2019/20 Season Review - The Central Midfield
Friday, 31st Jul 2020 09:48
We move a little further forward into the midfield to take a look at what we did good & bad during the season just ended, the good news is that the further up the pitch we go the better it gets.
The midfield was an area with plenty of choices last season, in the centre we had James Ward Prowse, Pierre Emile Hojbjerg , Oriol Romeu and the option to play Stuart Armstrong in a central role.
Let's start with the player that wants to leave to play Champions League football Pierre Emile Hojbjerg, now I am not one to change my opinion on the abilities of a player just because he wants to go, I have often said that our strength is the Southampton Way of taking a player and improving him and then selling him on.
The key to that though is the player himself, he needs to have drive and ambition, our problems aren't having players who want to play Champions League football it's having those who don't.
In my book Hojbjerg had a reasonable season, he started most of the games before the lockdown and put in a shift, he is a Premier League standard player, but is he a top 4 club player, I would say no, he won't win you Champions League finals or Premier League titles, he will though put in 100%.
His game just has a few too many flaws to make him top notch, his passing ability and lack of goals being issues, too many simple passes go astray and despite getting into scoring positions, he can't finish as his grand total of 0 goals in any competition showed.
I wish him well wherever he goes, but I fear if it is Spurs he will find things hard with too much on his shoulders and if it is Everton, he will be no better off than here.
James Ward Prowse however came of age and in any other season would have been player of the year, Danny Ings was just exceptional.
Early on he had his critics, but I felt they were being unfair, the issue for JWP was he was too versatile so you would never know where he would be played and when subs came on he was often shuffled around to accommodate, but in the latter part of the season when he got a run in his best role in the centre he showed what he can do, being handed the captaincy was a confidence booster not a weight on his shoulders and he can be a big player next season.
Oriol Romeu was overshadowed by Hojbjerg at one point in the season, in the first part of the season the Dane was preferred and Romeu often found himself on the bench, but when we returned after lockdown, Hojbjerg was dropped and Romeu did a job, some had forgot that he was actually a good player and former player of the year to boot, personally I would like to see him give a new deal and the Hojbjerg money used elsewhere in the team.
New kid on the block was Will Smallbone, at the turn of the year he was just a name in the academy ranks, but a goal on his debut in the FA Cup against Huddersfield showed that he could play a little and he ended up starting 4 games plus another 5 as sub and he made contributions including a sliding tackle in the final game against Sheffield United that put Che Adams through for one of his goals in that game.
This coming season could see Smallbone make a real impression.
We will see soon whether Ralph will make a signing to replace Hojbjerg or replace from within, one option could be Jack Stephens, sadly he has flaws in his game as a central defender that mean he will never truly be a top player in that position, but he could well be converted into a holding midfielder, he has a great ability to carry the ball forward and this is something that we have lacked.
All in all I don't think we will miss the departure of Hojbjerg, even if we don't sign a replacement, we have the cover already at the club.
Photo: Action Images
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