2014/15 Premier League Season Review: Southampton

Premier League Final Position: 7th

Review

It’s hard to know where to start with describing how impressive Southampton’s season has been. From the incredible management by Ronald Koeman to the destruction of Sunderland at St Mary’s combined with the fantastic defensive solidity are just a few of the many highlights to draw upon. The Saints came into this campaign as potential relegation candidates after a summer exodus saw a number of key players departing. But you cannot praise enough just how well they’ve performed, and if Arsenal beat Aston Villa in the FA Cup final, a place in the Europa League awaits, and it’s nothing less than they deserve.

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Podcast Review

Best Moment

Back-to-back wins against Arsenal and Manchester United – Southampton convincingly swept the Gunners aside at St Mary’s on New Year’s Day with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic. Ten days later, they put in an impressive, steely performance at Old Trafford and secured a 1-0 win with another goal from Tadic marking a truly excellent stage of the Saints’ season as they showed they can compete with top sides home and away. Those two games also came after a well-earned draw at home to Chelsea.

Worst Moment

The 1-0 defeat at home to Swansea at the beginning of February – Southampton were still clinging on to a Champions League spot in the table heading into that game. A draw would’ve kept them a point ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, but a late Jonjo Shelvey strike sunk Saints hearts and left them level with the Gunners. It was the first moment in the season that they let the chasing pack in through the back door and it was also the game that began their dip in form.

Player of the Year

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Jose Fonte – The skipper has consistently been a rock at the back with 37 appearances and was a key figure in orchestrating strong defensive performances. Southampton boast the second best defensive record this season, conceding just 33 goals – only Chelsea conceded fewer (32).

Biggest Win

Southampton 8-0 Sunderland (Oct 10, 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Southampton 0-3 Manchester City (Nov 30, 2014)

What to improve for the 2015/16 season…

Southampton’s form in the last third of the season wasn’t great, and away from home in particular they suffered massively. Koeman’s side won just five of their last 16 games (D3, L8). They also failed to win any of their last seven Premier League away fixtures (D1, L6), scoring just three goals and conceding 11. Performances in the latter stages of the season will be an area that needs addressing.

With the potential added commitment of the Europa League next season, they will need to learn quickly how to deal with a congested fixture list.

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester City vs Southampton

Competition: Premier League – Manchester City vs. Southampton

Venue: Etihad Stadium – Sunday, May 24 – 15:00 BST (10:00 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester City 4/7 – Draw 7/2 – Southampton 4/1

Match Preview

Manchester City welcome Southampton to Etihad Stadium for the last game of the Premier League season with the hosts having already secured a second-place finish.

Southampton have exceeded all expectations and are guaranteed to finish one place higher than last season. If results go their way, they could even finish as high as fifth.

City’s recent form has been impressive, winning their last five, scoring sixteen goals along the way since their demoralising defeat to rivals Manchester United back in April.

Manuel Pellegrini‘s future is under immense pressure after failing to retain the Premier League crown or win a cup competition this season, leaving City trophy-less for the second time in three years.

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Although his future is in doubt, Pellegrini still expects to be the manager come next season as they aim to take the title back from Chelsea.

A summer clearout is expected at Manchester City with Yaya Toure said to be playing his last game for the club along with possible departures such as Stevan Jovetic, James Milner and of course Frank Lampard before he leaves for MLS club New York City FC.

Before the season began, Southampton were tipped for relegation, a low points total and looked like a club that would be in disarray. But they certainly aren’t. Ronald Koeman has come in and done a very impressive job, leading them to their highest position in Premier League history.

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The Saints arrive in Manchester off the back of a terrific 6-1 victory at home to Aston Villa and will be hoping to try and secure European football next season.

The reverse fixture saw Manchester City win 3-0 at St Mary’s with goals from Yaya Toure, Frank Lampard and Gael Clichy the difference.

Team News

Manchester City will be missing Samir Nasri who has a groin injury.

Southampton will be without Dusan Tadic (groin). Goalkeeper Fraser Forster is a long-term absentee, so Kelvin Davies is expected to continue between the sticks. Morgan Schneiderlin could return to the side for what would potentially be his last appearance for the club as he’d constantly being linked with a move away. Jay Rodriguez could make his first appearance in fifteen months after his ACL tear in the same fixture last season.

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Key Points

Manchester City’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Southampton’s last five: L/D/L/L/W

Key Stat: The last time Manchester City did the double over Southampton was in the 1992/93 inaugural Premier League season.

Key Player: Yaya Toure – Although he is certain to leave Manchester City this summer, he is so important to his side. He can flip the game in a heartbeat. The Ivorian hit a brace at Swansea last week and could add to his twelve goals this season.

