Nobody expected Southampton to struggle to the extent that they have this season.
The Saints’ recruitment policy was always likely to cause a poor season at some point, but the talent that they have in their squad led many to believe that they were too good for a relegation battle.
Unfortunately, the club’s quality hasn’t been enough to keep them out of the bottom three and they currently sit in the relegation zone with three matches left to play.
Dusan Tadic was the hero as he produced the two goals required to see off the Cherries in a South Coast derby.
The Serbian international has blown hot and cold since arriving in the Premier League, but he has the star quality to fire Southampton to safety.
The Saints are in the position they are in for many reasons, but one of their main downfalls has been their attack.
They haven’t scored enough goals and had failed to score in five of their last eight matches in all competitions prior to Saturday.
It was obvious they needed one of their attackers to step up and be more clinical in the final third.
Although Tadic is known for his creativity, he can offer a direct goal threat and he did that against Bournemouth.
He had two chances and took both in a show of clinical finishing that had eluded Southampton during recent weeks.
The first was a smart finish after a quick counter-attack from the home side, while the second was a great strike that required precision and guile.
Southampton didn’t have it all their own way and Bournemouth caused them problems, but the performance from Tadic in the final third provided the cutting edge required to secure a crucial win.
There are some players that struggle to play in a team battling relegation and shy away as the pressure increases.
Some may have thought the Serbian would fit into that category, but he proved his worth to the team and there will now be a number of supporters hoping that he can finish the season strongly.
Aside from his two goals, Tadic had an impact in both halves of the pitch and was clearly the best player on the park.
He completed three dribbles and ended the match with a pass success rate of 89%, which is very impressive considering he had the ball in advanced areas.
The 29-year-old looked after possession well and made five key passes to influence the match.
It may be a cliché, but every player in a team battling relegation-threatened team needs to show fight and desire first and foremost.
That may be the minimum requirement, but it is a requirement nonetheless and Tadic gave his all for the team. He covered a lot of ground and made two tackles to lead the defensive effort from the front.
Tadic has had better seasons in England and he, alongside the rest of the squad, will feel that he could have contributed more over the course of the season.
However, those thoughts need to go to the back of the head and the focus needs to be on the task at hand.
It won’t be easy for Southampton to survive in the division, but if they are to be successful, their 29-year-old creative midfielder will need to deliver more performances like the one against Bournemouth.
One winner and loser from Southampton’s pre-season campaign
The Saints go marching into a new campaign under Mark Hughes.
Southampton are hoping for a much more stable season this term under Mark Hughes, after a disappointing campaign last year.
The Saints have spent this summer to draft in the likes of Jannik Vestergaard and Mohamed Elyounoussi, while a Deadline Day deal was completed yesterday for the services of Danny Ings on loan from Premier League rivals Liverpool.
Here, we have identified one winner and one loser from the club’s pre-season campaign.
Winner: Danny Ings
It may seem strange that the man set to benefit most from pre-season is a player who is yet to kick a ball for Southampton but that is the case for Danny Ings, after it became clear the Saints desperately need an attacking boost.
Before the arrival of the former Burnley man, Southampton looked extremely toothless in the final third and were left crying out for a player to provide an impact – which may work in Ings’ favour, as he’s looking to get his career back-on-track after numerous injury problems during his spell at Anfield.
That is a concern for Southampton, as there is no guarantees he will remain fit, which could leave fans praying throughout the campaign.
“The two clubs obviously had to come to an arrangement where they were comfortable with the deal on offer and in the end we got to the point where it was a win win situation for both clubs and, more importantly, for Danny as well, because he’s come to a club he’s clearly got a lot of affection for and maybe a point to prove.”
Loser: Wesley Hoedt
A regular in defence throughout pre-season, Wesley Hoedt was arguably the worst performer of the lot for Southampton and is leaves Mark Hughes with a major decision to make ahead of tomorrow’s opening clash against Burnley.
Many fans are calling for Ryan Bertrand to play centrally, providing more opportunities for Matt Targett down the left side, and that could materialise after he remained at the club on Deadline Day despite continued interest from Fulham.
The signing of Vestergaard could also lead to decreased opportunities for the Dutch defender, who played 28 matches for the Saints last term.
Fulham’s Joe Bryan hijack surely means Matt Targett will stay at Southampton
The left-back spent the end of last season on loan at Fulham.
