The overall performance and form of Nathaniel Clyne last season seemed to replicate that of Southampton’s last campaign. Both Clyne and Southampton made a storming start to the season which saw the right back break into the senior England set up and Southampton being ever present in the top four towards the end of November. After this, the Saints failed to maintain the consistent and impressive levels that they started the season with. Clyne was unable to reproduce his impressive early form and some suggest that even in the second half of the season, his head was already elsewhere with the defender knowing his time at St. Mary’s was most likely up come the end of the summer. And that it was. With one year left on his contract, the former Crystal Palace defender swapped St. Mary’s for Anfield just like three of his teammates did the summer prior.
As is commonly reported, the Southampton recruitment system had already scouted and shortlisted Clyne’s possible replacements before he had made the four hour journey north. Saints signed Sporting Lisbon’s Cedric Soares, another right back entering his last year of contract. The Portuguese right back joined Saints for a reported fee of £3.5m and has looked like another astute piece of business on the south coast.
From his first appearance in a Saints shirt, Cedric impressed. Most notably, his attacking endeavour was clear for all to see. On the opening weekend of the season, the 24-year-old enjoyed great freedom down the right hand side. He supplied the perfectly placed cross that Pelle was able to convert to give Saints the lead. This performance was a sign of what to come from Cedric and what to expect from the defender. The right back’s desire to attack as much as he defends makes him a perfect fit in Ronald Koeman’s system where full backs are expected to be another effective attacking outlet.
While Cedric’s attacking capabilities have never been an area for scrutiny, questions have often been raised about his defensive qualities during his early time at Southampton. At times, the Sporting Lisbon academy product looked off the pace and vulnerable at right back when he was asked questions defensively. Even after his impressive offensive display against Newcastle in the first game of the season, Cedric was substituted at half time with Newcastle causing the Saints defence problems and the right back looking exposed. In the match before the recent international break against Sunderland, centre back Maya Yoshida was preferred to Cedric at right back. The Japanese international was preferred to the first choice right back due to his stronger and taller presence against a typically direct and physical Sam Allardyce team.
However, Cedric has improved with each game. With each start, the right back looks more assured and accustomed in the Premier League. He has established a fine balance between his obvious and natural attacking capabilities and his evident and improving defensive capabilities that have taken time to adjust and implement in English football. He has disciplined himself well and has only received one yellow card since joining the Saints showing impressive defensive awareness.
October marked a key month for Cedric. The right back seemed to make leaps and bounds in settling into life on the south coast and in the Premier League. Southampton started October with an impressive win at Chelsea in which Cedric starred in as well as draws against Leicester City and Liverpool. Cedric has been able to settle in comfortably alongside captain, compatriot and close friend Jose Fonte. The addition of Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the defence has been an inspired signing and the reliability of Ryan Bertrand at left back has made Cedric form part of a solid defence that will hope to be just as mean and as successful as last campaign.
Cedric arrived at St. Mary’s with big football boots to fill. Clyne had made the right back spot his own in his three years at Southampton and had grown into the position as the Saints grew into the division. With the pressure on Cedric to make Clyne a distant but fond memory and the pressure with Southampton’s recruitment department to continue making shrewd signings to replace players, Southampton fans should be pleased with what they’ve seen so far. Cedric has shown what he’s capable of offensively and defensively whilst showing promise to keep developing – a key attribute in any Southampton signing.
Cedric spent more than half of his life at Sporting Lisbon after coming through their famed academy before his move to Southampton. With Saints’ ambition to field a squad made up of 50% of players from their famed academy, the Portuguese right back may have found a home from home on the south coast.
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