Far from the relegation-threatened campaign many envisaged amid Southampton’s infamous summer exodus, seeing five first team players join clubs that finished higher than them in the Premier League table last season, not to mention manager Mauricio Pochettino, some astute acquisitions and the oversight of Ronald Koeman has propelled the South Coast outfit to fifth this term.
In fact, they’ve already spend ten matchdays in the top four and were only recently thrust out of it by three consecutive defeats to Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.
The Saints will be disappointed with their recent form against the Premier League’s big-boys but Champions League qualification is by no means out of the question. It could take a few smart signings in January to make the difference however, so just in case Koeman is short on a few ideas, here’s FIVE such acquisitions.
A transfer target once implausible for Southampton but now a distinct possibility, if the St Mary’s outfit are prepared to splash the cash in January they stand a decent chance of landing former Newcastle star Yohan Cabaye.
The France international’s services are certainly there for the taking in the coming transfer window; he’s growing continually disillusioned at PSG, with manager Laurent Blanc preferring the likes of Javier Pastore, Blaise Matuidi, Thiago Motta, Marco Veratti and youngster Adrien Rabiot.
Resultantly, he’s been linked with some top Premier League clubs:
— Gary Horkan (@GaryHorkan) November 27, 2014
But that shouldn’t put off the in-form Saints; that £19million valuation is well within their financial grasp after generating a £35million profit during the summer.
There’s no doubting Cabaye’s Premier League credentials either, having amassed 18 goals and 15 assists in 93 appearances during two-and-a-half seasons on Tyneside. The 28 year-old is better famed for his quality at set pieces, as shown in the video below:
But he’s industrious and creative in open play too, with a varied passing range and good anticipation. Here’s Cabaye’s vitals from the last few seasons:
That blend of craft and vision – not to mention long-range shooting – could make him the ideal man to sit just in front of Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin in central midfield.
But perhaps most importantly of all, Cabaye represents the calibre of signing that would symbolise Southampton’s arrival at the more coveted end of the transfer market. Landing the £19million-rated Frenchman could open up new avenues for the Saints in subsequent transfer windows.
Another central midfield option comes in the form of Vitesse hotshot Mark Vejinovic.
Eredivisie stars have a knack of struggling in the Premier League – see Alfonzo Alves and Mateja Kezman for historic examples – but Ronald Koeman has already successfully transitioned two to the English top flight in summer signings Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic.
And since Koeman left Holland for the south coast, it’s former Netherlands U21 Vejinovic that’s emerged as one of the Eredivisie’s flagship entities. As you can see, Whoscored.com rate him as the top performer in the entire division:
This assist against Dordrecht particularly stood out:
Eight goals and four assists from central midfield is talismanic contribution, but that hardly tells the whole story of the 24 year-old’s impressive form. Here’s his vitals compared to the Eredivise’s other leading centre-mids:
Measuring in at 6 foot 1, dynamic in style and boasting a very complete all-round game, Vejinovic possess the natural requisites to make the step up to the Premier League.
How much Vitesse value their star midfielder in fiscal terms however remains to be seen, whilst their feeder club relationship with Premier League leaders Chelsea could throw up further issues.
Few would dispute the influence of top scorer Graziano Pelle this season but it’s been a far less productive campaign for occasional strike-partner Shane Long, with just two goals in 14 Premier League outings.
Another front-man certainly wouldn’t go amiss at St. Mary’s in January and although Burnley forward Danny Ings may not quite be the finished article, he represents a unique opportunity for the Saints to invest in one of England’s more promising home-grown talents at little cost.
Of course, the 22 year-old rose to prominence last season, with his 21 goals firing the Turf Moor outfit to the top flight whilst also earning him the Championship’s Player of the Year award. Here’s a clip of the England U21 in action with strike partner Sam Vokes:
He’s still adapting to Premier League level but has shown great promise in recording four goals and one assists in his last seven league outings.
More than simply a goalscorer however, Ings is an intelligent and versatile forward, regularly dropping into the no.10 role to link play and create opportunities for others.
Most appealingly from Southampton’s perspective, the 5 foot 11 striker is yet to extend his current contract at Burnley past the end of the current campaign – suggesting he doesn’t rate their Premier League survival chances too highly.
Manager Sean Dyche has already admitted a January departure is a distinct possibility and Southampton – who once released Ings as a school boy – have been mooted as potential suitors:
Southampton preparing January transfer raid on Burnley for striker Danny Ings: The Saints want to re-sign… http://t.co/FauTGm0pzv
— Football-News (@Bot_Football) November 30, 2014
But a number of top flight clubs, including Newcastle and Liverpool, have been linked too.
Matija Nastasic was once the young, promising centre-back partner to Vincent Kompany but he’s now Manchester City’s forgotten man.
Injuries have been a factor but it’s incredibly telling that the 21 year-old’s last start for the Premier League champions was during the summer’s 3-0 Community Shield defeat Arsenal. A few days later, Manuel Pellegrini splashed out £30million on Eliaquim Mangala.
Regardless however, the 16-cap Serbian international boasts enormous potential, with his impressive reading of the game and quality on the ball particularly standing out for a defender so young. Here’s a clip of Nastasic in action:
And a quick look at his stats over the last few years:
Toby Alderweireld and Jose Fonte have developed a fantastic partnership since the Belgium international’s arrival in the summer, but Southampton’s subsequent depth at centre-back is rather thin. Nastasic would be an astute solution.
A loan move for the remainder of the campaign is certainly conceivable, but recent reports claim the Etihad outfit would be prepared to offload the 6 foot 2 centre-half for just £5million in January:
— Spurs News (@Spurs2day) November 15, 2014
Another swoop that would demonstrate Southampton’s advancement in the transfer market, a number of top Premier League clubs are reportedly lining up moves for Dnipro’s Yevhen Konoplyanka in January:
— Addicted to Spurs (@AddictedtoSpurs) October 18, 2014
— thepatriotmedia.com (@iyosomi) November 11, 2014
The Ukrainian international, who boasts 32 goals and plenty of assists in 149 league outings for Dnipro, first burst onto the scene with this absolute stunner against England at Wembley back in 2012:
He’s since gone on to win two Ukrainian Premier League Footballer of the Year awards, leading many to rate the 25 year-old as one of the most Europe’s talented outside of its five leading top flights.
Saido Mane and Dusan Tadic have impressed this year, whilst forgotten man Jay Rodriguez is also expected to return to first team action after Christmas.
But Konoplyanka, in addition to being hugely talented, is an out-and-out touchline hugger, offering the Saints squad something a little different. Here’s another look at the 5 foot 9 wideman in action: