A Satisfying Transfer Window For Southampton. Part 2 The Incomings
Monday, 6th Sep 2021 11:29
Now the window is firmly slammed shut we continue our objective look at Saints dealings with a look at the incomings and for the first time in a few season's we actually have a fair few new signings to review.
The issue for Saints last season was never about quality in the squad it was always about quantity and it seems that Ralph Hasenhuttl has learnt a lesson here and was determined to ensure that he is never in the position again where he has to play untried youngsters.
From this numbers perspective he certainly has achieved that goal, after the departures we only really lost three players from last season who played any real game time, Danny Ings, Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard and if we discount Theo Walcott who joined permanently after his season on loan that means we have added 7 players to replace 3, indeed if we add the so far rejuvenated Moi Elyounoussi who spent the last two seasons on loan at Celtic to the mix , then it could be said we have increased the squad by 5 players from last season.
But having hopefully solved the numbers problem have we increased the quality, some Saints supporters have been very doom and gloom about last season, but it was one of two halves, the first with a full squad where we topped the Premier League for the first time ever and were still in the top 6 in January and the second half where injuries suddenly decimated us.
That suggested that the real issue in the squad wasn't quality but depth, so we have solved that issue, but have we solved that of quality.
After Theo Walcott whom I won't dwell on here due to his loan season last year, the first man in the door was Romain Perraud from Stade Brest for around £10.5 million, early sighting suggest a decent player and one that adds a combative element to the back four.
However strangely he seems almost surplus to requirements, suddenly we have gone from only having two full backs last season to having four and Ralph seems to have solved the problem of having the luxury of both Tino Livramento & Kyle Walker Peters on the right by moving KWP to the left back spot.
But for Perraud it gets worse in that we also signed Thierry Small from Everton, rated the best English full back prospect since Luke Shaw , I'll come to Small in a minute, but although Perraud looks a decent enough player and certainly has the potential to be a good player for Saints, he finds himself the 4th best full back at St Mary's and more to the point perhaps the 3rd best left back.
That is a good situation for Saints in that we have options and can mix and match a bit, but not good for the Frenchman.
But I wouldn't put money on who will play the most games at left back this season, Saints signed Thierry Small from Everton a player who turned down a professional contract at Goodison on his 17th birthday on 1st August and joined Saints.
Small wants first team football and he wants it now, Everton felt unable to be able to offer him that, they want to challenge for the Champions League spots and that being the case want experience not 17 year olds in their side.
So if Everton would not offer him that it seems Saints did, it is hard to see Small joining Saints without a form of guarantee that he will be a first team squad player and have a chance of breaking into the first team, put bluntly if he was going to play in an academy side he might as well have stayed at Goodison Park.
Small arrived with a big reputation, but short of match practice and pre season training, when he has had that in the coming weeks at Southampton, I expect to see him on the fringes of the first team, perhaps the League Cup tie at Sheffield United will come too early, but I would not be surprised to see him start in that game.
Everton were devastated at the loss of Small and it is said that they & Saints cannot come to an agreement over the compensation fee, Saints are offering the £1.5 million Chelsea accepted for Dynel Simeu, but Livramento cost £5 million and Everton will want at least that.
On the left we have the signing who has perhaps made the most impact, Tino Livramento is still only 18, he won't turn 19 until November, he had not made a first team appearance of any kind for Chelsea, he like Small and indeed Dynel Simeu could see no future at Stamford Bridge other than kicking around in the academy side, going out on loan and then eventually leaving.
He chose to play football and like the other two felt that St Mary's was the right place to further that aim, arguably he has been our best player in the three Premier League games he has started for Saints and his performance belies his inexperience, he is fast, fit and can get up and down the line, he is far from the finished article and Saints have to harness that potential, grow it and benefit from it.
So far this signing looks an absolute bargain at £5 million, sadly how long he is at St Mary's is open to debate, if he continues his good form an England cap in the next two years in inevitable.
So in conclusion we have signed two full backs who have very much improved the squad and given us not only the cover we lacked last season, but depth in that in KWP & Livramento we have players that can also play in midfield if needed, indeed I would like to see a right side that has both players in it.
In the centre of defence we have made two signings, first man in was a returning Prodigal son in Dynel Simeu, the central defender was brought up in Southampton but snatched from under our noses by Chelsea.
He like Livramento realised that his first team opportunities would be limited and chose to turn down a new deal and leave the club, still only 19 he too like Tino had never played for the first team, but he was a stalwart of the Chelsea academy side.
He of all the younger signings is probably one whom Saints think may well break into the first team squad during the season, but they are playing down his abilities so as not to put too much pressure on the player. He is said to be an organiser and a leader, but that is at youth level and it would be difficult for him to slot straight into that role in the Premier League.
However I think Saints will nurture him and make sure he develops before plunging him into the side, with full backs you can do that, but in the centre of defence it is a lot harder to throw in youngsters.
But I think he may have a bright future at the club and hopefully we will see him make his first team debut this season, certainly as Ralph showed with Livramento, he is not afraid to give youth a chance.
Also in for the back four was what turned out to be the final signing for the summer Lyanco, or to give him his full title Lyanco Evangelista Silveira Neves Vojnovic, if you put that on the back of your replica shirt it will cost you a few bob.
We paid around £6.75 million for his services for Torino, make no bones about it, we have not bought the finished article here, we needed an experienced leader of men in the back four, someone who had done the job in the top spheres and done it for a number of years, this is not Lyanco.
However this is a signing that Saints seem to do well, finding players under the radar with potential that has not yet been realised, who had heard of Michael Svensson, Claus Lundekvam, Dejan Lovren, or Toby Alderweireld a few years back or even Virgil Van Dijk to a lesser degree.
