Whilst Leicester City winning the Premier League undoubtedly represented the major success story in English football last season, another wonderful achievement was that of Southampton securing the club best ever Premier League finish.
Saints strengthen an already strong squad
By ending the season in sixth place, after amassing a club record 63 points, the Saints qualified for the group stages of this season’s Europa League.
As such handling the demands of competing in both domestic and European competition represents a tough challenge for Southampton but one they are nevertheless capable of conquering, particularly given that they have both, extended the contracts of key members of last season’s squad and added some quality new players to that.
In addition to Ryan Bertrand, Steven Davis, Fraser Forster, Shane Long, Virgil Van Djik and James Ward Prowse have all signed new contracts, Southampton have made some shrewd new signings this summer.
Following the arrival of Nathan Redmond from Norwich City for £10m, the Saints have also brought in the Danish international midfielder Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg from Bayern Munich, along with goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and right back Jeremy Pied from Crystal Palace and Nice respectively.
Those four signings have significantly strengthened Southampton’s already strong squad, which appears to be suitably equipped to replicate the top six finish which the club achieved last season.
Room for further recruitment
Nevertheless in order to enhance their prospects of achieving that, it would be beneficial for manager Claude Puel to recruit both a quality central midfielder and two strikers in order to replace the departed trio Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle respectively, since each player was a key member of Southampton’s team over recent seasons.
Whilst Wanyama was a driving force in midfield, both Mane and Pelle continuously proved themselves to affluent sources of goals, which means the departure of the influential trio, leaves three significant voids in the spine of Southampton’s side. However those voids can undoubtedly be filled by players already in Puel’s squad.
Puel already well prepared for new season
Specifically whilst either Hojbjerg or the elegant Dutchman Jordie Clasie possess the potential to efficiently assume Wanyama’s midfield role, Puel has some excellent attacking options available to him when the quartet of Charlie Austin, Shane Long, Nathan Redmond and Jay Rodriguez are taken into consideration.
Ultimately Rodriguez spent the majority of last season sidelined with injury but made his return to first team action in April and is currently playing a prominent role in the Saints pre-season. So too is Austin, with the former Queens Park Rangers striker having scored in Southampton’s recent friendly wins over FC Groningen (1-0) and PEC Zwolle (4-0).
Therefore Southampton currently appear extremely well equipped to replicate their top six finish of last season, whilst also having the potential to enjoy an excellent Europa League campaign.
The Saints begin their 2016-2017 season with a home Premier League fixture against West Ham, which will also be Puel’s first competitive game in charge of the club, as the Frenchman seeks to mastermind a strong start to his managerial reign.