Filed under: Season Review - Posted by: Paul
Having run the rule over Reading yesterday, Southampton are next up in our analysis of next season’s trio of new arrivals. Runners-up to the Royals in last term’s npower Championship by a single point, Nigel Adkins’ side are welcomed back to the Premier League after a seven-season absence, having mirrored the recent achievements of Norwich City by recording back-to-back promotions:
Their turnaround in fortunes is all the more remarkable for a club that went into administration in 2009 before being taken over by Italian banker Nicola Cortese and Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr. With Adkins installed in the hot seat in September 2010, their ascent has been eye-catching and, despite losing the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Arsenal in the summer transfer window, the Saints were front runners from the opening day of the 2011/12 campaign and were never out of the top two positions all season.
CS = Cleansheets
Southampton finished last season as the Championship’s top scorers, notching 85 goals on their way to a second place finish. At home, they racked up the goals with regularity, scoring two or more on 16 occasions and failing to find the net only twice at St Mary’s. At the back, they were solid in front of their own fans – Adkins’ men chalked up 11 clean sheets and conceded more than one goal on just five occasions.
On the road, their attacking brand of football saw them a little more susceptible at the back. Southampton shipped 28 goals away from home compared to 18 at St Mary’s – while they picked up eight clean sheets, their opponents found the net more than once in nine of their 23 games. From an attacking point of view, they drew a blank five times but grabbed two or more goals nine times.
A former professional goalkeeper with Tranmere, Wigan and Bangor, Adkins was given his first managerial job with the latter and led them to a couple of title wins in the League of Wales. From there he moved to Scunthorpe, initially as a physiotherapist, before being installed as manager in 2006. Having established the club in the Championship over his four years in charge, Adkins then dropped down a division by accepting the role of Southampton boss in 2010.
Adkins’s preferred style of play is an attack-minded 4-4-2 system that places an emphasis on his side’s expansive passing game. The results have seen the Saints rack up the goals, finding the net 85 and 86 times respectively over the two seasons he has been in charge at St Mary’s, with their home form, in particular, crucial to their success. The man in charge is keen to remain true to his ethos, admitting after his side clinched promotion:
This is a Premier League club..and we’ve got to give ourselves an opportunity to do well in that division. That will include playing passing football, like we’ve done over the past two seasons. The ball’s king, whoever has possession is king, and if we can do that and score goals, we have an opportunity [to stay up]
The Promoted Squad
Listed below are the main men from Southampton’s successful promotion campaign, with only those players who made 10 or more starts coming into consideration in our analysis.
Kelvin Davis (45 starts) Nailed-on between the posts, he has missed a single game over the last two seasons under Adkins. Chalked up 18 clean sheets last term but is unlikely to receive much Fantasy interest, with better attacking alternatives in the Saints back-four ahead of him.
Jose Fonte (42 starts. 1 goal, 3 assists) Signed from Crystal Palace in the January 2010 transfer window, he has proven to be a crucial component of the Saints’ backline. A no-nonsense centre-half who is also comfortable on the ball, Fonte has become a firm fans’ favourite with his displays at the back.
Daniel Fox (37 starts, 4 sub apps. 9 assists) A potent source of creativity, the left-back also shares corner-kick duties with Adam Lallana and is resultantly one to watch out for. Rarely threatens from a goalscoring perspective but his resilience at the back could see him prosper in the EA Sports Player Performance Index.
Dan Harding (12 starts, 8 sub apps. 1 goal) Lost his starting slot at left-back to Fox last term after being nailed-on in the previous couple of campaigns. His versatility means he can also fill in on the left of midfield but, in all likelihood, his game time could well be dependant on injuries to others, with the role of squad player a more than distinct possibility.
Frazer Richardson (33 starts, 1 sub app. 10 assists) Signed from Charlton in 2010, the right-back established himself as a regular in Adkins’ starting XI last season and his delivery from the flank helped him rack up 10 assists. Lost his place towards the end of the campaign, though, as Danny Butterfield was given the nod for the final five league games instead.
