2016-17 Southampton Season Preview

Southampton have displayed an impressive ability over the past few seasons to rebound after losing key players. The 2013-14 season serves as a benchmark for success, ultimately causing the club to struggle in keeping both managers and players during transfer periods.

After a strong eighth-place finish that year, the Saints saw a laundry list depart for other squads in the Premier League, including Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne.

Despite those losses to the line-up and a difficult season expected, former manager Ronald Koeman led the team to a surprisingly successful showing this past year.

Their ability to bounce back and rebuild will again be tested in 2016-17, along with trying to keep Liverpool transfers at bay.

STRENGTHS

Despite losses in the transfer market, new manager Claude Puel and the Saints have several positives to build a strong season from. Southampton’s sixth-place finish in the table last season also brings Europa League action to St. Mary’s Stadium.

English national team goalkeeper Fraser Foster will be expected to have another strong campaign. After an initial injury early in 2015, Forster had an impressive six consecutive clean sheets from January to February in helping the team climb up the table.

Steven Davis often goes under the radar for the Saints, but his hard work and tenacity in midfield will be vital for any success the side has, and new signing Nathan Redmond will be a useful attacking outlet out wide.

WEAKNESSES

The main concern for Southampton and their supporters in 2016-17 is where goals will come from on a consistent basis.

With Graziano Pelle breaking the bank in China and Sadio Mane moving on to transfer nemesis Liverpool, the club must find a way to replace the duo’s 22 combined league goals from last season.

This will certainly be no easy feat, and it may be difficult to count on forwards Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin to replicate that form and provide those types of scoring numbers.

Rumours about a move for Italian national team striker Simone Zaza seem to have disappeared, as departed manager Ronald Koeman and fellow countryman Pelle were heavily involved in making a deal happen.

Sadio Mane’s pace and ability to create scoring chances will be sorely missed, as evidenced by his brilliant hat trick explosion against Manchester City in May.

KEY MATCHES

An August trip to Old Trafford (19th August) and Manchester United brings a strong test for the squad. The Europa League group stage in September will certainly be a priority as well.

Fixtures against clubs like Liverpool (19th November home, 6th May away) and West Ham United (25th September away, 4th February home) will have a major impact on Champions League qualification chances.

PREDICTION

Southampton have excelled at this Houdini-like performance before.

We have seen talented players and managers leave the Saints and they are expected to fail. However, they have been able to find a way to stay competitive and discover new players that contribute.

The Europa League will get much focus, as will making a deep run at either the Capital One Cup or the FA Cup.

But we will finally see too many outbound transfers catch up with Southampton this season.

Without consistent goal scoring, expect to see a mid-table finish and a possible relegation battle at St. Mary’s in 2016-17.


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