There is a very attractive piece of symmetry to the Southampton fixtures for the coming 2013-14 season. Thirty-six games are bookended by two stand-out fixtures. Saints will open the season against West Brom at the Hawthorns, and end it at St. Mary's against the current champions Manchester United. - Premier League fixtures list Both of these games represent opportunities to get two proverbial monkeys of their back. West Brom (in both home and away fixtures) last season represent two very disappointing results for Saints last season, outclassed on both occasions by the Baggies and Mauricio Pochettino will want to make a point against the Midlands club this time out.
I have joked on this blog before that these musings have an uncanny bearing on how Saints go about their business. Yesterday I brought you the latest in my 'Positional Sense' articles -- focusing this time on centre halves -- and came to the conclusion that it was an area that Saints needed to look at with some haste. Low and behold.... Messrs Cortese and Pochettino have this evening delivered us the signing of Croation international centre half Dejan Lovren! - Southampton sign Lovren from Lyon This is delightful news.
Tonight it's the turn of the centre halves to be scrutinised as I continue to look at where Saints should think about strengthening their squad this summer. Saints have long talked about improvement, potential and progression, but I think this area of the pitch could well be holding them back. One of my biggest fears when Saints were promoted was going into a maiden season in the Premier League with centre halves who lacked the experience of the top flight in any of Eurupe's big leagues. You can get away with inexperience in other areas, but at centre half it will come back to haunt you, and that is pretty much what happened.
The next in the series looking at positions Saints might want to strengthen focuses on the fullback area. This position is a strange one for Saints. Over the course of the season, young stars Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw proved themselves to be more than competent playing on either flank. In fact, they both will have turned the heads of 'bigger' clubs with their performances, but in backup to them Saints look considerably weak. Right Back Clyne made the right back position his own, and with potential understudies Frazer Richardson and Danny Butterfield both released at the end of the season, there is a serious question over the position should Clyne suffer an injury.
So with the transfer window well and truly open, the released list public (all the best to Frazer Richardson, Danny Butterfield, Dan Seaborne, Ryan Dickson, Ben Reeves, Sam Hoskins, Tommy Forecast and Alberto Seidi for the future) and deals about to be done, I thought I would spend some time looking at each area of the pitch and see where Saints should be looking to strengthen. First up is goalkeepers, and this can be considered a complete turnaround from this time last season. Saints opened the season with regular Kelvin Davis in goal, but he came in for heavy criticism as they struggled to find their feet in the Premier League.
Well, the season is two weeks over and just as we thought we could take a breath and enjoy (loosest sense of the word) England v Ireland, it all starts again. Yes, not only have I already completed my first 2013-14 season preview questionnaire, but the whole shape of Southampton Football Club is changing before our eyes. Well, at least according to those fantastic public servants, the 'In the know' crowd. That's right, so far in the two weeks since the season ended, the club has been put up for sale, changed its strip manufacturer (that one is true), got a new shirt sponsor, let the manager go to Benfica, loaned Jay Rodriguez back to Burnley, tried to sign Carlton Cole, tried to sign the out-for-10-months Glen Murray, tried to sign everyone who's nationality is Spanish, sold Rickie Lambert to West Ham, Morgan Schneiderlin to Arsenal, Luke Shaw to Chelsea, changed the design of our badge, that Oh my God everyone is going to so hate, changed the club colours to black and gold, banished our beloved stripes for eternity and destroyed the very rules by which we live our lives!
Student: Southampton Football Club School:Barclays Premier League Year: 2012-13 ART Saints were praised for their style all season, especially so in the latter terms. With a keen eye for the aesthetic, the home support has been treated to some exhilarating performances, with some great combinations from the front four. A. ENGLISH Saints struggled with their English skills after the change of form tutor in January, but improved week on week. The new tutor, Mr. Mauricio Pochettino, gave a speech in English at the leaver's assembly that deserves praise for a commendable effort.
Southampton ended their first season back in the Premier League with a 1-1 draw against Stoke City. The way the game played out was a pretty fitting end to a campaign that started terribly, got much better, raised expectations and then fizzled out quietly. It would be easy to say that there was an 'end of season' feel to the game, but I actually don't think that was the case. Saints played the nicer football, but Stoke (and I often think their football is better than people suggest, certainly better than West Ham's or Newcastle's) often looked the more threatening, neither team really dominating, and both sides creating chances and forcing saves from the goalkeepers.
Saints will play out their Premier League season in an odd situation. Depending how events unfold on Sunday, they could finish as high as 10th or as low as 17th. The opponents are Stoke City, and their chairman Peter Coates is under no illusion that this is a 'nothing' end of season game. Effectively the difference between victory or defeat stands at around GBP;5 million for both clubs, who are in almost identical boats. Hopefully (he says with an air of feint optimism) this will be filtered down to the players of both clubs and we will be in for a cracking last day.
Safety. That was always the name of the game, but as Saints grabbed that last point to survive in a 1-1 draw with Sunderland, there was a distinct air of disappointment. - Match report: Sunderland 1-1 Southampton Far too often Saints fans have walked out of stadiums wondering just how they haven't witnessed a victory, and today was no different. To say that Saints were the better side at the Stadium of Light today would be a massive understatement. They were head and shoulders above Sunderland in every department, yet the points were shared, and Saints were losing with 14 minutes to play.
Saints make the long trip to the Stadium of Light on Sunday hoping that a positive result will see them safe from the threat of relegation. Unfortunately, their hosts are in the same boat, and so it is likely to be one heck of a scrap! It is hard to gauge what to expect from the current Sunderland side, as they have not long been taken over by the unpredictable Paolo Di Canio. Many scoffed at their decision to dispense of Martin O'Neill at such a late stage in the season. Not me. I think the chairman probably saved their season, replacing one of the most overrated managers in Premier League history -- a merchant of terrible football -- with an up and coming talent who will provide entertainment both on and off the pitch.
....I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it alright. So here we are. A few weeks ago this situation seemed impossible, but with two games to play Saints sit just four points above 18th place and relegation back to the Championship. Their form since Christmas would suggest this impossible, but sadly Saints are paying for their terrible start to the season. It is easy to forget that Southampton had just four points after the opening ten fixtures, having lost the opening four games on the bounce (they would be the first team in Premier League history to survive such a start).