Final Table Position: 7th
After selling off half of their roster last summer, losing their coach, and revamping the club with much cheaper talent than the one that left, Southampton were expected to be in the bottom half of the Premier League this season. Instead, they qualified for European competition! To call their season a success doesn’t seem like much of a stretch right now since they were a top four candidate that ended up in 7th place, but their season is certainly a huge success considering their pre-season expectations.
Even now, after losing out on the top four, there are a lot more positives than negatives. They have their goalkeeper of the future in Fraser Forster, who is injured for up to a year but is expected to come back late next season. They have an extremely solid defense, although that could use some help if Toby Alderweireld and Nathaniel Clyne both leave. They’ve also found some of their future midfielders in Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane along with some other youngsters that are showing promise. Ronald Koeman also seems extremely fit to be in the Premier League and is already a top ten manager in England. Overall, it’s positives vibes all around.
Fantasy results were definitely a positive as well with a number of contributors on both sides of the pitch. Let’s take a look at the bigger names.
Dusan Tadic – Tadic was one of the most hyped up fantasy performers to start the season but people forget that he got over 16% of his points from just one match – against Sunderland in week eight. I don’t want to say he was bad, but overall on the season Tadic failed to meet the high expectations he set early on. He also struggled with some injuries and was then benched by Koeman for a few games in the second part of the season. The result was Tadic only had one double digit scoring week after week 21 – not good.
Jose Fonte – Clyne and Bertrand were great for the Saints and for fantasy managers in almost all formats, but Fonte was the highest scoring Southampton player in the Yahoo! game with 299 points. He intercepted passes at an incredible rate all season and should continue doing that next year. His value takes a slight hit with Fraser Forster not there to clean up his mistakes, but I think he’s as solid as any defenders going into next season.
Sadio Mane – Mane had a bit of an up and down season and lacked continuity for Southampton but was overall a huge success for the club. 24 starts and 6 appearances off the bench later, Mane ended up with 10 goals, 3 assists, and a club-high 4 Man of the Match awards according to WhoScored. The quick winger is only 23 years of age and a bit more consistency next season could lead to a huge season for him, both for the Saints and for fantasy managers.
Grazianno Pelle – Worth a note because he started the season so hot, the striker was the only player to feature in all 38 matches for the Saints (37 starts, one off the bench). He was fantastic at the beginning of the season but then slowed down considerably, to the point where many called for him to get benched during his huge drought. Depending on which Pelle we get next season, he is a risky fantasy pick in August.
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Although Southampton had a great season, there are many holes they need to address, especially if the rumors of Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne leaving are true. Let’s address them individually.
Goalkeeper – Fraser Forster is injured and will likely miss the majority of next season. A competent, old, goalkeeper that can be had for cheap should be the focus of their summer as Paulo Gazzaniga and Kelvin Davis are both not up to the task of leading this team in European play.
Defense – This one is tricky because we still don’t know who’s going to stay or leave. If no one major leaves, there are no wholes here and plenty of backups. But if Nathaniel Clyne leaves and Atletico Madrid decide to cancel the Toby Alderweireld deal that sends him to Southampton permanently, there could be two places where cover is needed. Follow the news here on Rotoworld to see where Clyne and Alderweireld end up.
Striker – Grazianno Pelle went through a dry spell this season as we all discussed and the Saints had zero other options up top. Jay Rodriguez should be healthy next season and he can lead the line, but with so many injury setbacks, I don’t think the Saints want to risk not having a backup striker. Look for them to bring in someone new, and if they’re in a spending mood, they could go after someone that would be ahead of Pelle in the pecking order.
Things to Look for Next Season
Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane’s form is going to be a defining factor for Southampton going ahead. If the two can consistently perform and create, Southampton will be a very good team for years to come. Both players have the ability to put the defense on the back pedal and create for others as well as score and that will be needed for this club. Mane in particular possesses the speed and finishing ability to a force, so keep an eye out for his development. The Saints have other options here too, but many of their players are young and it’s still unknown who will develop well.
Speaking of age, the Saints are one of the youngest teams in the Premier League. Looking at the minute adjusted age, they rank fifth after only Tottenham, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Manchester United in terms of age at 26.3 Morgan Schneiderlin (25) and Nathaniel Clyne (24) leaving will be a problem, but the Saints keep going after young talent so age is not really a factor for them. If their squad just marginally improves across most positions as we’d expect at this age, they can be a much better team next season and that’s scary for the top four squads.
The third biggest topic of next season will be depth. The Saints were fourth this season in the % of minutes their top XI players played – 77.4%. Now, the Saints do have some depth, such as Jay Rodriguez coming back at striker, Maya Yoshida, Matt Targett, and Florin Gardos in defense, a number of slightly below mediocre goalkeepers, and some young midfielders like James Ward-Prowse who have shown promise this year. With that in mind, none of those are really proven at the Premier League level. Targett needs more experience, as does Ward-Prowse. Gardos was average, and Jay Rodriguez may or may not fully recover from his grueling knee injury. A relatively healthy season for the Saints rarely forced to call upon their bench, but history shows that injuries will happen more often than not, especially now that this team will be playing in Europe as well. We’ve seen teams who over-perform one year and make it into a European Cup struggle mightily the next. Swansea did it just a few season ago and a few injuries plus the regression to the mean cause their season to turn into a disaster. Ronald Koeman must make a few summer moves to be ready should an injury crisis strike, or else fear a big drop off.