Southampton – 16/17 Premier League Season Preview

The Saints have lost their manager and two of their best players, but that’s a situation they seem to find themselves in more often than not. They’re used to it: insert cockroach and nuclear fallout analogy here.

But they do always seem to recover and they do always seem to create a team who can punch above their weight.

Their new manager, Claude Puel, may be an unknown quantity in England, but having taken Nice into the Europa League by playing arguably the most attractive football in Ligue 1 last season he’s a man who has proved he is very good at football management. Getting the best out of Hatem Ben Arfa, meanwhile, is one of the toughest jobs in football!

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if Southampton pull off their recovery once again and finish high up the league.

Last season

Southampton 1516 season

It was tougher for Saints last time, however, especially with an early exit from the Europa League and a season that only really got going around the turn of the year.

Ronald Koeman performed some sort of minor footballing miracle to keep them competitive and claw their way back up the table, but in a way that was quiet enough to stop bigger clubs from taking notice of their best players.

Still, now that Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and the boss himself have left the club, Saints are back in their familiar position of fashioning a Europa League side out of two twigs and a bit of string.

What does success look like?

Southampton v RCD Espanyol - Pre Season Friendly

Like so many in the Premier League this season, defining the criteria for success before the season is hard. The league is as egalitarian as ever before, right from the top to the bottom, and that probably means a tight league table.

A good run of form could see Saints do very well indeed, a bad run of form could see them slip as far as we’ve seen in this spell in the Premier League.

How has the summer gone?

SOLD SSAINTS

Losing Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama in this window is a blow, losing Ronald Koeman is huge too, but Southampton have suffered this before and come through it.

Perhaps the most worrying part is the fact that Koeman left the club questioning its ambition and praising Everton’s ambition. He may have left Saints in a better position than the club he’s taking over, but the ambition comments are surely worrying for Southampton at a time when most teams in the Premier League are full of ambition.

Key man

Shane Long

In the absence of Pelle and Wanyama, Shane Long will probably be the main man for Claude Puel in his first season in English football.

Long is a good man to have in that situation – he’s honest, hard-working and really very good at football. Technically, he’s well suited to leading the line in the sort of classy-passy style that Puel employed at Nice, but his tenaciousness will be an asset too.

Make or break season

Chelsea v Southampton - Barclays Premier League

With two new central midfield players brought into the club, Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg and Jeremie Pied, it’s safe to say that the midfield is a part of the squad that’s pretty sorted out.

But when a new manager comes into a club, he can take a liking or a disliking to a player very quickly, and given he’s brought in two new midfielders already, the likes of Steven Davis and James Ward Prowse will have to prove they’re good enough to take one of the midfield slots off the new boys on a regular basis.