Identifying the cause of Southampton’s struggles

Colin Smith [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Colin Smith [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons /

Southampton is languishing in 12th place in the Premier League which has their fan base justifiably concerned

Southampton used to be one of my favorite Premier League clubs to watch. Whether it was under the management of Mauricio Pochettino or Ronald Koeman they’ve been a really exciting side to watch over the past two seasons. Now though, there’s something missing on the South Coast. They are closer to being relegated than qualifying for Champions League and their fans are close to hitting the panic button. This caused me to take a close look at what is going wrong at Southampton.

When looking at their roster for the root of their deficiencies my eyes were instantly attracted to their defensive midfield. Victor Wanyama has been a constant starter at one spot, but it’s been something of a revolving door next to him. Jordy Clasie got the start against Tottenham today, but he’s been below average on the year. The other option, Oriel Romeu has gotten his opportunities as well and hasn’t been much better. They really lack a reliable partner for the Nigerian tank.

Not having a partner for Wanyama is a real problem on the South Coast. Given his propensity to sit deep, his partner should be given a great deal of freedom to attack in the final third. It’s not just that they should have that freedom, whoever plays alongside Wanyama must take advantage of it. Whereas Wanyama shoulders the majority of the defensive load, his partner must share the majority of the offensive responsibility. The lack of production from that spot on the pitch really hamstrings Southampton’s offense by unduly isolating their attacking midfielders.

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Wanyama, for the record, isn’t blameless in this either. I’ve previously been a big fan of his, but when I sat down to study his film from the year, I see a player who seems to be a step slow. Perhaps he’s gotten too heavy, but he just doesn’t seem to be moving with the same fluidity that he has previously. He’s still a hulking defensive presence, but he offers little to nothing going forward. Southampton could find a player to fill that role with a significantly smaller price-tag than Wanyama’s.

The other area of the squad that I feel is really weighing Southampton down is their attacking midfield options outside of Sadio Mane. The Senegalese attacker has been excellent on the year, and partners quite well with striker Graziano Pelle. His other options in the midfield trio have been pretty anonymous. I’ve written at length on James Ward-Prowse’s struggles, but I prefer him to Steven Davis who’s gotten significantly more time. Dusan Tadic has his moments of effectiveness but struggles to consistently impact matches. If I were Mane I’d be growing quite tired of having to carry so much of the load every week.

Ronald Koeman is right when he says that Southampton need to be wary of falling into the relegation battle. I think they have enough quality to keep them safe, but they’ve got serious roster holes they need to fill. They might need to become a buying club to solidify their midfield and turn their season around.