Last season, Southampton were the epitome of a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ team.
They enjoyed a solid start to the campaign, finding themselves in the top four as recently as mid-December. They even led the league at times in November.
In contrast, the second half of the season was a nightmare. In fact, they accumulated the fewest points in the Premier League in 2021, picking up just 17 from 22 outings. Manager Ralph Hassenhuttl will be hoping to improve this going into the new campaign.
Southampton have a set of attacking players who are capable of causing damage to any defence.
There’s a reason why they were able to stick three past Chelsea, two past Manchester City, two past Manchester United, two past Tottenham Hotspur etc.
James Ward-Prowse’s set pieces are a constant threat, having scored four direct free-kicks last season. Che Adams is also capable of finding the net, while Stuart Armstrong is a reliable attacking midfielder.
On the wings, the likes of Moussa Djenepo, Theo Walcott, and Nathan Redmond may be inconsistent but are a serious danger when they’re on their game.
Of course, the loss of Danny Ings will be a huge blow, having recently made the transfer to Aston Villa. He was the goalscorer for the Saints, and they will need someone to step up and fill the void.
The biggest problem for Hassenhuttl last season was the defence. His side conceded 68 goals in the Premier League – only relegated West Bromwich Albion let in more. In addition, they conceded three or more on 11 separate occasions.
So far, they have made little attempt to strengthen the backline. Left-back Romain Perraud has been brought in from Brest, replacing the outgoing Ryan Bertrand, but that’s the only addition in defence.
Star man – James Ward-Prowse
With Ings gone, Ward-Prowse is without a doubt the star at Southampton.
The midfielder has attracted some attention in the transfer window, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s energetic, very tidy on the ball, can pick a pass, got a good right foot, and is one of the best set-piece takers in the world.
The 26-year-old narrowly missed out on England’s Euro 2020 squad last summer. With the World Cup under 18 months away, he will be fully motivated to perform to be on the plane to Qatar.
Obviously, the big story at the Saints is the sale of Ings. The England international has been their talisman since arriving from Liverpool and will be a huge loss.
Adam Armstrong looks likely to be his replacement, with the club agreeing a fee with Blackburn Rovers.
His 28 goals in the Championship make him a promising buy, but it remains to be seen whether he can handle the step up.
They have also brought in Perraud, Chelsea youngsters Valentino Livramento and Armando Broja, and Theo Walcott on a free transfer.
Meanwhile, Bertrand has departed after seven years at the club, and Mario Lemina and Angus Gunn were sold.
The form going into the new season is obviously rather worrying. And, with the departure of Ings, there is real concern over Southampton.
While they have got some attacking talent, there are a lot of uncertainties. Armstrong might be good enough, Adams might step up. Ings guaranteed goals – no one else in their squad does.
And at the back, the same problems remain. The club haven’t made enough effort to rectify their defensive woes, so there is no reason to expect an improvement in this department.
Unfortunately, Hassenhuttl could be in for a difficult campaign.
Prediction: Relegation battle.