20 Days of the Premier League has officially entered the home stretch with today’s club, Southampton, who came in at 15th in the Premier League last season.
The Saints have finished outside of the top-10 for four consecutive years and are in danger of facing relegation now that they will be without their main catalyst and do not have as talented of a squad as they have in years past.`
A Shocking Rise and Fall
Southampton was the talk of the town for the first half of last season as they hung around the top-four and were, at one point, leading the entire league in points; a January 16th loss to Leicester City eventually sent them into the bottom half of the league, a blow they would never recover from, as they fizzled out and never broke back into the conversation for European qualification.
The Saints have built a reputation for spotting and cultivating young talent, with players like Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Luke Shaw, and Gareth Bale all being products of their system; however, they have hit a point where they do not have the necessary talent from their youth to make them a real threat in the league, hence their 15th-place finish in the last campaign.
Danny Ings, Che Adams, and James Ward-Prowse led the squad with a combined 29 goals and 16 assists out of a primary 4-4-2 formation that focused on absorbing pressure and picking specific moments to hurl bodies forward and attack. Unfortunately, this philosophy did not behoove the team to close out the season as much as it did to open it, and the Saints dropped 15 of their last 21 matches and quickly slid down the table.
No Ings, No— Problem?
Since arriving from Liverpool in 2018, Danny Ings has found the net 41 times in 81 starts and has been their most menacing threat in front of goal; the club sold him to Aston Villa this summer for $38.72 million, which leaves them light in proven goal-scorers at their disposal.
Che Adams will bear the primary responsibility of providing goals for the team, while newcomers Adam Armstrong and Armando Broja will have their opportunities in the squad. Armstrong arrived on a near-$20 million fee from Blackburn and Broja was acquired on a season-long loan from Chelsea after a successful loan spell at Vitesse last season.
Veteran left-back Ryan Bertrand also left in the offseason and will be replaced by 23-year-old Romain Perraud, who was signed for $13.2 million; the club’s final paid transfer was Valentino Livramento, who was the Player of the Year in Chelsea’s academy team last year and demanded a $6.49 fee.
Southampton is in an interesting stage in their Premier League life: they seem to be short of the big-name players that can keep them in the top flight of English football, but they also have an intelligent manager in Ralph Hasenhuttl that worked wonders at the start of last season and has new arrivals at his disposal.
This is not the same Southampton team of old that had soon-to-be world-class talent oozing from every corner, but players like Livramento and even Moussa Djenepo could soon fill these voids— what matters now is that the club survives and has the opportunity to build for the future.
It is unlikely that the Saints will break their pattern of finishing outside of the top-10 this season, but if there is one team in the Premier League that can cause surprises and upsets, it is this one. Southampton should avoid the drop this season and be even better next season.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.