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Why stability at St. Mary’s could see Southampton replicate Leicester next season

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Having key players linked to moves away from St. Mary’s seems to be a reoccurring theme recently and it’s something Southampton fans have become accustomed to. Despite Ronald Koeman clearly stating that nobody will be sold in January, speculation persists that some of the league’s biggest clubs are after the likes of Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Shane Long.

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Speculation was fuelled after the 1-0 loss to Norwich at the beginning of January when Sadio Mane was dropped for disciplinary reasons and Victor Wanyama was given his marching orders after picking up two needless yellow cards. Many people saw Mane’s actions of turning up late to a pre-match meeting as a way to force through a move away from St. Mary’s whilst Wanyama’s red card raised questions over the Kenyan’s attitude and commitment to the Saints. Koeman publicly placed the duo on the Southampton naughty step in his post-match comments insisting that any player trying to force through a move away from St. Mary’s would spend the rest of their time on the south coast sitting in the stands.

Saints legend Matt le Tissier revealed in an interview that he was informed that Mane was late to the meeting due to not being informed of a time change. This along with recent news from an African football media outlet claiming that Wanyama is keen to extend his contract with Southampton will make pleasant hearing for Saints fans. Despite playing for a bigger club and earning more money, Wanyama, Mane and any other player that could be looking for a move away from St. Mary’s should take note of those that have left have left the club recently and realise that the grass isn’t always greener.

Take the quartet of players that swapped St. Mary’s for Anfield, for example. Executive Director of Football Les Reed probably still cracks a smile at the fact he managed to get £20m for Dejan Lovren; a player that has been heavily criticised for his defensive mistakes and one who, recently, has since been watching most Liverpool games from the bench. Adam Lallana struggled to make an impact in his debut season under Brendan Rodgers but looks as if he’ll thrive under Jurgen Klopp who plays a similar brand of football to the one that Lallana thrived under at Southampton. Nathaniel Clyne has had a relatively steady start to his career at Liverpool but is part of a Liverpool backline that has struggled to keep the ball out of their net as of late. Perhaps the most disappointing of the four that left for Liverpool is Rickie Lambert. Some suggest that Rodgers used the scouser as a tool to try and get Lallana and Lovren to follow. Lambert didn’t get the game time that he deserved and has now had to leave his dream club behind to get sporadic appearances in a West Brom shirt.

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Southampton youth product Calum Chambers left for Arsenal but after a decent start, has struggled to get a place in Wenger’s starting 11 whilst fellow academy graduate Luke Shaw struggled with injuries in his debut campaign at Old Trafford. The left back started this season strongly but is one of a number of United full backs that have been spending most of their time in the treatment room with long term injuries. This summer, Shaw was joined by Morgan Schneiderlin at United. Schneiderlin has arguably been the biggest miss out of the players that have left the Saints over the past 18 months with defensive midfield positions in Southampton’s side being one that has seen a lot of rotation over the course of the season. It is particularly gutting to not see Schneiderlin playing on a consistent basis in United’s team as his loyalty and commitment to Southampton deserves first team football at the highest level.

This season has definitely been a chance missed for Southampton with the unpredictability meaning opportunities for new teams to break into the top five or six. Whilst the club will look at the opening half of the season as a disappointing on the whole, with 15 games left and the Saints in good form, there is still definitely the opportunity to achieve something this season. The players at the club now will hopefully look to those that have left and see that it hasn’t always been beneficial to leave the club for irregular playing time and greater expectancy.

Southampton is a club with ambition. Whilst many people will suggest selling your top talent contradicts that, the ability to sign a player like Charlie Austin, who could have walked into pretty much any team when his contract expired at the end of the season, is a great piece of business and a terrific signing. With Koeman halfway through his contract, he’s beginning to be asked questions over the possibility of a contract extension. His response has been that it is dependent on the ambition shown by the board of the club. After the reported £4m transfer of Austin, Koeman said that the transfer displayed exactly the sort of ambition from the club that he’s after.

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Stability at the club is now key. A commitment from Koeman is crucial in ensuring that the club’s top talent stays put at St. Mary’s. A commitment from the boss, ambition from the board and hopefully the awareness that a move away from the club may not always be as rosy as it seems will hopefully keep this group of players together as well as a few to strengthen. Then, what next? Maybe, just maybe, Saints fans can dream that this time next season, they are where Leicester are.

Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Huma Khan.

Dan is a Journalism student at UWE and is an aspiring football journalist. His first ever football match was Southampton's 3-2 win over Leeds in 2003 and he has been a Saints fan ever since.

West Ham United

What’s next for Jordan Hugill after becoming a West Ham outcast?

The former Preston striker has had a difficult time since his January move.

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When Jordan Hugill signed for West Ham United on January 31, many in east London had high hopes for the former Preston North End striker.

However, nearly three months later, the 25-year-old striker has played a grand total of 22 minutes for the Hammers and registered no goals.

The West Ham outcast must now look for a move back to the Championship to end his Premier League exile.

