Sport Editor Jack Pethick gives you a quick guide on the players to look out for if you find yourself in the stands at Saint Mary’s this season.
Now that you are well and truly settled into the Southampton life, it is almost compulsory to have Southampton as your second or even first football team that you support (unless you’re a Portsmouth or Bournemouth fan of course!) Their relatively inexpensive tickets – compared to most other teams in the Premier League anyway – make seeing a Southampton game relatively easy whilst you’re at uni. Just a short walk from Above Bar Street, Saint Mary’s is one of the nicest grounds in the Premier League with a friendly atmosphere about it. Southampton had a fantastic season last year, finishing 7th in the league table and achieving their highest points tally ever in the Premier League – their success meant that a number of key players such as Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne and were snapped up by bigger clubs, and a squad overhaul was needed by Ronal Koeman.
If you do manage to find yourself down at Saint Mary’s this season, we here at the Wessex Scene have provided a quick guide for some of the key players both new and old to look out for at Southampton this season:
Virgil Van Dijk
Arriving from Celtic on transfer deadline day for a reported fee of around £11.5 million, Van Dijk is a centre-half who’s both powerful and comfortable on the ball. A lot of bigger clubs such as Manchester United were reportedly interested in the Dutch international, so although the fee of £11.5 million may seem sizeable for a club such as Southampton, I would argue that it’s an absolute steal. Van Djik has already showed signs that he’ll play well alongside club captain Jose Fonte and his comfortable nature on the ball means he’ll be a perfect fit for the system and style manager Ronald Koeman likes to play.
A player who has big shoes to fill at right-back following the departure of Nathaniel Clyne to Liverpool earlier in the summer. After gaining his first full cap for Portugal in 2014, Soares is a player who would be described as a fast and defensively sound full-back who again is comfortable on the ball. Still only 24, it will be interesting to see how he develops over the course of the season.
Another player who has big shoes to fill at Southampton this year. Morgan Schneiderlin was key to Southampton’s success last year, so it will be interesting to see if Classie plays a similar role to Schneiderlin over the course of the season. Dubbed by some as the “Dutch Xavi”, Classie is a short but stocky central-midfielder who is both good in possession and defensively, he should play a key role if Southampton are to succeed again this year.
“Jay-Rod”, as he is known to most Saints fans, has been with Southampton since 2013 and had quickly became a fan-favourite following the impressive amount of goals he scored for the club in the 2013-2014 season. However, in March 2014 Rodriguez ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, ruling him out for 11 months in the process, just a few months after he received his first England call-up. But now he’s back to full fitness it will be interesting to see if he can re-capture his goal-scoring form and get back in the England squad in time for the European Championships.
Although just 20 years of age, this is a big season for the young midfielder. Being recently made the captain of the England U-21 side, Ward-Prowse has been impressive thus far this season for Southampton and has a real chance if he stays fit and on form to make the plane for the European Championship’s with England. A similar player in terms of style to Classie, Ward-Prowse is both defensively sound and has a good passng range.
After signing for Southampton in the summer of 2014, Pelle quickly became a fan favourite with his red-hot start to the season, scoring 8 goals in the opening 2 months of the season, however, Pelle was unable to maintain this form, finishing with just 12 league goals by the end of the season. At the start of this season it appears that Pelle will continue to be the main striker up-front, acting as the target-man and focal point of Southampton’s attacking play. Pelle will need to re-capture his goal scoring form if Southampton are to be a success again this season.