Southampton Preview

Manager: Ronald Koeman
Stadium: St Mary’s Stadium
Captain: José Fonte
Top Scorer: Graziano Pellé (16)

Southampton were expected to be in a relegation scrap last season following a mass exodus of players to the north west but Southampton refused to lie down and performed admirably to find themselves in European contention.

Southampton were a tough side to beat last season and started the season very strongly with home form serving the side well. They recorded an impressive 4-0 win over Newcastle and a 3-1 win away against West Ham in a run that saw them in 2nd place at the end of September having only lost 1 game to Liverpool on the opening day of the season. October saw Southampton’s biggest win of the season as they annihilated Sunderland 8-0, it showed just how dangerous Southampton could be and players such as Schneiderlin and Pellé demonstrating just what they could do given the ball and freedom to play.

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 26, 2014 in London, England.

A run of 4 defeats through November and December saw Southampton slip out of the top 4 the tough defeats to Manchester United and and Manchester City at St Mary’s were disheartening for fans and it looked as though the dream of European football could be about to turn. Southampton did turn things back in their favour though with notable victories over Arsenal and Manchester United as well as a well fought 1-1 draw with champions Chelsea. Southampton’s March and April form was patchy but Southampton kept just enough wins going their way as they secured European football partly thanks to a 6-1 obliteration of Aston Villa on the penultimate weekend finishing the season in 7th place.

After last season the club have blocks to build with, a squad full of talent and a strong academy set up with the under 21’s defeating Blackburn to win the under 21’s Premiership Cup after an amazing strike from forward Sam Gallagher. This season is a chance for Southampton to prove they can consistently be a top 6/7 team and regularly secure European football if they can achieve that then that in itself will be considered a victory and a satisfactory outcome to what looks to be a difficult season ahead.

Tadic had a wonderful season on the south coast his attacking ability coupled with pace made him a danger on a number of levels. The attacking midfielder gave defenders headaches with his ability on the ball and he provided an awful lot of chances throughout the course of the season if he continue in that sort of form Southampton will fancy their chances against even the best teams.

Tadic on the ball for Southampton against Millwall.

Tadic on the ball for Southampton against Millwall.

Southampton have brought in a few new faces, most notably perhaps is Cédric Soares from Sporting, the 23 year old is a very talented right back able to attack and defend. The Portuguese international will look to bolster options for Koeman at the back which had a settled look about it towards the table end of last season. Another big signing for the club is Juanmi the 22 year old from Spain has been a huge player for former club Malaga last season making 38 appearances and scoring 8 goals in the process for the La Liga side.

New signing Cédric Soares posing at St Mary's.

New signing Cédric Soares posing at St Mary’s.

A few well known faces have left for the north west once again poaching the south coast stars. England right back Nathaniel Clyne leaves for Anfield after Johnson left Liverpool following a couple of disappointing seasons for the former England number 1. Clyne will be a huge loss after a wonderful display of talent throughout the season he and Bertrand very strong for the club making a huge difference. Another huge loss is that of French midfielder Scehneiderlin who will join former teammate Luke Shaw at Old Trafford, Schneiderlin who has been a key part of that Saints midfield for the last few years leaves a huge hole in the heart of Southampton. He is a big loss to a team that is finding it increasingly hard to keep hold of their top stars as the team continue to improve. Boruc is also another big miss but with a lot of competition for the goalkeepers starting berth at St Mary’s with players like Forster, Davis and Gazzaniga all competing along with securing Stekelenburg on loan.

IN: Cédric Soares (Sporting CP, £4.7 million)
Juanmi (Malaga, Undisclosed)
Cuco Martina (FC Twente, Undisclosed)
Jordy Clasie (Feyernoord, Undisclosed)

OUT: Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool, £12.5 million)
Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United, Undisclosed)
Artur Boruc (Bournemouth, Free)
Cody Cropper (MK Dons, Free)
Jos Hooiveld (AIK, Free)
Dani Osvaldo (FC Porto, Free)
Jake Sinclair (Free Agents, Free)
Omar Rowe (Free Agents, Free)

Southampton have made some good additions to the squad but it looks as though the departures may have a much bigger impact on the squad. Europe could be a stretch too far but I still expect them to finish in the top half (just).

