see some fans complain that the Italian might be brought straight back into the team. The fact that he has 7 goals and 5 assists against much tougher opposition escaping those whose prejudice has long been formed. As much as we all want Jay Rodriguez to return to the force he had become, it has to be as part of a team alongside Pellè, he could certainly benefit from the Italian’s expert hold up play, much as Sadio Mane has.
If that wasn’t enough evidence of his greatness, it is worth pointing out that at the age of 29 he received his first call up to the Azzurri last season and has been a regular ever since. As he joins up with them this week his record to date is 3 goals in 6 games, a pretty good start at international level. Italy manager Antonio Conte recently said that he hopes ‘Pellè can be an example for other players to follow’.
If goals, assists and all round impressive play at all levels aren’t your cup of tea though, what about passion? Since arriving at St. Mary’s Pellè has really seemed to embrace being at the club and his reaction to scoring is always like it’s his first ever goal. For me he is part of the furniture now and has the potential to join other strikers like Rickie Lambert, Marian Pahars and James Beattie (another who suffered the odd barren spell) as cult heroes at the club.
I guess my point at the end of all this is simply that Graziano Pellè is certainly a player you’d rather have with you than against you. Is he the most natural player in the world, perhaps not, but he produces the goods on a fairly regular basis. Scoring goals is an art form, and while not everyone can do it with the constant grace of a Messi or a Ronaldo, simply doing it is enough.
Pellè is Southampton’s and Southampton is Pellè’s.
Victories over Swansea City and MK Dons and a draw with West Brom made September a decent month, with only a narrow and frustrating defeat to Manchester United spoiling it! There were some stand-out individual performances but who was the Player of the Month? Vote below.
I was surprised to see the short-list form the club for the Player of the Month award so thought I would do my own based on the players who have been rated highest on average by the readers of this site! Get voting!
Amongst the many previews out on offer as we approach the (official) start of a new season, none bring together many as many of the voices of those who give up their time to talk about their club. I gathered together the Saints blogging fraternity to see what they expect from the new season.
Which new signing are you most excited about?
Me ‘Cedric has looked impressive in pre-season so far, and looks like he will offer even more going forward than Clyne did. We shall see if he can recreate that level of form in the Premier League.’
Glen de la Cour (from League One Minus Ten) ‘Cedric Soares looks an exciting addition especially as it fits our ethos of selling big and replacing with better quality for less money. The most important though is Jordy Clasie because of the boots he has to fill.’
Connor Armstrong (from All of the websites) ‘For me it’s probably Cédric, so far. It looks like he’ll give us great balance when Bertrand is back too, as well as another genuine attacking threat.’
Sam Dobson (from The Saints Hub) ‘Excited is probably the wrong word, but Cedric Soares looks the most impressive so far’
George Galpin (from St. Mary’s Musings) ‘I’m really excited about Jordy Clasie. Morgan Schneiderlin was a fantastic player for Saints, and will be remembered as an icon of the club’s recent rise. But people move on, and the Utd move is something that not many would be able to say no to.’
Ben Stanfield (from Teamtalk Fanzone) ‘Cedric Soares. I think he looks like a really bright young talent who, in glimpses against Vitesse, showed he will thrive in getting forward to create opportunities for Saints. He looks physically strong, is quick and seems to have an experienced head on young shoulders. The acid test, which hasn’t really been seen yet, is his defending – particularly against Premier League attackers..’
Ben (from Go Marching In) ‘Cédric Soares – Has looked very assured already despite only playing a few games in a Saints shirt. I like his positivity going forward and have a feeling he could bag a couple of goals in his first season.’
Ben McQuaide (from McQuaide’s Musings and SportsPulse) ‘Without a doubt, Jordy Clasie. I’ve wanted him at Southampton for quite a while now and after watching him a fair bit in the Eredivisie I’m convinced he’ll be a hit in the Premier League.’
Which Saints player do you think will have the biggest impact (secure move to United/Liverpool/Spurs) on the Premier League this season?
Me ‘Sadio Mane. He is such an exciting player and already making a name for himself. Still only 23 I think he is destined for the top sooner rather than later.’
GdlC ‘Sadio Mane- he will hopefully be better equipped in his 2nd season to keep a high level of performance right through.’
CA ‘It’s going to be Sadio Mané. He’s gonna tear it up. Big Vic will keep being Big Vic too, so he’s another who will have a big impact. Let’s hope that Jay Rodriguez makes his mark too.’
SD ‘Sadio Mane. He will win us games single-handedly .’
GG ‘I really think this is Sadio Mané’s year. He’s settled into the team well, but it was noticeable how much physically he had grown and looks frighteningly quick. He could become a real superstar this season.’