Lyanco at 24 has some experience, he has played top flight football in Brazil before moving to Italy in 2017 to join Torino, he played just 46 games in Serie A for Torino and another 13 in a half season loan to Bologna.
He has at times been first choice for Torino in the centre of defence, but at others not, so he has potential and Saints will hope that he also has that hunger and desire to succeed.
But is be better than Jan Bednarek and Mohamed Salisu, that is the question, at 24 he has experience, but is he the true leader of men we need in the back four, of that im not sure.
I think he could be a good signing, but he like others before him since Jose Fonte left the club may flounder without that leadership and organisation.
I have been saying this for almost 5 years now, we need leadership and we don't have it, the goals conceded in the premier League this season highlight that we are still conceding soft goals that are more down to a lack of concentration, discipline and organisation than a real lack of quality.
A central defensive partnership should see contrasting players, one who is the stopper and one that is a organiser, perhaps Salisu may be that man in time, but he is not quite there yet.
So is Lyanco that man ? We will soon find out, I truly hope he is !
The one signing we have made who is not on a permanent deal is Armado Broja, he has played just 4 minutes for Chelsea and spent last season in Holland playing for Vitesse Arnhem in the Eridivisie scoring 10 goals in 21 starts plus 9 as sub, a decent return.
He showed in the game at Newport that he is a big strong player with a turn of pace and an eye for goal, I wouldn't bet against him playing a major role this season and he will prove not only competition for Adams & Armstrong but a genuine scoring option off the bench.
So for the final review of this article we come to the player for whom we paid the highest fee for Adam Armstrong.
In many respects he is the man all eyes will be on, we lost three players from last season as i mentioned right at the start, but in two of them we didn't lose much, Ryan Bertrand looked to be slowing up and had lost his enthusiasm and Jannik Vestergaard had 10 games in which he was decent, but then after returning from injury he reverted back to his previous two years at the club, he was neither leader or organiser and out of position too many times, teams knew if they cut out the diagonal ball and marked him at set pieces then his contribution was minimal.
But the man who will be missed is Danny Ings and from that perspective we can measure whether Adam Armstrong is a success or failure, last season in the Premier League Ings scored 12 goals for Saints and with Che Adams scoring 9 the partnership was 21 goals.
That is the task for Adams, he will be judged mainly on how many goals he scores himself, but to a lesser degree it is about how he blends with Adams and for that matter Armando Broja.
The early signs are that Armstrong is capable of getting a dozen goal, a great finish at Everton saw him make it a scoring debut and he has got into some decent positions in the other two games.
The partnership with Adams looks like it could be a good one, Adams winning the ball at Everton and laying it off for Armstrong to score, indeed the partnership in many ways could be said to already be a goal apiece, Adams deflected shot being credited as an own goal.
Ralph Hasenhuttl will be satisfied with his main two strikers so far and I would suggest that whether Ings is replaced with success should not just be judged on goals scored by Armstrong himself, although that of course is important, but on how many the strikers score themselves, not just Adams & Armstrong but also Broja, it is just as much about the team total than individuals.
Armstrong is a different player to Ings, he is shorter and more mobile, he works hard both on and off the ball, yes Ings also did that, but he was more a target man, Armstrong will not offer the aerial threat that Ings did, in many respects Armstrong's role will be a little different than Ings was.
Last season Ings would be the target man with Che Adams playing off him, but that is now reversed, Adams in the more central player there to win the ball, flick it on or hold it up and bring his partner into play as happened at Everton.
In this respect the aim of scoring 21 goals between them could also said to be reversed, Adams got 9 last year, could he get 12 this term if so then the pressure is off Armstrong a little.
Personally I think both are capable of double figures this season, if they manage that then Ings will have been successfully replaced, but I think we could get more, the addition of Broja will bring goals on top and perhaps even Moi Elyounoussi will fire in a few.
So in conclusion this has been a good transfer window for Saints in terms of numbers, it has been good in that we have had three players come into the side in Livramento, Perraud & Armstrong who are clearly of the standard required.
As it stands from what we have seen so far of the new signings we are capable of finishing comfortably in mid table, the loss of Danny Ings is a blow, but given he missed over a quarter of the season through injury and only scored 12 goals in the Premier League, it is not a loss that can't be replaced.
The real question is not so much about the three new players who have already played in the Premier League starting line up, but about those who have yet to do so, if the likes of Broja, Lyanco, Small & to a lesser extent Simeu prove to be astute signings then that could be the difference between finishing 15th again or pushing towards the top 10 as we did two seasons ago.
Certainly in 2019/20 our squad was far smaller and not as strong as the one we have now, there are many things to be pleased about with this transfer window, it wasn't a perfect one , but it saw a change in what Saints can now do in the transfer window, the departures of some big earners who were out on loan has freed up money for new signings wages.
I have seen some mention the net spend league and how Saints are yet again bottom, I don't really look at things like that, it is better the spend £20 million and spend it well than spent £100 million badly.
Too many equate spending multi millions as having ambition, I don't, last summer Everton & Aston Villa both spent around £100 million, what did they get for that ? 10th & 11th place is the answer, they have the ambition to be in the top 6, but at the moment they don't have the money.
Last season was more successful for Saints than both those clubs, none of us got into Europe, but we got to an FA Cup semi final, for their £80 million or so extra money they both got around an extra £10- £12 million prize money from the Premier League, tell me in what business it is good practice to pay out that much extra to make so much less.
At the moment football is at a crossroads, a European Super League is the only way forward if we are to make the Premier League competitive again, sadly it means cutting the big clubs adrift into the ESL and letting the rest of us actually have a chance of winning something again.
Photo: Action Images
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