Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Southampton

saints

Image: eurosport.co.uk

Southampton drastically underperformed last season, but still managed an eighth place finish and reached the League Cup final. However, despite this seemingly good performance on paper, the Saints finished six points above seventeenth place Watford, and were 17 points worse off than the season before. Only the bottom five teams scored less goals than the Saints (41), and their top scorer was Nathan Redmond with just seven goals. Claude Puel’s sacking was largely accredited to Southampton’s poor home form, as only Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Sunderland had worse home records. New boss Mauricio Pellegrino guided newly-promoted Alaves to ninth in La Liga and the Copa del Rey final last season. The Saints have so far kept hold of star players, with Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand linked with moves away from the club. If they want to close the gap on Everton, it is vital that Saints retain their stars, as well as adding quality to the squad. Jan Bednarek, a Polish Under-21 international centre-back has joined the club, and the Saints have also broken their transfer record for midfielder Mario Lemina from Juventus for around £18m. Lemina will slot in alongside last season’s top performer Oriel Romeu at the base of the midfield, allowing Steven Davis to occupy a more natural number ten role. Dusan Tadic underperformed last season, scoring 3 goals and providing 7 assists, whilst record-signing Sofiane Boufal struggled to make an impact. Both will have to step up their game or face being replaced if Saints are going to push for a Europa League place again. However, creating chances was not Southampton’s main problem last season, as they finished seventh for chances created last season, but finished in the bottom five for shot conversion rates (7.45 chances per goal). The Saints have a favourable set of fixtures, facing only Manchester United out of last season’s top seven before November. This should allow new boss Pellegrino to ease himself in to the job and get some points on the board early on, winning over the fans in a way that Claude Puel never managed to.

Key Player: Manolo Gabbiadini. The Italian took the Premier League by storm after his surprise arrival in January, scoring six goals in his first four games, including two in the League Cup final. If the Saints are looking to improve on last season, Gabbiadini will be vital in offering a more clinical option up front than Shane Long or the recently sold Jay Rodriguez. Pellegrino has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation in pre-season and Gabbiadini could feature either as the lone striker or as a part of the three in attacking midfield, which would be more akin to his position at Napoli.

One to Watch: Alfie Jones. The centre back has been a mainstay of the Under 23s side, captaining the side despite being only 19. After the emergence of Jack Stephens in the first team last season, Jones will be looking to emulate that with the future of Virgil van Dijk still uncertain. At 19, it is unlikely that the club’s Young Player of the Year for 2016 will feature much this season, but expect to see him around the first team squad, especially in the cup competitions.

Last Season: 8th

Predicted Finish: 8th

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Southgate Names Experimental Squad

Gareth Southgate today named his first squad as the permanent England boss. With the injuries of Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney and Danny Rose, Southgate has been forced in to naming an experimental squad for the friendly in Germany on 22 March and the World Cup qualifier at home to Lithuania on 26 March.

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Image: The Guardian

The main headline has to be the recall of in-form Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe, who is in line to earn his first cap since November 2013. The 34 year old has 14 goals in his 27 Premier League appearances so far this term, with Harry Kane being the only Englishman to find the net more often (19).

Elsewhere, there are call ups for a number of players who featured for Southgate in the Under 21s. Southampton duo James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond earn their first call ups to the full side, whilst Michael Keane and Marcus Rashford also make the cut.

Michail Antonio’s impressive season with West Ham has seen the uncapped 26 year old selected over Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, who misses out. Jake Livermore will have the chance to add to his sole cap, picked up in 2012. Luke Shaw takes the place of the injured Danny Rose, despite playing just 2 games since November.

Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck and West Ham’s Andy Carroll had been tipped for a return to the squad after Harry Kane’s injury, but Southgate has deemed them both to have not played enough regular football. Jack Wilshere also doesn’t feature as he looks to concentrate on building up his match fitness.

England Squad:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Torino, on loan from Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley).

Defenders: Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Kyle Walker (Tottenham), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Phil Jones (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Michael Keane (Burnley).

Midfielders: Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jake Livermore (West Brom), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Michail Antonio (West Ham), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Nathan Redmond (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).

Strikers: Jermain Defoe (Sunderland), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jamie Vardy (Leicester).

Premier League 2015/16 Preview – Norwich

ncfcNorwich will be looking to continue the good run of Play Off winners staying in the Premier League, with only one out of the last four winners going straight back down. Despite being the third highest scorers in the Championship, goals may be hard to come by for the Canaries. None of their strikers are proven in the Premier League, although Cameron Jerome did hit 20 goals last season. Gary Hooper top scored during Norwich’s last season in the Premier League with 8 goals, but Ricky van Wolfswinkel will be hoping to better his tally of one. The Canaries’s strength is their midfield, with Tettey, Howson, alongside new signings Youssouf Mulumbu and Robbie Bradie in the centre of the park, and Bradley Johnson, Elliott Bennett, Nathan Redmond and Wes Hoolahan providing support from the wings. Central defence may also be a problem for Norwich, as the current players may not be able to step up to the Premier League.

Key Player: Bradley Johnson

One to Watch: Josh Murphy

Prediction: 17th