Jos Hooiveld (39 starts. 6 goals) Arrived at St Mary’s on a loan deal last summer from Glasgow Celtic but was snapped up on a permanent deal in January after a series of impressive performances. Similarly resilient to Fonte in the heart of defence, he offers the greater goal threat of the pair, however, having found the net six times last term.
Richard Chaplow (17 starts, 8 sub apps. 3 goals, 1 assist) Started the previous campaign strongly before losing his place in the first XI due to a knee injury sustained around Christmas. A versatile squad player, he can play in central midfield or wide right.
Dean Hammond (31 starts, 12 sub apps. 1 goal, 1 assist) Joined up in the 2009-10 season but has seen his game time gradually decrease. With other central midfield alternatives offering far superior attacking threat, he holds little interest for Fantasy managers in the upcoming campaign.
Jack Cork (39 starts, 7 sub apps. 3 assists) Signed a four-year deal at the beginning of last season to reunite with Adkins, having previously played under him at Scunthorpe. The former Chelsea man played every game last term but his contribution from central midfield was minimal from a Fantasy perspective and is unlikely to see much investment.
Morgan Schneiderlin (29 starts, 13 sub apps. 2 goals, 3 assists) With plenty competition for places in the Saints’ central midfield, his first-team role is by no means assured. A more defensive-minded player, he’s likely to hold little appeal to Fantasy managers looking for a cut-price bargain from the three promoted sides.
Adam Lallana (41 starts. 11 goals, 10 assists) A product of the club’s highly-rated youth academy, the left winger’s creativity and eye for goal is crucial to his side’s attacking forays. With free-kicks and a share of corners in his locker, he hit double figures for goals and assists last term and, along with Rickie Lambert, was one of two Saints players to make the npower Championship team of the season.
Guly Do Prado (36 starts, 6 sub apps. 10 goals, 7 assists) Snapped up from Italian club Cesena in January 2011 after an initial loan deal proved highly successful. The Brazilian adds a touch of class to the Saints’ midfield and is equally adept in the centre or out wide – with 10 goals and seven assists, he could well fly under the Fantasy radar as managers look for the more obvious options like Lallana.
Rickie Lambert (42 starts. 27 goals, 14 assists) Has yet to play in the top-flight but, as Norwich’s Grant Holt demonstrated last time round, there is strong value to be found in the promoted forwards. Lambert’s incredible attacking returns and spot-kick duties are likely to see plenty Fantasy managers eye up the Saints forward as a cut-price proposition – he played a part in 41 (or 48%) of his side’s 85 goals, a clear indication of his importance to the cause.
Billy Sharp (11 starts, 4 sup apps. 9 goals, 2 assists) Snapped up in the January transfer window from Doncaster in a move that saw him reunite with Adkins, following their time together at Scunthorpe. Made an instant impact upon his arrival and grabbed several vital goals to help clinch promotion.
While the club is renowned for a youth academy that has produced the likes of Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott in recent years, Adkins won’t be averse to splashing the cash in order to boost the Saints chance of survival. The dust had barely settled on their promotion after a 4-0 win over Coventry when the Southampton manager was keen to emphasise the need for new recruits, going on to say:
Next season we will need a certain calibre of player. We are working diligently to find players who will improve us and who are better than the ones we have. It is natural evolution and we will work hard in the summer to improve the squad.
Already, Jay Rodriguez has arrived at St Mary’s from Burnley in a club record £7m deal. Adkins is a long-term admirer of the player and had previous bids rebuffed last summer and in January – given the considerable outlay, he could well oust Sharp as Lambert’s partner up front.
With no other targets confirmed by the club, the rumour mill is in overdrive. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne has been mentioned – Chelsea look set to allow the young Belgian a season out on loan and are apparently keen for him to pick up Premier League experience.
Former Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon has also been linked with a move after his departing the Stadium of Light as a free agent, while the Saints are allegedly lining up a bid for Watford centre-half Adrian Mariappa to shore up their backline after allowing Aaron Martin to join Crystal Palace in a season-long loan.
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“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas