January Transfer Blueprint: Southampton

"Ronald-Koeman-DSC 0039" by Wouter Engler - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ronald-Koeman-DSC_0039.jpg#/media/File:Ronald-Koeman-DSC_0039.jpg
"Ronald-Koeman-DSC 0039" by Wouter Engler - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ronald-Koeman-DSC_0039.jpg#/media/File:Ronald-Koeman-DSC_0039.jpg /

***The Transfer Blueprint series details what each Premier League club should be looking for as the January window approaches. Comment below with your own thoughts about what each club should acquire***

The Transfer Blueprint series rolls on today with our focus turning to Southampton. The Saints currently occupy the 7th position in the League table and have managed to stay largely under the radar. They do this despite playing some of the most attack-minded football in England. What can Ronald Koeman’s squad do in January to push forward and challenge for a Champions League spot?

What They Should Buy: I was ever so close to writing absolutely nothing here and moving on, but I can’t quite do it. Southampton is blessed with a well-balanced squad with almost no holes, but of course, every side can stand to be improved.

The Saints should start with the goal keeping position. It hasn’t been pretty in front of the net this year on the South Coast. Maarten Stekelenburg hasn’t exactly been a wall back there although he hasn’t been awful. His Whoscored.com average of 6.41 is the lowest among the team’s starters and is towards the bottom of Premier League starting keepers as well.

They could always sit back and hope for some improvement which isn’t entirely unrealistic, but I think the stakes are too high. They’ve got a terrific defense playing in front of him and a top-notch keeper could make them insanely difficult to score on. I’m not sure Fraser Forster is ready for the role either.

Outside of the weakness at keeper, the other starters for Southampton have all performed at an above average level. The attack has been prolific led by Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic. On their budget, Southampton would be hard pressed to make an impact purchase who could displace one of those starters.

They could, however supplement their attacking bench. Shane Long is a competent backup option for Pelle, but the bench options for the attacking midfielders leave a lot to be desired. I’ve already documented my lack of belief in Jay Rodriguez in some length so I won’t repeat it here. Just suffice it to say I don’t think he’s going to be a viable option.

I really want to believe that James Ward-Prowse can step up and contribute, but his play has been uneven at best this season. Have I mentioned that his free kicks are works of art? Because they are. Juanmi also is an intriguing option but he’s contributed almost nothing in his three cameos for the club.

They would be well served to make a smart purchase or two to bring in some cover in the attacking midfield. I don’t think they can make it the entire season without so more rotation at that spot and if one of their starters became injured it would cause a real mess. Add two more competent options there and Ronald Koeman could sleep a lot easier.

The good news for Southampton fans is that’s all they really need. The defense has coalesced into an excellent unit and the midfield pairing of Victor Wanyama and whomever (Clasie or Romeu) has been really good. I see no reason to believe that any of those performances will dip unless they suffer injury. I also happen to like their bench options like Steven Caulker so they can focus all of their energy on reinforcing the attack.

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What They Should Sell: I’m prepared to be peppered with criticism for this, but they should cut bait on J Rod. He hasn’t come close to regaining his pre-injury form and if they continue to trot him out there, too many clubs will catch on. If that happens, his value will go through the floor.

As it stands, most clubs still remember his sparking form pre-injury and would be willing to take a chance on his recovery. If they could get a fee in the 15-20M range (which I think they could) they should pounce on it. It would be good business and would go a long way to funding the necessary purchase of cover in the attacking midfield. Ironically, that’s what someone would purchase Rodriguez to do.

Other than that there isn’t much to sell. If they wanted to make a profit on a fringe player like Maya Yoshida I wouldn’t quibble with it provided they replaced him. Most of their talent is still young and on the upswing so there shouldn’t be many sales unless they receive a crazy offer.

What They Will Do: My strong suspicion is that Southampton will do a whole lot of nothing in the January window. They’ve rightly committed themselves to building through their academy so buying talent isn’t generally high on their list of priorities. They probably see James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez performance improvements as the answers to any questions moving forward. I can understand this belief, but do have to respectfully disagree.