Premier League Transfer Review #16: Southampton

2017/18 Season

2017/18 is a pretty much a season to forget for Southampton fans, as the club came surprisingly close to the relegation – so much so their penultimate game against Swansea was pretty much a relegation play-off.

Despite this, Southampton had the 9th best xGD in the Premier League last season. Both their xG for and against were just below average, but the underlying performances weren’t as bad as the results suggested. For the second season in a row Southampton had big struggles finding the back of the net, scoring just 68.1% of their expected goals total, 3rd to only Crystal Palace and Huddersfield. It didn’t help that Southampton had the 4th lowest xG per chance in the league – despite having the 8th most chances from within the danger zone.

Southampton also had some good individual performers last season. Charlie Austin’s xG of 0.650 p90 is pretty huge for a club that struggled so much – though it’s worth pointing out he only played 1030 minutes, split into 10 starts and 14 substitute appearances.

Mario Lemina had a good debut year with dribbling numbers to rival the likes of Mousa Dembele and Mateo Kovacic. Lemina completed 91.5% of his 3.29 attempted take-ons p90, while also having a strong xP Rating and attempting 6.24 tackles + interceptions p90. Lemina and Oriol Romeu could be a strong double pivot for Southampton, with Romeu Southampton’s most regular vertical passer and Lemina an exceptional dribbler they can both advance the ball, while they’re also both strong out of possession.

Elsewhere James Ward-Prowse created the most from set-pieces in Europe’s top five leagues last season, creating 0.240 xA p90 just from set-pieces, the trouble was that he didn’t seem to offer much else. It also feels as though it’s time for winger Nathan Redmond to kick on and offer more of an output. Redmond is a talented player, but now being 24-years-old it feels like he should start contributing more than his current xG + OP xA p90 of 0.310 p90. His poor shot selection doesn’t seem to be helping his cause, his xG per chance was the 4th worst for those with over 1.5 chances p90 in the Premier League last season.

I still think there’s some talent in this Southampton side, but it feels like they’ll need a strong window to try and push things back in the right direction and be able to write off last season as a blip.

Incoming

Despite signing five new players, this is going to be a very short section on Southampton’s new players, as I don’t really know much about them.

I know nothing about 22-year-old goalkeeper Angus Gunn who was brought in from Manchester City and spent last season on loan at Norwich, but given his age and £10m fee, it doesn’t feel as though he’s been signed just to watch Fraser Forster or Alex McCarthy play.

Last season I had Fraser Forster out perform his xG against (using just shots on target and shot quality), while I had McCarthy as the worst performer in the Premier League. This makes it seem as though Gunn could be seen as the long-term option in goal for Southampton, with Forster 30-years-old and McCarthy turning 29-years-old before the turn of the year.

Moving on, I know nothing about Stuart Armstrong from Celtic or Mohamed Elyounoussi from Basel. I’ve heard Elyounoussi mentioned quite a bit, but can’t claim to have really watched him. It seems as though he could be the replacement for Sofiane Boufal on the wing for Southampton. Boufal had great dribbling numbers, some of the best in Europe’s top five leagues (particularly after removing the twelve richest teams), but offered little output for Southampton, while reportedly falling out with manager Mark Hughes. At 24-years-old Elyounoussi is a good age and I’m excited to see how he gets on the Premier League – the fact he had 4 key passes in 34 minutes on his Premier League debut is encouraging.

At centre-back Southampton spent £22.5m on 25-year-old Vestergaard from Gladbach. I can’t comment much on his defending, but Vestergaard did have some fairly strong passing numbers last season. He had an xP Rating of 1.058, completed 59% of his 9.28 long-balls p90, attempted 4.21 vertical passes p90 with 2.28 of these being deemed long vertical passes. His passing numbers aren’t too different from Wesley Hoedts, with just a slightly better long-ball accuracy and ~1 more vertical pass p90. Southampton seem to possess two centre-backs, at a good age, who are very capable at playing the ball out from the back.

The final Southampton signing was Danny Ings on loan from Liverpool. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Danny Ings play regular football that I’m not sure just how good he is. In 2014/15, playing for relegated Burnley, he had an xG + xA of 0.49 p90 which is respectable. After a long time on the sidelines Southampton represent a good option for him to get some regular minutes, while he may help their woes in front of goal.

Outgoing

The big outgoings were Dusan Tadic for £10m to Ajax and the loans of Sofiane Boufal and Guido Carrillo.

Tadic was Southampton’s 3rd most productive player behind Austin and Long last season and may be missed in the final third. On the other hand, getting £10m for him at 29-year-old seems a pretty good fee, while if Southampton play a 3-4-3 you imagine Redmond and Elyounoussi will be behind the forward.

As previously mentioned, Boufal didn’t really work out at Southampton, but Celta seems like a fun place for him to go. @TiagoEstv recently wrote about Celta’s transfers on StatsBomb which is definitely worth reading.

Carrillo was a strange signing last year too. While the need for a new striker was fair and Carrillo had some strong numbers, it was pretty much all from the bench. In two seasons with Monaco he started 7 games and came on in 27. It’s easy for his numbers to look much better than they are in that, while game state can also play a big part, if he’s either coming on as their winning comfortably or if they’re throwing everything forward in search of a goal.

Conclusion

Should they have done any more business?

I don’t think so. They’ve added quite a few players at a good age. They don’t seem short or particularly weak in any area.

Verdict

I’m not sure what I think about Southampton’s window as I’m not too sure on a lot of the players. I’m leaning more towards it being more positive than negative, with Vestergaard and Elyounoussi being decent buys at a good age, albeit steep fees, while Ings offers another option up front.

I still don’t have too high hopes for Southampton and can picture them finishing in the bottom half, but I also think they still have enough talent to be better than that.

This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.

All transfer fees from TransferMarkt.

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