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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Southampton striker’s MLS switch ruled out by Red Bulls boss

New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch has denied rumours that Southampton striker Dani Osvaldo is on the verge of joining his MLS side.

Ole.com had originally revealed that the Italian international was set to make a move to the USA and it was also later reported by NBC Sports.

But when asked whether there was any truth behind the link, Marsch claimed he hadn’t even heard of Osvaldo, according to onceametro.com.

“Who is that? There’s nothing to comment on. The fact that I didn’t know the player I think should be telling,” said Marsch.

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Dani Osvaldo is currently on-loan to Argentinian side Boca Juniors and has scored three league goals in nine appearances. His loan deal with Boca runs out on June 30, so the Saints will be looking for another move for Osvaldo whether it be permanent or temporary.

He has also previously been on-loan at Serie A sides Juventus and Inter Milan, where he made a combined total of 23 league appearances, scoring six goals.

The 29-year-old’s future isn’t certain at this stage, but it looks as though he won’t be joining MLS any time soon. Well at least not with the New York Red Bulls anyway.

Would you like to see Dani Osvaldo in MLS?

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.

United dealt HUGE blow as transfer target is set to stay put

Manchester United are looking likely to suffer a setback in their attempts to sign Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne as the defender is set to sign a new deal, according to The Independent.

United have been linked with Clyne for some time now and were favourites to sign the 24-year-old right-back who has just one year left on his current Saints contract.

Louis Van Gaal has not trusted his Brazilian full-back, Rafael, and has opted to play Antonio Valencia for the majority of the season. It now looks like United’s hunt for a top-class right-back is set to continue, with Barcelona’s Dani Alves another name linked.

Clyne has found his footing in the England national side and as a result has attracted attention from the Premier League’s top clubs.

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Southampton will be desperate to keep hold of their stars at the end of the season after last summer’s raid which saw them lose many first team players, including left-back, Luke Shaw to United.

The appeal of Champions League action may sway Clyne in to wanting a move to the Red Devils but it seems likely a move is now off the cards, with Southampton’s chief executive Les Reed confident he will stay on the south coast.

“With Clyney it’s been the same as with Jay [Rodriguez], we’ve been talking for quite a while,” Reed told the club’s official website.

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“Ronald made a comment that there was a deadline. That deadline was more about getting a response, and that issue has been solved by the fact Nathaniel has changed his agent. We got an immediate response from his new agent.

“That’s not our business, but there was something there slowing things down. That’s all accelerated, I’m in discussions with his agent and those have been very positive.

“We’re at a very good place at the moment in terms of discussions going on and I’m confident again that we will have a resolution to that sooner rather than later,” Reed concluded.

Will Nathaniel Clyne stay at Southampton? Is he the right-back United desperately need?

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: Newcastle United vs Southampton

Newcastle United welcome Southampton to St James’ Park on Saturday evening as the Toon Army look to make amends for their 4-0 thrashing in the reverse fixture at St Mary’s back in September.

Newcastle have slowly slipped down to 10th position in the table since they had dragged themselves up to 5th after they beat QPR in late November in a run of five straight wins.

Since then, a run of nine games with five defeats, two draws and just two wins, as well as the departure of manager Alan Pardew, has left them in a strange period of transition that can’t be allowed to go on for too long otherwise they’ll start looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone.

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The Magpies are currently eight points above 18th placed Hull City, so it isn’t a desperate situation just yet, but they will still be keen to continue picking up points in order to maintain their distance.

Newcastle United’s home record: Played 10 – Won 5 – Drawn 3 – Lost 2

As for Southampton, they will be bubbling with confidence after their magnificent 1-0 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford last weekend which has lifted them to third in the table.

It extends their unbeaten run in the Premier League to five games despite a tricky run of fixtures which has seen them face Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United consecutively.

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They also continued their good domestic form in midweek with a narrow FA Cup third round replay win over Ipswich Town at Portman Road thanks to a goal from Shane Long.

The Saints are certainly staking a huge claim to show that they’re capable of qualifying for Champions League football this season and if people weren’t taking them seriously before, they most definitely will be now.

Southampton’s away record: Played 10 – Won 5 – Drawn 1 – Lost 4

With the best defence in the division and the fourth highest scoring attack, Southampton will be tipped as favourites for the win, but Newcastle is always a tough place to go, so it makes for a fascinating contest.

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Newcastle will be without numerous players through injury, suspension and African Cup of Nations duty, namely Papiss Demba Cisse and Cheick Tiote while Southampton are without Toby Alderweireld (hamstring), Sadio Mane (calf), Morgan Schneiderlin (thigh) and Maya Yoshida (international duty).

Newcastle United’s last five: L/L/W/D/L

Southampton’s last five: W/W/D/W/W

Key stat: Southampton haven’t lost a Premier League game in which they’ve scored the first goal this season.

