Saturday, 28 July 2018

Southampton Hoping For A Much Better Season

I don’t think too many fans Southampton will argue the saints had a good season. Southampton struggled for large parts of the campaign and a squad with their talent shouldn’t ever have been in a position where they just about escape relegation. However, credit to Mark Hughes who came in and completed the task at hand which was to secure their Premier League status following Mauricio Pellegrino’s disappointing spell in charge. Southampton will want to improve the football club in the new season and the Saints fans will expect them to be much improved as a team with the Saints struggling in all areas of the pitch during the previous campaign. However, with Mark Hughes now gearing for his first season in charge, they will a quiet optimism that Southampton can do much better this time around and challenge the top 10 at a minimum with outside chance of securing a top 7 finish. Southampton will be determined to put last seasons’ wrongs right for the new season with Mark Hughes aiming to build an exuberant, attacking team.

Southampton have been built on a solid defence since their return to Premier League with various managers such as Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman building their attacking styles from a strong structure and Pellegrino continued this trend last season. Southampton were relatively solid last season with the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Cedric and Wesley Hoedt making a strong defence providing difficulties for their opposition. However, Southampton severely struggled as an attacking force with goals severely drying up for large parts of the season. Chances were created but scoring goals has been a big problem for Southampton in numerous seasons because although they play an enterprising style of play, they struggle to score enough goals to justify their style of play therefore, they struggle to collect wins and points. Southampton scoring goals is a major issue that Mark Hughes must sort out because they have good strikers in Manolo Gabbiadini, Charlie Austin and Shane Long. However, none of the three strikers reached double figures last season but Austin can be that striker, but injuries have blighted his Saints career thus far. Mark Hughes needs a tune out of all his strikers for Southampton to have a true potent threat. Despite this issue, Southampton have enough creative forces in their side to trouble teams with players like James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond and the departed Dusan Tadic providing the creative spark in behind but their form hasn’t been consistent enough and I’m sure those players will admit their form wasn’t the best in the previous season. However, Southampton do have an excellent midfield two which anchor the defence and at times a partnership has looked good between Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina. However, consistency has been an issue in this position with most players not performing to the best of their ability and Mark Hughes really needs to find his best eleven and get the best out of the entire squad to get Southampton ticking.

Mark Hughes will be hoping to add to his Southampton squad during this transfer window and Hughes has flexed his muscles by signing Stuart Armstrong, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Jannik Vestegaard and Angus Gunn. Hughes wants creative forces in his midfield and certainly Armstrong and Elyounoussi will add that as well as different dynamics and tactic options for Hughes. Elyounoussi certainly replaces the departed Dusan Tadic and Hughes will be hoping he hits the ground running immediately because he has lots of pace and quality ball skills. In addition, Danish defender Vestegaard will add some much-needed solidity to Southampton’s defence and adds a goal threat from set pieces. Hughes will be confident his new record signing will be able to deal with the physicality and pace of the Premier League and will be confident Vestegaard and Hoedt form a strong partnership in the centre back roles. Young goalkeeper Angus Gunn adds competition for the number 1 jersey at St Mary’s following an impressive loan spell at Championship Norwich in the previous season. Hughes will be delighted with the business done so far however, I’m sure he will want to add to his strike force before the season begins against Burnley. Despite having belief in his strikers, Hughes will be desperate for a consistent goal scorer who can finish off chances Southampton create. Long, Austin and Gabbiadini do work extremely hard, but Hughes needs goals from them and it could be difficult for any to find consistency so again this could tempt Hughes into the market because certainly goals are Southampton’s biggest issue as a team.

There will be a strong determination around the whole football club to do much better this season and Hughes will be confident he has the players to do just that. A successful season will certainly be a top half finish for the Saints and anything above that is a bonus. However, Southampton should comfortably survive relegation and they have potential to go on a strong cup run and if they do that, it could be an exciting season on the south coast. The Saints will be hoping for improvement overall and a strong, exciting season for their loyal fanbase. Hughes wants a team the fans can be proud off, and he hopes he is doing just that while keeping Southampton’s exuberant style of play. The saints will be hoping to soar rather than flounder in the new season and if everything ticks nicely, it could be a special, exciting season on the south coast.

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