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Why this player is an unsung hero in Saints’ recent run of form

The Boot Room

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Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea marked Southampton’s first defeat in seven games. A key component of that impressive run of form has been the defensive solidity with Southampton conceding for the first time in seven matches when Cesc Fabregas’ cross eluded everybody and found its way into the back of the net. To not concede in six games is something special considering the amount of chances that get created in the Premier League and the competitive nature of it.

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Despite not keeping a seventh consecutive clean sheet, Saints still broke a record in the game against last season’s champions. When the clock hit the 34th minute, Fraser Forster beat Paul Jones’ top flight record for the longest time without conceding a goal for Southampton of 666 minutes. And the former Celtic ‘keeper has played a crucial part of Saints’ recent run of form and deserves heaps of credit. To return to top flight action after almost 10 months out injured and keep six consecutive clean sheets immediately and break Saints’ longest time without conceding record is remarkable. The 27-year-old’s presence has a calming influence on the defence. In some of the games he hasn’t had a thing to do, apart from the odd simple save, but the presence of the 6’ 7’’ Geordie fills Southampton’s back line with confidence knowing that if they are beaten, they have one of the best ‘keepers in the country behind them.

But there’s one man who has had as much of an impact as Forster has in this recent run of form. He deserves as much credit as Forster for his remarkable return and as much credit as Ronald Koeman for changing the tactics and formation. And that man is Ryan Bertrand.

When Saints were in a so called “meltdown” a year and a half ago and there was a mass exodus of first team players, it was the signing of Ryan Bertrand that reassured captain Jose Fonte that they were going to have a strong season and that the club still had ambition.

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Bertrand has spent much of his time on the south coast as a full back that likes to bomb up the pitch and contribute as much to the attacking efforts as he does the defensive efforts. It was his defensive capabilities and his offensive threat that put him into last season PFA Team of the Year. He was the perfect replacement for Luke Shaw and his lack of playing time at Stamford Bridge made him arrive at St. Mary’s with a hunger for game time and a desire to showcase his talents.

His form for Southampton has earned him a return to the England setup and is one of a handful of left backs that is giving Roy Hodgson a headache ahead of the Euros. But it could be Bertrand’s versatility that puts him ahead of some of the others that are vying to be on the plane to France this summer.

After a poor run of form over November, December and January, Koeman looked to changing Southampton’s shape in the hope of changing their fortunes around. The Dutchman switched from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-5-2 setup with Bertrand operating as the left sided centre back and the Chelsea academy product has excelled in that position.

With Koeman keen to stick to Saints’ possession based philosophies, Bertrand’s flexibility has been the key to the new formation functioning successfully. With Bertrand on the left hand side of the back three, he is able to start offensive moves confidently and, along with his fellow centre backs, he is comfortable on the ball to play out from the back. The security of having an extra man at the back has allowed the centre backs to venture forward a bit more freely, enabling them to create and join attacks. That was showcased at the weekend with Virgil Van Dijk posing a threat against Chelsea.

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One of the criticisms amongst some Saints fans this season has been the lack of academy talent getting first team game time but Bertrand’s inclusion as a centre back has allowed Matt Targett to get a run in the first team. Targett operates as a wing back in the new setup and has shown his best form for the club since being moved into the more offensive role. The security of having the pace and tactical awareness of Bertrand behind him means that he can advance freely knowing that the Champions League winner has the space behind covered.

There are a lot of components to Southampton’s recent run of form to consider; Fraser Forster’s return, Ronald Koeman’s tactical expertise, Shane Long’s tireless performances, Jordy Clasie’s outstanding shifts in midfield. But for me, the one that makes all of it tick is Ryan Bertrand. He’s the one that has meant that the change in formation is possible and works.

It’s strange to think that he is a Champions League winner and he’s playing for Southampton. It’d be interesting to see how good Bertrand would’ve been if he wasn’t starved of opportunities at Chelsea but that seems to be the trend when you’re a product of the Chelsea academy machine. But selfishly, I’m glad he was starved of opportunities because it’s brought him to my club and boy, what a difference he’s made.