Hugill earned his big move to the top flight after an impressive first half of the 2017/18 season that saw him score ten times for the Lilywhites. The forward was coming off a productive 2016/17 season when he bagged 12 goals and was Preston’s top scorer.

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But his time at the London Stadium has been a deeply disappointing one. Hugill has played on a paltry three occasions for the Hammers: ten minutes against Brighton, two minutes against Watford, and ten minutes against Southampton.

The English striker was always going to find things difficult making the step up to the Premier League, but few expected him to struggle this much. It is telling that even when main striker Andy Carroll was out injured, Hugill was not granted a larger role in the first team.

With the season winding down, the ex-Preston man must be desperately searching for an escape from his West Ham nightmare.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Starved of playing time and vital confidence, Hugill would do well to seek a return to the Championship. With his physical style of play and target man attributes, the forward would slot in seamlessly in many a Championship squad.

One team that has been linked with the West Ham man is Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough; a club that would be a perfect setting for Hugill. Pulis cherishes hefty strikers that can bully defenders and lead the line like Hugill can, and would certainly grant him significant time on the pitch.

After his failed Premier League step-up, Jordan Hugill would do well to save his career and make the switch to the Riverside to link up with Tony Pulis.

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English Premier League

If Everton are serious about top four challenge they must battle rivals for Clement Lenglet

The Frenchman has been sublime for Sevilla this season and Everton need a new central defender.

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After a summer of investment Everton‘s aim for this season was to challenge for the top four. It was a bold and ambitious plan which failed miserably.

They spent much of the first half of the campaign in the relegation reckoning, sacked their manager and have now limped their way to the top-half playing a dreadful brand of football under the guidance of Sam Allardyce.

It is fair to say, Everton fans are not happy.

Next season, the challenge again will be to try and compete with the Premier League’s elite.

But if Everton are going to do that, they need to improve one area of their team drastically – the defence.

Ashley Williams has been woeful this season and Everton fans would happily see the back of him.

Phil Jagielka does his best, but age is starting to get the better of him. Michael Keane took a while to settle following his move from Burnley.

Meanwhile, Ramiro Funes Mori has been injured most of the campaign and Mason Holgate has had an inconsistent season.

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A new centre-back is a must and, if Everton are serious about challenging for Europe, it needs to be a top defender.

Plenty are about at the moment, but the one which springs to mind for Everton is Sevilla star Clement Llenglet.

He caught the eye of English football fans after shackling Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford in the Champions League.

The Frenchman has been in fine form for the club this season and now Lenglet is being linked with a host of clubs.

One such team is Liverpool, and with good reason. Lenglet has a release clause in his contract at Sevilla which stands at just €30 million (£26.25 million) – according to Marca.

(Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Considering the price paid for the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Aymeric Alporte and John Stones after the past year that fee is an absolute bargain.

Everton owner Farhad Moshiri is expected to dig deep into his pockets again this summer as Everton look to mount a renewed campaign next season.

Beating the likes of Liverpool to Lenglet’s signature would be the biggest signal of intent yet that Everton are ready to push into the Premier League elite.

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English Premier League

Tottenham Hotspur should give Reo Griffiths first-team chance after 9-0 heroics

The teenager scored four and assisted three as Tottenham Hotspur’s under-18s routed Arsenal.

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Tottenham Hotspur have plenty of young talent coming through at the moment and never has that been made more evident than in the under-18s result this afternoon. Tottenham dealt their North London rivals Arsenal a serious thrashing, winning 9-0.

It was a massive win for Spurs’ talented youngsters, albeit against a much changed and much younger Arsenal side.

But any North London derby win of this magnitude was going to have Spurs fans excited and rightly so. One player, in particular, was the talk of social media for Tottenham fans after the game. Reo Griffiths put in a fantastic performance for Spurs. He netted four goals and also grabbed three assists. That means the youngster only failed to play a direct hand in two of Tottenham’s nine goals.

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The 17-year-old forward has long been tipped as a future star for the Tottenham first-team and his four-goal salvo this afternoon took his tally for the season to 23 goals in 18 games in the under-18 Premier League.

His excellent form has not gone unnoticed and fans on Twitter were ecstatic with his display. In fact, some are even calling on Tottenham to give him a place in the first-team for the end of the season:

So should they?

It is hard to see why not. Harry Kane is, of course, the undisputed starter for Spurs – even when clearly not at full fitness. But second choice Fernando Llorente is widely expected to leave the club this summer after failing to find his feet in North London. Whilst Kazaiah Sterling is a strong option as another youngster, Tottenham fans would like to see Mauricio Pochettino give the 17-year-old a chance instead.

Griffiths is clearly a top talent of whom Tottenham will have high hopes. With just four games of the season left and Spurs looking strong in a top-four spot, it would be no skin off Pochettino’s back to see what the young lad can do.

Griffiths certainly looked like the real deal this afternoon and Tottenham should definitely consider giving him a chance in the first-team before the end of the season.

He can do no worse than Llorente and it could be the dawn of a fantastic career in North London for the teenager.

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