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Score Prediction

Manchester City 2-0 Southampton – City will expect to finish strongly at home with a victory. Southampton have had a brilliant season but will fall just short of their opponents in this one.

Southampton to turn to Arsenal as they look to solve goalkeeping dilemma

Ronald Koeman has identified Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny as an ideal short-term replacement for injured goalkeeper Fraser Forster, according to the Sun.

Forster is currently recovering from a knee injury that looks set to keep him out for the whole of 2015 and Southampton will need to find a replacement until he is fit.

Szczesny is a target due to losing his starting spot to David Ospina at Arsenal earlier this year. Coincidently, Szczesny’s last start in the Premier League was against Saints on New Year’s Day.

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It seems that Szczesny would be open to the move too after only starting 17 times this term and there is no guarantee he’ll get any more regular action next year.

Any move would be a loan move as Southampton see Fraser Forster as their long-term goalkeeper, and it looks like it could be a move that benefits both sides.

Should Wojciech Szczesny be allowed to leave Arsenal, and if so, is he a worthy replacement for Fraser Forster?

Liverpool set to make move for £4m-rated Premier League star – report

Liverpool are looking to raid Southampton for the second successive summer as they line up a move for Portuguese centre-back Jose Fonte, according to the Daily Mirror.

Brendan Rodgers wants Fonte to replace Kolo Toure at Anfield as the Ivorian’s contract expires at the end of the season, while Martin Skrtel has yet to pen a new deal with just over 12 months to run on his.

Fonte has been exceptional under Ronald Koeman this season and has appeared in 35 of the Saints’ 36 games, helping the club to boast the second best defensive record in the top flight.

The 31-year-old defender was made Southampton captain last summer when Adam Lallana left to join the Reds, and a move to Liverpool would see Fonte reunite with Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert too.

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Fonte has two years left on his Saints contract but could be available at the right price as Koeman looks to reshape his squad this summer.

He is valued at £4 million by transfermarkt.co.uk and could be a cheap option for Rodgers to explore as he looks to bolster his backline ahead of next season.

Southampton will not want a repeat of last summer where several first-team stars left the club in quick succession. Jay Rodriguez penned a new contract on Tuesday, while talks are ongoing to keep Nathaniel Clyne at St Mary’s next year.

Fonte could be in high demand though as Manchester United and former club Benfica are both also interested in the powerful centre-back.

Would Jose Fonte be a good signing for Liverpool?

Southampton star drops major hint over move to Manchester United

Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne has dropped a major hint that he could be heading for the St Mary’s exit door this summer, especially if the Saints don’t qualify for Champions League football.

“I’m an ambitious person and want to try and win the title and play in the Champions League. It’s nice to hear teams are interested in you.” Clyne said according to the Express.

The news that Clyne is desperate to play in a team that can challenge for the title and offer him a chance to play in Europe’s elite competition will put Manchester United on red alert as they seek top quality strength in depth.

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The 24-year-old right-back has been a mainstay in the Premier League‘s most formidable defence this season as Southampton have conceded fewer goals than any other team, with Clyne’s consistency one of the key reasons behind their success.

Clyne has made 29 league appearances for the Saints and a recent call-up to the England sqaud has made him highly sought after considering he still has his best years ahead of him.

Southampton would undoubtedly demand a hefty transfer fee for the Englishman who joined from Crystal Palace in 2012 and we could expect an offer that they would consider reasonable to be in a similar region to the £27 million fee that United paid the Saints for Luke Shaw.

Ronald Koeman has insisted that Southampton will do everything they can to retain the services of their best players and will be keen to avoid another summer exodus.

“We know it’s not easy as maybe there is some interest. At the moment, there is not a serious bid for whichever player in the team, but we’ll do everything to keep them.”

Would Nathaniel Clyne be a good signing for Manchester United?

Manchester United preparing £25m swap deal for Saints star

Manchester United are preparing to make a summer move for Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne in a £25 million deal that will see Javier Hernandez head to St Mary’s, according to Goal.

The Red Devils are looking to bring in a new right-back this summer as Rafael will have just one year to run on his contract at the end of the season, and Clyne has been extensively scouted by United over the course of the campaign.

Southampton are interested in signing Hernandez and his involvement in any deal could be key, though Real Madrid currently have first refusal on the Mexican striker who is on loan with Los Blancos.

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United would reportedly be willing to offer Southampton £15 million plus Hernandez for Clyne as they look to raid the Saints for their star full-back for the second consecutive year.

Luke Shaw joined United for around £30 million last summer and Louis Van Gaal wants to reunite Clyne with the young left-back at Old Trafford.

Dani Alves is also believed to be a target, as was FC Porto right-back Danilo before he agreed to join Real Madrid.