Key player: Dušan Tadić – The Serbian has been a revelation this season and Newcastle must stop his creativity if they’re to take anything from the game.

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Score prediction: Newcastle United 1 – 1 Southampton

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Southampton

Manchester United welcome the high-flying Southampton to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon for arguably the game of the weekend in the Premier League.

If you had said in August that this fixture will play a crucial part in who qualifies for Champions League football come the end of the season, many Saints fans would have laughed at you. But that is very much the situation that presents itself in this game.

United haven’t set the world alight with their performances but Louis Van Gaal won’t mind that in the slightest as they are still getting results, which is something they used to do so well under the great Sir Alex Ferguson in years gone by.

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They are now unbeaten in their last ten games in the Premier League and have suffered just one league defeat in the last 15.

Manchester United’s home record: Played 10 – Won 8 – Drawn 1 – Lost 1

Talking of Sir Alex Ferguson, Southampton have a great manager themselves in the shape of Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman has been a revelation for the South Coast side and any fears surrounding the club at the start of the season following the departure of Mauricio Pochettino have well and truly been washed away.

Since a minor blip that saw them go on a four-game losing streak, Southampton have picked things up again by going four without a loss, winning three and drawing one.

Southampton’s away record: Played 9 – Won 4 – Drawn 1 – Lost 4

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This clash promises to be an entertaining affair and is a tough one to call as so much depends on how both sides approach the game.

Southampton boast the best defence in the Premier League this season, and you’d expect them to be a tough nut to crack for Man United. And for all United’s firepower going forward, they still haven’t managed to outscore the Saints this season – both sides have scored 34 goals.

The hosts will be without Ashley Young who has a hamstring injury, while Southampton are without Maya Yoshida (international duty) and the impressive Sadio Mane (calf).

Manchester United’s last five: W/D/W/D/D

Southampton’s last five: L/W/W/D/W

Key stat: Manchester United are undefeated in their last nine Premier League home games (Won 8, Drawn 1).

Key player: Fraser Forster – the Southampton goalkeeper has been one of this season’s outstanding performers and is likely to be called upon to save his team once again.

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Score prediction: Manchester United 2 – 1 Southampton

Southampton suffering second successive winter meltdown

Southampton enjoyed an extremely good start to this Premier League season, as they managed to keep pace with leaders Chelsea and were above title holders Manchester City.

Many have said they could be pushing for European football next season, whether in the Europa League or even Champions League – something which is still a possibility but they need a turnaround. Fast.

They are repeating last season’s winter meltdown as they won just once in nine games over the Christmas period in the 2013/14 season, with a real dip in form starting after November 23.

This year it’s started to go wrong a day later, on November 24. The Saints have not won since then and are facing four more tricky games in a similar nine-game run over Christmas this year.

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After a summer of mass exodus, seeing top players like Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Dejan Lovren leave for big money, as well as manager Mauricio Pochettino, it would have been easy to predict a demise on what was a good season last term.

And although they defied all odds under Ronald Koeman to begin with, they haven’t won in their last five games in the Premier League, four of which were defeats. Until as recently as 24 November the highflying Saints were just six points behind the leaders, and still ahead of City.

League table on November 24:

Pos Club P W D L GF GA GD PTS
1 Chelsea 12 10 2 0 30 11 19 32
2 Southampton 12 8 2 2 24 6 18 26
3 Manchester City 12 7 3 2 24 13 11 24
4 Manchester United 12 5 4 3 19 15 4 19

Current table on December 15:

Pos Club P W D L GF GA GD PTS
1 Chelsea 16 12 3 1 36 13 23 39
2 Manchester City 16 11 3 2 33 14 19 36
3 Manchester United 16 9 4 3 29 17 12 31
4 West Ham United 16 8 4 4 27 19 8 28
5 Southampton 16 8 2 6 25 13 12 26

We can see the differences between how they had been performing compared to now in the space of around three weeks.

Southampton did have a tough three game period, playing Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United. But their most surprising recent result was this weekends – an away defeat to Burnley.

Southampton’s winless streak:

Aston Villa 1-1 Southampton (24/11/14)

Southampton 0-3 Manchester City (30/11/14)

Arsenal 1-0 Southampton (03/12/14)

Southampton 1-2 Manchester United (08/12/14)

Burnley 1-0 Southampton (13/12/14)

It would appear they have just lost their confidence, and perhaps their emphatic start to the season is catching up with them. The free flowing play and goalscoring has been lacking and defensive mistakes have crept in.

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Koeman will be disappointed with his side’s performances of late and needs a good result this weekend against Everton to get things back on track.

The Saints travel to Bramall Lane to take on Sheffield United in the League Cup this week and the Blades have been in solid form, so it’s a game Koeman’s men could possibly do without.

Will Southampton recover their form and finish in a European place at the end of the season?