My Southampton XI (4-3-2-1): 44 F.Forster; 2 C.Soares 6 J.Fonte (C) 26 S.Caulker 21 R.Bertrand; 16 J.Ward-Prowse 12 V.Wanyama 11 D.Tadic; 10 S.Mané 9 J.Rodriguez; 19 G.Pellé

Bench: 1 K.Davis 33 M.Targett 15 C.Martina 8 S.Davis 4 J.Clasie 7 S.Long 20 Juanmi

Last Season: 7th
Prediction: 10th

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Arsenal: Preview

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Stadium: Emirates Stadium
Captain: Mikel Arteta
Top Scorer: Alexis Sanchez (25)

Arsenal are one of the best teams in the country and from November time onwards the north Londoners were in excellent form. They were exceptionally hard to beat at the Emirates Stadium last year.

Arsenal have this amazing ability to mix the sublime brilliance with the horrific mistakes that cost teams titles which may explain Arsenal’s decade long trophy drought which haunted Arsenal until the 2013/14 season.

They walked away from last season once again having shown the inconsistency we have come to expect from the north London club having been as low as 8th in early December they then couldn’t stop winning after beating Manchester City 2-0 on 18th January.

On 10th February they started a staggering run of eight league wins as they beat Leicester City 2-1. It could only be ended by Chelsea in a 0-0 draw. This amazing run of form is the type of form that has made Arsenal such a formidable force not just in England but also Europe during that run they also defeated Monaco 2-0 away but crashed out of the Champions League due to the away goals rule.

Two trophies for Arsenal though marked a terrifically typical Arsenal season, Wenger walks away with the FA Cup and the Community Shield which must come as a huge relief to Arsenal fans.

Arsenal after their 4-0 win  over Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final.

Arsenal after their 4-0 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final.

The revelation of last year was the Chilean midfielder Sanchez who arrived from Barcelona promising much and he delivered netting 25 goals in all competitions 16 of which came in the Premier League. He will be key to Arsenal if they are to mount a title challenge this season.

Alexis Sanchez celebrating one of his 25 goals last season.

Alexis Sanchez celebrating one of his 25 goals last season.

Arsenal have not had a busy summer having only recruited one senior player for next year. They’ve recruited the experienced Cech from rivals Chelsea. The Czech keeper spent 11 seasons at Stamford Bridge racking up 333 appearances for Chelsea and winning numerous trophies in that time. He may well fill a shirt that Ospina and Szczesny just couldn’t nail down last season.

New Signing Petr Cech posing in Arsenal kit.

New Signing Petr Cech posing in Arsenal kit.

The Gunners have seen two faces leave the Emirates Stadium, in the form of French defender Diaby and striker Podolski. The former France international spent nine seasons at Arsenal making 125 appearances for the club scoring 14 goals in the process. He failed to impress enough to make himself a regular under Wenger. Podolski arrived in 2012 but spent a large part of last year on loan at Inter Milan having failed to make the lone striker’s shirt his own. The capture of Danny Welbeck last summer sealed the German’s fate.

IN: Petr Cech (Chelsea, Undisclosed)

OUT: Abou Diaby (Free Agent, Free)
Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray, Undisclosed)

If Arsenal can replicate their form at the tail end of last season there is no reason they can’t finish 2nd and mount a serious title challenge. One thing is for sure it will be an interesting season for Arsenal.

My Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): 33 P.Cech; 2 M.Debuchy 6 L.Koscielny (C) 5 Gabriel 3 K.Gibbs; 34 F.Coquelin 19 S.Cazorla; 17 A.Sanchez 10 J.Wilshere 11 M.Özil; 12 O.Giroud

Bench: 1 W.Szczesny 24 H.Bellerin 21 C.Chambers 8 M.Arteta 15 A.Oxlade-Chamberlain 14 T.Walcott 23 D.Welbeck

Last Season: 3rd
Prediction: 2nd