Premier League Preview 2022-23 No 17: Southampton

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<p><figcaption class=Photography: James Marsh/Shutterstock

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

Last season’s position: 15th

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

perspectives

When Southampton are good, they are a Premier League first-half team. And when they’re bad, they’re fodder for relegation. Ever since Ralph Hasenhüttl introduced himself in late 2018, the problem is you never know which version you’ll get. Sadly, that’s the most exciting part of being a Southampton fan right now.

After failing to replace Danny Ings at the start of last season, it took Southampton 10 games to win their first game and ended the campaign with a worse goal difference (-24) than relegated Burnley, with only one thriving period in February keeping the club above the drop zone.

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

Much depends on the aptitude and form of captain James Ward-Prowse – top scorer (11 goals) and chief breeder (eight assists) last year – as well as whether they can find a top scorer. Broja returned to Chelsea, Che Adams had a confusing time, while Adam Armstrong failed to fill Danny Ings’ spot after the latter left for Aston Villa a year ago.

preset

The manager

“After spending time with Hasenhüttl, I can say that I really like him and he is very smart.” So said the club’s new owner, Dragan Solak, upon taking over in January. Solak talked about building a team in the top 10, but the likelihood is that Hasenhüttl is once again battling relegation as this is a team that needed an overhaul, not an adjustment. Heavy defeats aren’t limited to 9-0s: Southampton ended last season with two draws and 10 defeats from 13 matches, with five of those defeats by a margin of at least three goals.

transfer scam

Many turned down the initial £12m deal for Roméo Lavia, an 18-year-old who had only made two appearances for Manchester City. But this is a player highly rated by Pep Guardiola. Lavia was the only teenage City academy member to be named in their 21-man squad for last season’s Champions League group stage and the Premier League champions have included a £40m buyback clause in the deal with the club. Saints. Defensive midfielder, the Belgian will compete with Oriol Romeu, but has better passing range and is more mobile than the Spaniard. Expect to see a lot from the young man.

World Cup impact

Southampton have only a few absences, but the biggest problem will be in defence. Jan Bednarek (and new goalkeeper Mateusz Lis) will be on duty for Poland, while Mohammed Salisu has been quietly developing into one of the Premier League’s most progressive centre-backs and the undefeated Ghanaian was finally convinced to play for the Black Stars after saying he wanted focus on his club career last year. Ward-Prowse has a shot at being called up to England.

Interactive

Alternative attractions during the World Cup

You could do a lot worse than skipping town and crossing the River Test into the New Forest. Or it’s a quick hop on the ferry to the Isle of Wight, home to music festivals, classic cars and even garlic. The latter includes the famous Lamb National, in which sheep race around a circuit with toy jockeys on their backs.

Leading shirt sales

Who else but “the best free-kick taker in the world”, according to Pep Guardiola: Ward-Prowse. The Portsmouth-born captain joined the Saints at the age of eight and has carried his side on his back for the past 12 months. The only problems getting your name on the back your shirt is a) how expensive all those cards 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 remain attached to him this summer.

social climber

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

If Netflix made a Southampton documentary…

There’s probably a very sensible documentary to be made at the Southampton 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-length ‘movie’ by another academy graduate, Ward-Prowse, just taking free kicks. Eighty-five minutes of the captain banging on the boxes? Yes please.

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