Featured image: all rights reserved by Mike Beales.

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Liverpool

Southampton is the ideal destination for Liverpool forward Danny Ings

The Liverpool forward has had a torrid time on Merseyside

Liam Thomas

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Danny Ings
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Liverpool signed Danny Ings back in 2015 after the forwards terrific season with Burnley earned him a big money move to Anfield. However, largely due to injuries, the Englishman’s time on Merseyside has been spent on the sidelines.

With the new Premier League season edging closer, it looks as if Ings’ time at the Reds may be coming to an end and, according to The Sun, Southampton are keen on bringing the forward to St. Mary’s to head up their forward line.

Liverpool rate Ings at £20 million but the Saints will be looking to require his signature for half that price given the forward’s recent injury record and there seems no better destination for him to rediscover the form that saw him leave Burnley for Anfield.

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Southampton was the club it all started for Ings, with the forward playing for Saints as a schoolboy. Now the Englishman is fighting fit and ready to go, it seems the South coast outfit would offer him the first team action he needs to become a prolific goalscorer once again.

A fresh start is exactly what Ings needs to reignite his Premier League career and, at 25 years of age, he still has a lot left in the tank to give some of his best years to Mark Hughes’ team.

If the Liverpool forward could rediscover the form that saw him score 43 times in 139 appearances for Burnley, Southampton could profit hugely.

Are the Saints the team for Ings to finally rediscover that fortune? Given a little bit of confidence and a run of minutes under his belt, St.Mary’s could become the perfect playground for the forward to flourish.

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Southampton

Five ins and outs Southampton could complete this week

A new striker is reportedly a top priority for Mark Hughes’ side.

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After narrowly avoiding relegation from the Premier League last season, pressure is on Mark Hughes as Southampton look to climb the standings in 2018-19.

The Saints have already bolstered their ranks with the captures of Jannik Vestergaard, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Angus Gunn and Stuart Armstong but continue to be active in the market in pursuit of further additions.

With finances delicately poised, exits from the south coast are also likely and the upcoming week could prove to be a busy one for Southampton. Here, we have identified five reported deals that could go ahead.

Danny Ings: Liverpool

After an injury-plagued spell at Liverpool, Danny Ings is seen as surplus to requirements for Jurgen Klopp ahead of the new season and Southampton have emerged as candidates to land the services of the 25-year-old forward.

The Sun states Liverpool want £20m for the striker’s services but Southampton are prepared to only offer half of that figure, with additions based around his appearances and performances – although they face competition in the market from Crystal Palace.

Hughes is looking to bolster his attacking options ahead of the new campaign and Ings could be the ideal signing if he puts his injury problems behind him.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

Fraser Forster leaving on-loan

England international Fraser Forster could be leaving the St. Mary’s Stadium following the club’s signing of Angus Gunn from Manchester City, as the 22-year-old is expected to become first-choice for Southampton next term.

The Daily Mail state the Saints are prepared to offload the 30-year-0ld and may ask the former Celtic man to leave on-loan, with the same paper claiming Forster was previously a target for Leeds United before the Lilywhites signed Jamal Blackman from Chelsea.

Unnamed Premier League sides are said to be interested in Forster, who last played for Southampton in the 5-2 defeat to Tottenham on Boxing Day.

Andrea Petagna: Atalanta

Another reported striking target for Southampton, it could be possible that the Saints sign two more strikers before the close of the transfer window – especially if the first player through the door is the injury-prone Danny Ings.

Tuttomercatoweb first reported Southampton’s interest in Atalanta striker Andrea Petagna at the end of June and rumours surrounding the 23-year-old striker continue to float around, though he is also a target for newly-promoted Wolves.

With four goals and five assists in Serie A last season, Petagna is hardly the most prolific striker but could present a decent option for Southampton.

(Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

Sam Gallagher to Sheffield United or Blackburn

The Sun on Sunday (July 15, page 59) state both Sheffield United and Blackburn Rovers are interested in the services of Southampton striker Sam Gallagher, who looks poised to leave if Mark Hughes secures a deal for a new forward.

22-year-old Gallagher previously enjoyed a successful loan stint with Blackburn in the season before last and has a total of 17 goals in 89 Championship appearances, 11 of which came for Blackburn in the 2016-17 campaign.

However, a deal for the two second-tier clubs could be difficult to negotiate on a permanent basis due to his reported £24k-a-week wages.

Iago Falque: Torino

Another forward target for Southampton, Tuttosport have named the Saints as one of numerous clubs interested in the services of Torino attacker Iago Falque alongside West Ham, Leicester, Sevilla and Valencia.

Now 28, the former Tottenham man has got his career back-on-track in Italian football and has become a crucial player for Torino, scoring 12 goals in 35 appearances last season – adding to the 12 he netted in the previous year on-loan in Turin from Roma.

Torino, understandably, do not want to lose the services of one of their top performers and it could take a considerable offer to begin negotiations with the Serie A side.

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Southampton

Three summer signings that would lead Southampton back into Europe

Mark Hughes needs to open his transfer kitty if the Saints are to return to Europe.

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Southampton
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Southampton endured a difficult season in the Premier League last term and need to be active in the market this summer to bolster their ranks.

A turbulent campaign saw the Saints finish 17th, just three points above the relegation zone, which represents a huge decline in the past two seasons where Europa League football was secured.

Mark Hughes was a controversial appointment last term but he managed to steady the ship on the south coast and he now needs to utilise Southampton’s impressive strategy in the market, which has seen the Saints secure a number of bargain deals.

Southampton need to do the same again this summer, although they may be forced to spend big for some targets due to the rise in market prices.


“It’s important fresh faces come in. It’s not necessarily deliberate but as a consequence of players moving on, contracts finishing. There’s an opportunity to bring players in. There’s always a churn at the end of the year.”

Southampton manager Mark Hughes on the transfer window.


Jack Butland – Stoke City

Relegated with Stoke City last term, England international Jack Butland needs to be back in the Premier League if he is to knock Jordan Pickford off his perch as number one for the Three Lions.

While he has been linked with Chelsea and Liverpool, Southampton could be the ideal fit.

Now 25, Butland has plenty of years ahead of him and could enter the prime years of his career on the south coast – and a deal would suit Southampton’s transfer strategy as he would present tremendous sell-on value in the future.

There is no doubt that Butland will end up at a ‘big’ club eventually but Southampton should be the next step on his quest for stardom.

(Photo by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

Marlon Santos – Barcelona

With West Ham seemingly ending their pursuit of Marlon Santos, Southampton have been left as the frontrunners to secure the services of the Barcelona outcast as they look to find a replacement for Virgil Van Dijk following his January switch to Liverpool.

Sport state the deal for the 22-year-old Brazil defender will cost just €13 million (£10.6m) and that presents another opportunity for Southampton to continue to earn financial stability by purchasing relatively low before selling for a high price.

After a successful stint on-loan in Ligue 1 with OGC Nice, Southampton would be wise to tempt Santos to switch the French Riviera for Hampshire.

(Photo by Valery Hache/Getty Images)

Andrea Petagna – Atlanta

It is no secret that Southampton desperately need a new striker and it seems the man they have in their sights is Italy forward Andrea Petagna, although Tuttomercatoweb claim newly-promoted Wolves also have the same idea.

Just 23, Petagna is another player who can be developed at St. Mary’s following a campaign where he scored six goals and contributed a further seven assists in Serie A for Atalanta. Already capped once by Italy in 2017, he could become a regular for his nation in the future.

Reportedly available for a measly sum of just £9m, Petagna could be the final piece to the puzzle in Southampton’s rejuvenated attacking line following the £16 million capture of Mohamed Elyounoussi.

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