Since promotion to the Premier League, Southampton have had a rollercoaster journey. From meeting with Italian giants (Inter Milan) in Europe to scraping the barrel for goals and points in the recent 17/18 season, they’re anything but dull to support. The board/management have sold a lot of our top assets in recent years, earning over £300m in sales alone (since gaining promotion). The spending, however, has been relatively poor. Gabbiadini got off to a flying start but has since dipped. Boufal turned out to be an arsehole and Carrillo wasn’t really given a chance to blossom. Wasted finances through panic buys that have not materialised or been at all beneficial to our position.
I’ve put last season to the back of my mind, as it was a poor one for Saints’ fans. We drew too many games that we should have won because we’d underestimate our opponents. Yet we’d find another gear against teams that could handle it, and could then pick us apart, such as Spurs and Man City. Hughes brought some positional structure and defensive organisation and gave the team hope of survival – though I was bricking it. He’s since made four signings of note and I spoke with @ChrisIngram96 about the signings, and here are his thoughts,
“Elyounoussi – The most exciting signing made by Southampton this summer in my opinion, is the attacking midfielder from Norway. Able to play wide, or through the middle, he will be tasked with being the creative force for Saints this season, something we’ve been in desperate need of in recent seasons. A good signing by Hughes and the scouting team.
Armstrong – Comes in to help provide goals from midfield and had a good record at Celtic. Missed out a bit last season due to an injury but has had a full pre-season so far and is linking up well with the Saints forwards. Keep an eye on him as Saints step up pre-season work. At £5.5m, a good option as a cheaper midfielder, which would help in buying premium players.
Gunn – Will compete with Alex McCarthy to be number 1 this season, providing excellent competition and good cover in case of injury. But if McCarthy continues his good form from the end of last season, expect Gunn to stay on the bench. If you’re considering a Southampton goalkeeper, go with McCarthy. Expecting Forster to be out on loan when the window shuts. £4.5m.
Vestergaard – The Danish international will be a threat from set pieces, standing at 6″6′, and will help improve Southampton’s defence this season. A high-quality CB is exactly what we needed, and I feel Vestergaard will adjust to the Premier League well. Fairly priced at £5.0m.”
I will be considering Vestergaard for my FPL side as we’ll be tighter under Hughes and he is a goal threat from corners and free kicks. Elyounoussi on the other hand, is a wait and see player from me. We have seen over previous seasons that players from abroad often struggle to adapt to life in the Premier League. At £6.5m, he is in a difficult price bracket, we’d expect somewhat frequent returns from a £6.5m midfielder, that we can risk on an untested player in a team that has just come from a poor season. There are other options that will make my XV ahead of him. However, should he start to show the quality he has shown for FC Basel in the previous two seasons, I’ll be bringing him in as he’ll be a differential for sure. Armstrong will be rotated a lot and might not even start, so I’m waiting to see how he is used yet. I hate Celtic… I’m Rangers – but if he can bring the creative spark he demonstrated for the green and white, then he’s made the right choice in up-scaling. I’d like to see him join JWP in an offensive midfield role, with Lemina more defensive, as a three, in the middle of the park with Elyounoussi and Redmond given freedom on the flanks.
Chris spoke about Alex McCarthy there, as our number one, with good reason. McCarthy kept us in the Premier League towards the end of last season: there’s no doubt about that. He was a shot stopper of the highest quality, and without the horrid deflected goal in 90+6 v Everton to make it 1-1, we’d have been safe much earlier than we were. At only £4.5m, he’s in my team for sure. I’m excited at the prospect of next season, because except for relegation, it can only get better. I’ve titled this article ‘Foot of the Mountain’, last year the team saw some games as easy wins but forgot the hard work it takes to climb the mountain. Teams will not lay down at this level and I think Hughes will install that belief in the players. He’s brought two forward thinking, creative attackers and a giant at the back to replace Van Djik.
The GK, defenders, midfielders and forwards I’d have in my XV are: McCarthy (£4.5m), Cedric (£4.5m), Redmond (£5.5m) and Austin (£6.0m). Keep a very close eye on Vestergaard (£5.0m) and Elyounoussi (£6.5m) though, as Saints will be much more positive than last season. They’re at the Foot of the Mountain and the only way is up.