Southampton are one of the most likeable teams in the Premier League. Their system of bringing through British talent from youth level makes it easy to appreciate the club in an age where big money transfers dominate the sport. From the past players such as Wayne Bridge, Matt Le Tissier and Dennis Wise all came through the youth system. In more recent times they have produced Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana. Not to mention current players such as James Ward-Prowse who have come through the youth ranks. While the philosophy that is clearly in place is admirable they are struggling in the final third of the pitch. For the club to reach the next level and push for European football it is obvious they must add goals.
Southampton’s transfer window has been frustrating. The constant talk of star centre back Virgil Van Dijk leaving the club led new manager Mauricio Pellegrino to reinforce Southampton’s defence. Jan Bednarek and Wesley Hoedt signed from Lech Poznan and Lazio respectively taking a total of £20 million out of the ‘Saints’ transfer budget. A further £15 million was splashed out on Juventus midfielder Mario Lemina. While it is a great signing he does not score a major amount of goals. Outgoing from Southampton’s attacking position is Jay Rodriguez who left for West Brom who added 5 goals last term for the St Mary’s Stadium club.
Why is there a problem in the goals department for Southampton? Last season was a solid one for the ‘Saints’. A par for the course eighth place finish was achieved. It could have been so much better. The south coast team conceded 48 times which was the best defensive record outside the top seven. However, they only scored 41 times in the league. The amount of goals scored by Southampton was only greater than the bottom five sides. If they would have scored more goals they could have broken into Europe last season.
What has the club done about it in the summer? This is a pretty straight forward question to ask and a valid one at that. The answer unfortunately is nothing. No forwards have been brought in and rumours regarding new strikers coming in are on existent. Clearly the manager believes that the current set of strikers are good enough to fire them to a higher finish this season.
What do the ‘Saints’ currently have at their disposal?
Last season he scored the most goals in the Premier League for Southampton scoring on 7 occasions. Playing mainly on the flanks he was involved in all but one of last seasons league fixtures. The pressure he must be feeling this season is huge. After a decent return last season the lack of investment in the attacking department means that anything less than his return from last season will be a failure. Redmond is a brilliant talent but he should not have the pressure of getting goals as it will effect his wing play.
A shoulder injury meant that Austin did not feature as heavily as he may have done last term. His goal return was impressive when he did play. In the Premier League he scored 6 times in just 11 starts and 4 substitute appearances. Perhaps the new manager believes that this contribution over a more sustained period could put Southampton in European place contention.
At the start of this season he has not started in the Premier League. His only start has come in the League Cup and he was taken off before the games conclusion. He scored from the spot in the dramatic 3-2 victory over West Ham but did not feature at all in the next game, a 0-0 draw with Huddersfield. Injuries have hindered his progress at Southampton and it is difficult to understand if the new manager fancies him or not.
The first choice striker so far this season scored 4 times in the league last season in 10 starts. Bought in January from Napoli for £14 million he has started all the league games so far this season scoring his first and so far only goal against West Ham. His ability is clear and performances such as the one against Manchester United in last years League Cup final show how much potential the Italian striker has.
Having had 6 months to settle in last year he could be the spark the forward area needs. With his ability to play in many areas it is difficult to see where he performs best. Southampton see him as an out and out striker but he has been used as a support striker frequently in his career.
The Irishman has been a loyal workhorse who has chipped in with goals now and then for Southampton since he signed from Hull in 2014. Last season he was able to add 3 goals in his 33 appearances. With Long a manager knows they will get a hard-working front man but he may not get you the goals you need. He has played 36 minutes this season being brought off the bench twice.
Tadic is a talented player but similar to Redmond he does not play through the middle. He is better accustomed to playing out wide or deeper in the centre of the pitch. In 33 appearances last season he managed 3 goals. Within the squad Tadic is more of a creator than a goalscorer. He grabbed a goal in the second game of the season against West Ham, the only league game the ‘Saints’ have scored in so far this season.
Signed at the start of last season from Lille he was largely disappointing last year. Just the single goal from him in the league last season in 24 appearances. He has climbed off the bench once so far this season.
Southampton have a lack of options in the final third. If they are going to improve on their efforts last season they have a few routes to go down. They can place their faith in Gabbiadini as their lead striker, hope Austin can stay fit and contribute and Long can continue chipping in. Or they can go out and buy a proven goalscorer. To improve they need to recruit well. Another player who is direct from wide areas could also balance out their attacking options for the year.
Whatever they decide to do their reputation as one of the countries leading developers of talent will still be in tact. It is an important year for the ‘Saints’ with a new man in charge and coming off a solid top half finish. If they add goals to the team it could be a seriously good season for them.