After Southampton’s fantastic sixth place finish in last year’s Premier League and the rest of the country spending crazy amounts of money, incoming manager Claude Puel has got his work cut out if Europe is the ambition for the coming season.
Although I believe that due to being in the energy sapping Europa League, Southampton need to strengthen their squad in all areas, I will focus on the priorities that the Saints’ new French leader should be focusing on.
With a solid back four including the man mountain clean-sheet king Fraser Forster in goal, and the return of two European Champions in Jose Fonte and Cedric Soares, it is unlikely that Southampton will be focusing on reshaping that solid back line. However, I do feel that backup to Forster is needed, not just due to potential injury but also to push him to improve.
With his deputy being 24 year old Paulo Gazzaniga doing his best superman impressions from corners, I feel that a more experienced goalkeeper would benefit Forster’s performances, such as Begovic at Chelsea.
It is amazing that after seeing players leave the club quicker than Labour’s shadow cabinet, Southampton have, like Jeremy Corbyn, remained defiant and pushed on anyway. The signing of Bayern Munich midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg may just turn out to be the signing of the season, and in signing Nathan Redmond from Norwich the Saints seem to finally be looking towards the future.
But Southampton’s main problem is goals. Only 3 players reached double figures last season. Saido Mane was one, who has now left for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool renaissance. Another is Graziano Pelle, who has gone to line his pockets in China.
That leaves the talented but injury prone duo of Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin, as well as hard working Shane Long, who was the other Saints player to reach double figures. Having played and managed in France, Puel may look to the French Ligue 1 and a player like Alexandre Lacazette to add some much needed goal threat.
With the new Premier League money that has come in, as well as the money made from sales, I would expect the new boss to go for firepower in attacking areas or they could well fade away with teams like Everton, Crystal Palace and West Ham all looking to spend big.