BS ‘Sadio Mane. I’m really looking forward to seeing Sadio have a full season with Saints. He was one of the more consistent performers across last year and has already shown in pre-season that he is ready to go. I think he should, and will, be targeting 20 goals for Saints this season. He could well be the key to us winning a few close games.’
B ‘Sadio Mane – One the most fouled players in the Premier League last season. Feel that if he has another impressive season we’ll be fighting off some big offers for him next summer.’
BM ‘Sadio Mane, if he can maintain or better his form from the second half of last season for a whole season he’s gonna tear teams apart and I think he could score 15+ goals this season.’
How do you rate our transfer business out of 10?
Me ‘So far I would say it is a 7-8, add another centre half, and in my opinion an out and out striker and then it would be higher.’
GdlC ‘Hard to tell until they’ve adapted (or not)…. on the face of it, it looks like an 8 or 9 out of 10. A top quality centre back in addition to Caulker will make it even better.’
SD ‘6 or 7. Difficult to argue that we won’t be worse off without Clyne and Schneiderlin, but the players that have replaced them aren’t THAT much worse, so we should still be competitive.’
GG ‘If Saints can get the CB to replace Alderweireld, 10 for me. The players who had left all had understandable reasons for going, but once again the transfer committee seem to have brought in the right replacements.’
BS ‘I’d say a 7. We seemed well prepared for any departures but, unlike last year, we didn’t need wholesale changes this summer anyway. If we can get a top-class CB in, like Van Dijk for example, then that 7 can become an 8/9 and I think we’re ready to go!’
BM ‘Probably a 6, the replacements look pretty solid for those that departed but I think we may be slightly weaker than last season, starting XI wise. ‘
Morgan Schneiderlin. Impossible to truly replace?
Me ‘Not impossible but incredibly difficult. I hope the Wanyama/Clasie partnership hits the ground running, if it does then we are going to be fine.’
GdlC ‘Maybe hard to immediately replace but you have to give time for a player to grow into the role. Once Clasie gets used to English football, he may well be that man. He has roughly the same number of caps for Holland as Morgan has for France – all he doesn’t have is the English football experience.’
CA ‘Probably, but we’ve given it a very good go.’
SD ‘He will definitely be missed, but we’re still pretty strong in that area of the pitch. Victor Wanyama is one of the best midfielders around and if Jordy Clasie doesn’t cut it, Harrison Reed will be ready to step up.’
GG ‘In all honesty, he is not impossible to replace, because no one is for a club the size of Southampton. He was an incredible player, but like I said earlier; people move on. Le Tissier retired, Channon left, Nick Holmes, Terry Paine, Rickie Lambert.. They all stopped playing for Saints, but the club is still there.’
BS ‘No player is ever truly irreplaceable. Morgan was a class act, no doubt about that, but I really feel Wanyama can step up to the same level Morgan was playing at each week and become the star of our Midfield. I wish Morgan well but we will survive without him.’
B ‘I think so. The ability to win the ball back, control the game with his distribution and an engine to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. A lot of players only specialise in one of those areas but Morgan was capable of them all. In Jordy Clasie we have a player who can certainly tick a lot of those boxes, but I think he’ll need time to find his feet in the Premier League. But at 24 there’s plenty of time for him to become as integral to Southampton as Morgan was.‘
BM ‘Wouldn’t say irreplaceable, top class player but I think Clasie will replace him well.’
Who will win the Premier League?
Me ‘Chelsea, but not as easily as they did last season.’
GdlC ‘Vitesse Arnhem’s feeder club.’
CA ‘Chelsea. Manchester United will push them but the Blues have got the knack.’
SD ‘Man United.’
GG ‘In my opinion, it’ll take a lot to stop Utd if they can add another attacker. ‘
BS ‘If United ‘click’ then I think they could go close – which they should do after the ridiculous amounts of money they’ve spent over the last two years – but I think it’ll be Chelsea’s to lose again. They are generally the epitome of consistency.’
BM ‘Chelsea, again. Despite concerns over Diego Costa’s hamstring.’
Who will go down?
Me ‘Bournemouth, Sunderland & Norwich.’
GdlC ‘Tottenham, Liverpool and I don’t really care who else.’
CA ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Sunderland.’
SD ‘Aston Villa, Leicester and Bournemouth.’
GG ‘Bournemouth, Leicester and Norwich’
BS ‘Watford, Leicester and Norwich.’
B ‘Leicester, Norwich and Watford.’
BM ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Leicester.’
Who do you most want to beat this season?
Me ‘Whoever we get in the cup final.’
CA ‘Liverpool. For obvious reasons. Chelsea and Tottenham are others, but only because I have mates who support them.’
SD ‘Tottenham, we must be due a win against them by now.’
GG ‘Everybody… ;-). For me, I’d like Saints to beat Tottenham, purely because they’re the only team in the top six clubs that I haven’t seen Saints claim all three points from since promotion.’
BS ‘Liverpool and Tottenham. Both for obvious reasons of course!’
B ‘Probably Liverpool. Tottenham was a close second but the scousers win because they have more ex Saints players in their team. It’s got a lot to do with showing that we’re not weaker without them.’
BM ‘Liverpool, without a doubt. You know the reasons. ‘
Chips. Mayonnaise or No Mayonnaise?
Me ‘No. Total Dutch nonsense I’m afraid. HP Sauce (now made in Holland) is your standard chip affair.’
GdlC ‘I am determined to try the mayonnaise option soon! Will get back to you.’
CA ‘Mayonnaise, and lots of it. ‘
SD ‘No Mayonnaise. Sorry Ronald.’
GG ‘I tried chips with mayonnaise in Rotterdam for the Feyenoord friendly, and can see why they love it there. But for me, salt, pepper and vinegar is a winner. So is Reggae Reggae sauce.’
BS ‘I’m afraid this is (probably) the only thing in life that Ronald and I don’t agree on. Chips for me can only ever have one condiment on them – tomato ketchup!! So no mayonnaise for me. Sorry Ron!’
B ‘Mayonnaise. Lots of it.’
BM ‘Mayonnaise, obviously.’
You wake up suddenly and find yourself in Fratton Park for a Pompey home game. How do you escape unnoticed?
Me ‘There is a scene in the US zombie drama ‘The Walking Dead’ where the heroes smother themselves in zombie blood and guts and then act brain-dead to blend in and walk freely amongst the zombies. Like that. But using fish guts.’
GdlC ‘Grow an extra finger on each hand, an extra toe on each foot and an eye in the middle of my forehead, sing ‘Amarillo’ and shout ‘I HATE FACKING SCUMMAHS’and then (most importantly) blame the owners for everything. Now that I’m fully blended in… I can leave.’
CA ‘Fratton Park? Isn’t that where the big Tesco’s is now?’
SD ‘Reckon it’ll be pretty easy for me to navigate my way through rows of empty seats.’
GG ‘Stick on a thick coat, and casually walk towards the exit. If they say I can’t get back in, I’ll say I’ve left my car unlocked. Simple!’
BS ‘I’d turn to the only other guy in attendance and advise that I think I’ve left my car unlocked and will be right back….’
B ‘Scary thought. I would probably go for some sort of diversion tactic, saying loudly, “Isn’t that guy over there from HMRC?” and then walk briskly in the other direction.’
BM ‘I think you mean the Portsmouth Dockland Stadium (See below). ‘
Cheers to all those who took the time to answer questions. We’ll all meet back here in May and see how right (or wrong) we got it!
Better late than never! The results of this years ‘Ali’s’ are in.
Given the short notice the response was fantastic and it serves as a good reminder about how good a season Saints had that there were so many varied answers for each award and a couple of the result ran very close.
This is what everyone associated with Saints dreams of getting their hands on at the end of a season:-
So without further ado, here are YOUR winners…
Player of the Year
This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.
Scored points:- James Ward-Prowse (<1%), Sam Gallagher (<1%), Saphir Taider (<1%), Dani Osvaldo (<1%), Artur Boruc (<1%), Steven Davis (1%), Dusan Tadic (1%), Nathaniel Clyne (1%), Fraser Forster (2%), Graziano Pelle (4%), Toby Alderweireld (5%), Victor Wanyama (8%), Ryan Bertrand (10%).
3rd Place:- Morgan Schneiderlin (12%)
2nd Place:- Sadio Mane (13%)
And the winner is……with a huge 43% of the points, proving that some people are born to be leaders…..Jose Fonte!
Young Player of the Year
An award of particular interest given the reputation the club has built for producing talent. A strong field would have to produce a strong winner!
Received Votes:- Sam Gallagher (1%), Paulo Gazzaniga (1%), Saphir Taider (1%), Ryan Seager (4%), Sadio Mane (6%).
3rd Place:- Matthew Targett (18%)
2nd Place:- James Ward-Prowse (21%)
And the winner is……with 47% of the votes a player who truly made the jump from backup to regular first team squad member…..Harrison Reed!
Received Votes:- Kelvin Davis (1%), Sammy Saint (1%), Morgan Schneiderlin (1%), Erwin Koeman (1%), Paulo Gazzaniga (1%), Jack Cork (1%), Sapher Taider (1%), Sadio Mane (2%), Jose Fonte (2%), Les Reed (2%), Graziano Pelle (3%), Frazer Forster (7%), Steven Davis (10%), Shane Long (12%).
3rd Place:- Maya Yoshida (13%)
2nd Place:- Victor Wanyama (20%)
And the winner is….with 21% of the votes, breaking back into the England squad after an impressive debut season on the South Coast….Ryan Bertrand!
Joint 3rd Place:- Frazer Forster & Graziano Pelle (12%)
2nd Place:- Ryan Bertrand (24%)
And the winner is….with 41% of the votes the World Record breaking Senegalese…..Sadio Mane!
Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)
Received Votes:- Fonte at Old Trafford (1%), Team v Newcastle at St. Mary’s (1%), Taider v Bayer Leverkusen (1%), Long v Leicester at St. Mary’s (1%), Team v Everton at St. Mary’s (1%), Team at Stamford Bridge (2%), Long v Villa at St. Mary’s (3%), Forster at the Emirates (4%), Team v Arsenal at St. Mary’s (5%), Tadic v Sunderland at St. Mary’s (7%), Mane v Villa at St. Mary’s (13%).
3rd Place:- Team v Villa at St. Mary’s (14%)
2nd Place:- Team at Old Trafford (22%)
And the winner is…..with 24% of the vote I’m not sure it could really have been anything else but…..Team v Sunderland at St. Mary’s!
The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment
It says everything about the gallows humour of being a Saints fan that this award always comes with most varied answers. Brace yourselves…
Received Votes:- Villa’s Defence, ‘Fucking Weather’, Long’s ‘dummy’ cross, Pompey’s season, Mane falling over, Any of Alex Crook’s articles, Lovren & Lallana’s agent’s work, Steward’s ‘Rock Bottom’ on a Liverpool fan, Goal conceded at Newcastle, Tadic assist past Lovren, Pelle’s anger when others score, Saphir Taider, Long pole axing Leicester player during goal celebration, Fonte constantly getting away with stonewall penalties, Swansea at home, Kevin Friend, Gus Poyet, Wanyama’s goal at Hull, Mane’s 3 minute hat trick ignored by the press, Dr. Barry Gale, Relegation predictions of the collective media, #GoodLuckTim, MELTDOWN, Sunderland fans celebrating a corner, Wanyama’s skill against Arsenal, Dejan Lovren’s fall from grace.
3rd Place:- ‘Chips without mayonnaise is not chips’ (12%)
2nd Place:- Smug Ronald after the Sunderland game (14%)
And the winner is…..with 31% of the vote, the more you watch it, the more hapless it gets….Santiago Vergini’s own goal!
Best Opposition Team
Received Votes:- Manchester United, Sunderland, Leicester City, Swansea City.
3rd Place:- Arsenal (4%)
2nd Place:- Chelsea (35%)
And the winner is…..with 54% of the vote, they may not have won the title but they were comprehensive in their victory at St. Mary’s…..Manchester City!
Best Opposition Player
Received Votes:- Oscar (Chelsea), Ashley Williams (Swansea), Guly, Christian Eriksen (Spurs), Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Nabil Bentaleb (Spurs), David Silva (Man City), Ron Vlaar (Villa), Frank Lampard (Man City), Yaya Toure (Man City), Coutinho (Liverpool).
3rd Place:- Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) (8%)
2nd Place:- Sergio Aguero (Man City) (13%)
And the winner is…with 59% of the vote without doubt the standout player in the Premier League over the last 12 months….Eden Hazard!
Best Opposition Fans
Received Votes:- West Brom, Newcastle, Sheffield United, Spurs, West Ham, Swansea, Liverpool, Man City, Ipswich, Burnley, Sunderland, Villa.
3rd Place:- Leicester City (11%)
2nd Place:- Manchester United (15%)
And the winner is….with 35% of the vote and retaining their title from last season….Crystal Palace!
Best Saints related Tweeter
Just a bit of fun as always, and pleasing to see so many people vote for themselves again!
Received Votes:- DeppoInExile, KitmanForbsey, JoeBlakey9, mattsmirk, Saint_Alpine, Matt Le Tiss, YoshidaPics, jayrodfan2, Graziano Pelle, leesfcmyers, SamDobson1, nathizzle, uniquesaints, EthanESFC, Ugly Inside, Jim Lucas, L1Minus10, gwcdotcom, GGalpin95, Images of Ronald, Alex Crook, RupertAspden, Benstanners, TalkSaints, Official Club Account, Ronald Koeman.
3rd Place:- Simon Peach (8%)
And the joint winners are….with 17% of the vote each, retaining from last year……Connor Armstrong! and embarrasingly…..crstig!
So that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted. A big thank you to Kristian Oake for the Photoshop wizardry! It was another great season, and we are on the verge of another one! Keep the faith!