Premier League 2022-23 Preview No. 17: Southampton

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Guardian writers’ predicted position: 17. (NB: this is not necessarily Michael Butler’s prediction, but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position: 15

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 500-1

Outlook

When Southampton are good, they are a top half Premier League team. And when they’re bad, they’re relegation fodder. Since Ralph Hasenhüttl broke up in late 2018, the problem is that you never know which version you’re going to get. Unfortunately, that’s about the most exciting thing about being a Southampton fan right now.

After failing to replace Danny Ings at the start of last season, Southampton took 10 games to win their first game, finishing the campaign with a worse goal difference (-24) than relegated Burnley, with only one successful spell in February who kept the club going. above the drop zone.

Transfers have been wayward for a while – the idea of ​​Saints having a player good enough to sell to Liverpool these days seems a bit far-fetched. This summer’s transfer policy of paying more than £23m for Manchester City academy players seems a bit risky until you remember the success of both Tino Livramento and Armando Broja (from Chelsea) last season. If Southampton do one thing well, it’s spot a good youngster. It’s the rest of the recruiting you have to worry about.

Much depends on the fitness and form of captain James Ward-Prowse – top scorer (11 goals) and chief captain (eight assists) last year – as well as whether they can find a goalscorer. Broja has gone back to Chelsea, Che Adams has had a mixed season while Adam Armstrong has failed to fill Danny Ings’ shoes after the latter left for Aston Villa a year ago.

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The boss

“After spending time with Hasenhüttl, I can say that I like him very much and he is very smart.” That’s what the club’s new owner, Dragan Solak, said when he took over in January. Solak talked about building a top-10 team, but the likelihood is that Hasenhüttl will once again fight relegation, as this is a team that needed an overhaul, not an adjustment. Heavy defeats are not limited to 9-0: Southampton finished last season with two draws and 10 defeats in 13 games, with five of those defeats by a margin of at least three goals.

Transfer coup

Many balked at the initial £12m deal for Roméo Lavia, an 18-year-old who had made just two senior appearances for Manchester City. But this is a player highly rated by Pep Guardiola. Lavia was the only teenage member of City’s academy to be named in their 21-strong squad for last season’s Champions League group stage and the Premier League champions have included a £40million buy-back clause in their deal with Saints. A defensive midfielder, the Belgian will provide competition for Oriol Romeu, but has a better passing range and is more mobile than the Spaniard. Expect to see a lot of the youngster.

WC influence

Southampton only have a few absences, but the biggest problem will be in defence. Jan Bednarek (and new goalkeeper Mateusz Lis) will be on call for Poland while Mohammed Salisu has quietly developed into one of the most progressive centre-backs in the Premier League and the unguarded Ghanaian has finally been convinced to feature for the Black Stars after saying he wanted to focus on his club career last year. Ward-Prowse has a chance to get an England call-up.

Interactive

Alternative attractions during the WC

You could do a lot worse than skip town and head over the river test into the New Forest. Or it’s a quick hop on the ferry to the Isle of Wight, which hosts festivals of music, classic cars and even garlic. The latter includes the famous Lamb National, where sheep race around a circuit with toy jockeys on their backs.

Leads shirt sales

Who else but “the best free-kick taker in the world”, according to Pep Guardiola: Ward-Prowse. The Portsmouth-born captain joined Saints at the age of eight and has carried the side on his back for the past 12 months. The only problems with getting his name on back of your the shirt is a) how expensive all these letters are going to be b) if Ward-Prowse leaves before the transfer window closes. Despite signing a new five-year deal last year, Tottenham and West Ham continue to be linked with him this summer.

Social climber

Not even the club can beat Theo Walcott’s 2.8 million followers on Instagram, but one suspects this has more to do with an Arsenal hangover than any ‘content’ the 33-year-old tips into the airwaves. The best thing about this corner of the internet is that people have (mostly) stopped listening to the conspiracy nonsense that Matt Le Tissier has been spewing on his various social channels.

If Netflix did a Southampton doc…

It’s probably a very sensible documentary to make on Southampton’s academy, with Gareth Bale, Walcott, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers all breaking into the first team in the not-so-distant past. However, I think most people would rather watch a feature film of another academic, Ward-Prowse, who only takes free kicks. Eighty-five minutes after the skipper whipped the top bin? Yes please.

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