Fulham have hijacked a move for Bristol City left-back Joe Bryan. It appeared the player was on his way to Aston Villa in a £6 million deal. However, as reported by Sky Sports, Fulham’s 11th hour move has left Aston Villa gutted and Bryan on the cusp of Premier League football.
But whilst Aston Villa may be left devastated by the decision of Bryan, it will be music to the ears for Southampton.
This summer the Saints have been working hard to keep Matt Targett at the club. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Fulham and thrived at Craven Cottage. The 22-year-old is therefore in Mark Hughes plans for the upcoming season, but Fulham have been tempting them with offers all summer.
Most recently, as reported by the Mirror, Fulham were willing to pay around £15 million for the player.
Eventually, Southampton would have found it hard to keep him. But the England under-21 international is now unlikely to head to Fulham with Bryan on his way to the Cottage.
Next season the young Southampton talent will be expected to battle it out with Ryan Bertrand for the number one left-back spot. Indeed, he could even find himself in a back-three if he performs like he did for Fulham last term.
And it looks like it might work out for all parties with another Southampton left-back, Sam McQueen, set to join Bristol City as Bryan’s replacement.
Southampton will now need to ensure they use Targett sensibly, as he could become a major asset to the club in the years to come.
Five ins and outs Southampton could complete on Deadline Day
Southampton could be set for a busy day.
Mark Hughes faces a tough ask at Southampton this season as the club looks to bounce back from a disappointing campaign last term.
The Saints have landed impressive signings that include Mohamed Elyounoussi and Jannik Vestergaard this summer but further deals could be on the horizon on Deadline Day, concerning both ins and outs.
Here, we have identified five pieces of business Southampton could complete before the 5pm deadline.
Matt Targett to Fulham
With Ryan Bertrand well established as first choice at Southampton, speculation has circulated for a while concerning Matt Targett after his successful stint on loan with Fulham in the second half of last season – and the Cottagers want a permanent deal.
TeamTalk states Fulham have lodged an improved bid of around £14m to bring the 23-year-old full-back to Craven Cottage and will push to complete a deal before the deadline, with Southampton potentially open to offers.
Targett came through the youth ranks on the south coast and has made 27 Premier League appearances.
Stanislav Lobotka: Celta Vigo
A late swoop for Celta Vigo midfielder Stanislav Lobotka is said to be on the table from Southampton, who are keen to bolster their ranks in the middle of the park amidst speculation suggesting that exits could be on the cards.
The Times states Southampton have made an approach worth around £20m for the Slovakia international, also said to be a target for Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain, with the LaLiga side rejecting the bid and demanding any party matches his release clause.
According to The Evening Standard, that figure stands at £31m.
James Ward-Prowse to Watford
Southampton could be tempted to cash in on James Ward-Prowse on Deadline Day amidst interest from Watford, with Mark Hughes already having the likes of Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina to choose from in central midfield.
The Sun states Javi Gracia’s Watford have made an approach worth around £10m for Ward-Prowse, while Sky Sports claim the offer from the Hornets is a loan deal – although Southampton seem reluctant to approve a departure.
23-year-old Ward-Prowse made 30 appearances for the Saints last term, scoring three goals and contributing three assists.
Martin Montoya: Valencia
Southampton are eyeing a Deadline Day move for Valencia’s former Barcelona defender Martin Montoya, according to reports, as Mark Hughes looks to bolster his defensive ranks with the services of the right-back.
FootballInsider states both Southampton and Brighton are vying for the services of the 27-year-old, who has fallen down the pecking order at the Champions League side following their capture of Cristiano Piccini.
Valencia are happy to listen to offers but time is running out and Real Betis hold an advantage in negotiations, as they can discuss a deal until the end of August.
Sam McQueen leaving on loan
A deal that is likely to hinge heavily on whether Matt Targett remains at Southampton today or returns to Fulham, it has been reported that Bristol City are keen to land Sam McQueen from the Saints as a replacement for Joe Bryan.
That’s according to FootballInsider, who state the Robins want a replacement for Bryan who, in a late twist, is set to snub an approach from Aston Villa in order to seal a move to Fulham – which could then end the Cottagers’ interest in Targett.
With the Football League’s loan window not closing until the end of August, Bristol still have plenty of time to negotiate a deal.
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