Southampton’s first-team have won one of their five competitive matches in all competitions so far this season, with their only victory coming against Newport County in the League Cup.
The Saints have drawn three of their four Premier League matches, sharing the spoils with Newcastle, Manchester United and West Ham whilst also losing to Everton.
Another competition Southampton are competing in is the EFL Trophy. It is composed of League One and League Two outfits, with a smattering of Premier League youth sides, including the Saints’ U21s.
They, unfortunately, were unable to add to the club’s wins this season as they lost 1-0 to Leyton Orient in their opening group stage match.
Results are not the be-all and end-all in academy matches, though, despite them playing against a senior side. The most important facet is the individual performances and development of the players in the team, rather than how they play as a unit.
One player who caught the eye against Orient, in spite of the defeat, was central defender Dynel Simeu. The centre-back joined the Saints on a permanent deal from Chelsea in the summer and has not been seen at first-team level, as he is yet to make his senior bow.
Simeu was handed the highest SofaScore rating (7.7) of any player in the match, including the Orient players, as he stood out in defence. Per SofaScore, he won an impressive 85% of his duels on the pitch, winning nine of his 11 ground battles and eight of his nine headers.
He was up against a tricky opponent in Tyrese Omotoye. The teenager is on loan at Orient from Premier League side Norwich – where he made three appearances in the Championship as the Canaries won the title. His involvement in the first-team suggests that Norwich see potential in him, but Simeu was able to lock him up with his strong defending.
Per SofaScore, Simeu made seven clearances and five tackles, whilst also making one block and four interceptions to cut out Orient attacks. This highlights how impressive he was for the young Saints and why the overall result is not always the most important aspect of a game.
Simeu will surely have caught Ralph Hasenhuttl’s eye with this performance. He was able to stand out as the best performer among his fellow academy prospects and the senior Orient players, which will delight the Austrian head coach as it suggests that he has the potential to make the step up to first-team football further down the line.
Of course, he will need to perform consistently and prove that this is not a one-off, but Hasenhuttl will have been impressed by how effective Simeu was with his defending against the League Two outfit.