But Clyne has proven to be one of the Premier League‘s most energetic defenders this year, and that excites Van Gaal, who could use him in a 3-5-2 system or a more traditional setup with four at the back.

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The 23 year old has made 28 starts under Ronald Koeman this season and has just over a year remaining on his current deal.

Southampton have enjoyed a fine season and currently sit just six points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with eight games to play. But their success could lead to a number of first-team stars leaving the club as was the case last summer.

Would Nathaniel Clyne be a good signing for Manchester United? Would a swap deal for Hernandez benefit Southampton?

Everton boss heaps praise on Premier League’s ‘revelationary’ Saints

Everton boss Roberto Martinez has given great credit to Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side ahead of the Toffees clash with the Saints on Saturday, insisting they have been a “revelation” in the Premier League this season.

Southampton are still chasing Champions League football with just eight games to go and head to Goodison Park looking for another victory on Saturday afternoon.

Everton have had a hugely disappointing campaign by their standards and this time last year they found themselves in the same position Southampton are currently in – six points adrift of the top four with eight games to go.

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The Toffees ended up finishing fifth and earned a place in the UEFA Europa League, a competition they have thrived in this season but Martinez has heaped praise on Saturday’s opponents.

“The Saints have had a fantastic campaign, currently sitting just a point behind Liverpool in fifth place,” Martinez told the Liverpool Echo.

“We are facing a difficult side of the weekend. In my eyes they are the revelation team of the season.

“I will be very very surprised if Southampton don’t qualify for Europe and don’t finish in the top five.

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“They are very flexible in how they approach games tactically. They have foreign players who have come in and performed so well and that tells you a lot about the environment they have. It’s very strong.

“They are physically really strong, well structured and have creativity with their  forward play. Defensively too they have the best record in the league and that’s why they’ve been so competitive in every game they go into.”

The Saints beat Everton 3-0 at St Mary’s in the reverse fixture back in December and Roberto Martinez will be hoping his side can earn a result this time around after back-to-back league wins.

Do you agree with Roberto Martinez? Have Southampton been a revelation this season?

Stats: Southampton duo the most effective Premier League centre-backs

Southampton currently have the best defence in the Premier League this season having conceded fewer goals than any other team.

The Saints have let in just 21 goals from their 30 games, four less than the team with the next best back line, which is Chelsea who have conceded 25.

Captain Jose Fonte has missed just one game for Ronald Koeman‘s side in the 2014/15 campaign and he is currently leading the way as the centre-back with the most clean sheets – a total of 14.

Here is the numbers breakdown for the best six Premier League centre-backs based on those with a minimum of 15 appearances and the amount of goals their respective teams have conceded per-game when they play.

Best PL Centre Backs

Best Premier League centre-backs in 2014/15 (stats via Squawka)

Jose Fonte’s teammate Toby Alderweireld is statistically the most effective central defender in the division with the fewest goals conceded-per-game. The Belgian is on-loan from Spanish side Atletico Madrid and also boasts the best record for games-per-clean sheet.

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Arsenal‘s Laurent Koscielny is the next most impressive when it comes to the amount of goals conceded-per-game, although Chelsea defensive partners John Terry and Gary Cahill have shown why the Blues are top of the league as they have the next best games-per-clean-sheet ratio after Alderweireld and Fonte.

Perhaps unexpectedly, Manchester City‘s Eliaquim Mangala statistically has the sixth best record out of the Premier League’s centre-backs and is the most consistent successful passer of the ball, alongside John Terry with a pass completion ratio of 89%.

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Mangala also wins more tackles than the other five, while Alderweireld makes the most blocks and Koscielny the most interceptions.

The most surprising absentee from the top six centre-backs is probably Vincent Kompany. The Man City skipper concedes an average of one goal-per-game and has managed seven clean sheets at an average of three games-per-clean sheet.

Who is the best centre-back in the Premier League?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Southampton vs Liverpool

Southampton vs. Liverpool: Premier League

Venue: St Mary’s Stadium – Sunday, February 22nd – 16:15

Match Odds: Southampton 7/5 – Draw 23/10 – Liverpool 19/10

Southampton welcome Liverpool to St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday for a crucial Premier League game that could play a huge part in who qualifies for Champions League football come the end of the season.

The Saints are currently clinging on to a top-four spot, one point ahead of Arsenal and three clear of Tottenham, while Liverpool are four points adrift in seventh place.  A Liverpool win would close the gap on Southampton to just one point, so the stakes are extremely high.

We’ve been running out of superlatives to describe the performance by Ronald Koeman‘s side this season, but they have stuttered in recent weeks and rumblings are starting to grow over whether their bid to qualify for European football is beginning to derail.

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This game represents the perfect opportunity to silence any doubters and should they pick up all three points, they will remain on track to secure the highly sought after top-four finish.

Southampton have only scored one goal in their last three games which represents their worst run of offensive form all season – they’ve also only conceded one goal in that time too, so low scoring affairs is a recent theme to their matches.

Southampton’s home record in the Premier League: Played 13 – Won 7 – Drawn 3 – Lost 3

Visitors Liverpool boast the best form in the league at the moment, picking up 20 points from their last eight games and have conceded just two goals in their last five outings.

Before Tottenham struck twice at Anfield in their most recent Premier League game, they were on a run of four consecutive clean sheets. The 3-2 victory against Spurs also helped extend Liverpool’s unbeaten run in the league to nine games having lost just one of the previous 13 matches (W8, D4).

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One issue Brendan Rodgers must address is the fact that Liverpool have struggled to pick up points on the road against teams outside of the bottom six in the table, with their only away win over a side above 14th position coming in an early season 3-0 success at Tottenham. They have lost five and drawn one in the other fixtures against the top-14 clubs.

Liverpool’s away record in the Premier League: Played 12 – Won 6 – Drawn 1 – Lost 5

The Saints will be without the suspended Ryan Bertrand, as well as the still injured Emmanuel Makuya and Jay Rodriguez. Morgan Schneiderlin, Toby Alderweireld, Shane Long and Matt Targett are all expected to return to the Southampton squad, while Sam Gallagher could also be included following injury.

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard will almost certainly miss out with a hamstring injury, as will Lucas (groin), Brad Jones (thigh) and Jon Flanagan (knee).

A Daniel Sturridge winner ten minutes from time saw Liverpool edge the reverse fixture 2-1 at Anfield on the first day of the season and they’ll be hoping for a repeat result.

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Southampton’s last five: W/W/L/W/D

Liverpool’s last five: W/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Liverpool have won away at Southampton twice out of their last eight attempts in the Premier League (D2, L4).

Key Player: Daniel Sturridge – his recent return from injury couldn’t have come at a better time for Liverpool and his goals in the run-in will be vital.

Score Prediction: Southampton 1-2 Liverpool – Current form could play a part and Liverpool will edge it.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Southampton vs Swansea City

Competition: Premier League

Venue: St Mary’s Stadium – Sunday, February 1 – 16:00

Match Odds: Southampton 4/7 – Draw 14/5 – Swansea City 11/2

Southampton take on Swansea City in the final game of the weekend on Sunday afternoon and the Saints will be looking to seal all three points to remain in third place in the Premier League.

Ronald Koeman’s side have picked back up following a mid-season slump through December and have not lost in their last six league games, winning five of those.

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They have beaten Everton, Arsenal and Manchester United in that time while also holding leaders Chelsea at home and they fully deserve to be as high as they currently are in the league table.

Southampton’s home record in the Premier League: Played 11 – Won 7 – Drawn 2 – Lost 2

Swansea have found themselves in a poor run of form and have not won a league game since Boxing Day. They were thumped 5-0 at home by Chelsea in their last Premier League match and were then knocked out of the FA Cup by Blackburn 3-1 last Saturday.

They ended that FA Cup game with nine men as Kyle Bartley and Gylfi Sigurdsson were both sent off and they will be without both of those players for the trip to Southampton. Sigurdsson’s absence will be particularly important.

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Garry Monk’s side have yet to replace Wilfried Bony since his move to Manchester City was confirmed earlier this month and the Swans have only scored three times in their last four league games, conceding 11 in that time.

Swansea’s away record in the Premier League: Played 10 – Won 2 – Drawn 3 – Lost 5

The reverse fixture this season saw Southampton win 1-0 at Swansea in a game that the Swans deserved to get a least a point from, but it is unlikely to be as closely contested this time around.

Southampton have never lost to the Swans in the Premier League in five previous meetings and have only conceded one goal against the Welsh outfit in that time.

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The Saints did lose at home to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup last weekend but they should be too strong for a Swansea side that doesn’t look to be heading in the right direction.

Southampton’s last five in the Premier League: W/D/W/W/W

Swansea’s last five in the Premier League: W/L/D/D/L

Key Stat: Southampton have not lost at home to Swansea in over 60 years, since a 4-1 loss in 1953 when the two sides met in Division Two.

Key Player: Eljero Elia – The Dutch winger scored both goals in Southampton’s 2-1 win at Newcastle in their last league game and comes into the game in fine form. Swansea need to be wary.

Southampton vs. Swansea Prediction: Southampton 2 – 0 Swansea – The Saints to remain third in the Premier League with a comfortable victory.