Banking on a sixth-placed finish in the league, Southampton earned a qualification in Europa League competition for the 2016-17 season under Ronald Koeman. The Saints, termed as a ‘selling club’, eventually failed to keep hold of another successful manager as the Dutchman opted to move to Merseyside as new Everton gaffer.
They replaced him with Frenchman Claude Puel who had a scintillating spell with Ligue 1 outfit Nice. Despite failing to retain their star performers like Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama, Graziano Pellè and Jose Fonte , the Saints once again brought in proper replacements in form of Nathan Redmond, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Sofiane Boufal and Manolo Gabbiadini who, along with the other stars, settled in well and managed to clinch a eighth-placed finish in the league as well as qualify for the final of League Cup ( were beaten by Manchester United though) competition.
Although Puel had an impressive debut campaign, Southampton’s unrealistic expectations cost him his job at the end of the 2016-17 season and the management is now keen to bring in ex-Liverpool defender and current Alaves boss Mauricio Pellegrino to replace the Frenchman.
Players Who Impressed This Season
Virgil Van Dijk has to be the name who was miles ahead of his teammates in terms of performance despite missing out last few months of football due to a significant ankle injury.
The transfer chase for the Dutchman ended in massive controversy when Liverpool were accused by the Saints for tapping up their player and the Reds made an official public apology and ended their interest a couple of days later. Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand, the Chelsea rejects, enjoyed another impressive campaign in their respective defensive midfield and left-back role.
Youngster Jack Stephens and veteran Maya Yoshida deputised splendidly in place of injured Van Dijk and Jose Fonte as the latter opted to depart and join West Ham United. Nathan Redmond, who joined the Saints from relegated Norwich City, proved to be their highest scorer in the league with 7 goals and replaced Liverpool bound Sadio Mane quite efficiently.
Manolo Gabbiadini, the January signing from Napoli, started the campaign brightly with goals and assists.
Players Who Disappointed The Most
Shane Long was believed to step up in absence of injured Charlie Austin. But the Republic Of Ireland forward struggled in front of goal and managed to score only 5 times in 46 appearances in all competition.
Dutchman Jordy Clasie strove for consistency yet again in the middle of the park like the previous term.
Despite losing out their key performers once more, the Saints managed to keep hold of their ‘top ten’ status and reached through to the final of League Cup competition.
Although they suffered a shocking group stage exit in away goal rules against Israeli outfit Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Europa League, their performance and the newly brought in players earned loads of applauds throughout the season.
Areas Of Improvement
Van Dijk, one of Premier League’s biggest stars, will demand a move for Champions League football and it will be interesting to follow how Southampton handle the situation.
Also, they need to bring in a proper replacement of Puel who did a decent job in spite of having limitations.
The new boss needs a proper no 10 in his lineup who will link up with fellow attackers and score goals.
Expectations From 2017-18 Season
Mauricio Pellegrino, the reported Saints target for the managerial job, holds a praiseworthy profile in Spain due to his incredible achievements with newly-promoted Alaves.
The La Liga outfit secured a ninth-placed league finish and also progressed through to the final of Copa Del Rey. The Argentine, however, will set his sights to achieve a European place and register a cup glory that they missed out so narrowly the last term.