Although some areas still need addressing if Southampton are going to have a team able to fight the drop – namely central defence and an injection of speed in the final third – their signings thus far have been indicative of an exciting season with attractive displays of football.
Having already been in possession of Rickie Lambert, the Championship’s Player of the Year and top scorer, Nigel Adkins went out and purchased Jay Rodriguez for £7m, breaking the club record transfer fee, and signing the Championship’s 5th top scorer with 15. This added to the January acquisition of Billy Sharp, who finished third in the scoring ranks.
In addition to their marquee signing thus far Saints have stuck to their apparent transfer policy of domestic players plying their trade in the Football League, adding League Two ‘keeper Paulo Gazzaniga from Gillingham and defender Nathaniel Clyne from Crystal Palace, who was also in the Championship Team of the Year alongside four other Saints players: Kelvin Davis, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez. It is believed Saints have tabled a bid for another player from the famed XI – Matt Phillips of Blackpool.
Despite making just four signings, the fourth being Steven Davis from Rangers, Saints do have the ability to stay up – further reinforcements will simply reinforce the point itself. Who they sign between now and September will define just how higher up the bottom ten they can push themselves. If the week’s story is to be believed, Saints look set to push as far away from “relegation candidates” as possible, supposedly on the brink of signing Gaston Ramirez for £12m from Bologna. The attacking midfielder has already turned down Spurs and is quoted telling the Italian press that, “[Southampton] believe in me in every way, I will be essential and above all they are going to grow. Southampton is a newly promoted team in the English top-flight but they will become a big team in years to come.”
At current, ambition is what is talking at St. Mary’s, but it need’s promise to materialise. Signings so far have hinted, but more is needed to confirm such promise. If the promise can be shown the ambition becomes a possibility.
Sam Allardyce has moved quickly in order to strengthen what was arguably a Premier League quality side already. Having kept hold of key players such as Carlton Cole and Mark Noble when they were relegated from the Premier League, Allardyce has further built on the side he inherited whilst securing an immediate return to the top flight.
With Robert Green leaving The Hammers on a free for QPR, Allardyce replaced the England international with a former employee, Bolton’s Jussi Jasskelainen, as well as signing Stephen Henderson from Portsmouth and Raphael Spiegel from Swiss side Grasshoppers. The defence has been bolstered by the permanent signing of George McCartney from Sunderland and the acquisition of James Collins from Aston Villa and the midfield has been added to with the presence of Alou Diarra from Marseille and Mohamed Diame from Wigan. However, their big money signing of the summer has been Modibo Maiga for 6 million euros.
Unlike their fellow Southampton and Reading, West Ham have a manager proven in the top-flight. Not only that, but they have a manager that does well with rather unspectacular teams and/or resources. Bolton and Blackburn didn’t play the most attractive football but they were never likely to get relegated with Allardyce in charge – in fact he took Bolton as high as a sixth place finish.
Yet, the prediction for them is not as ambitious as Alardyce’s own view on the matter: he believes a move into the Olympic Stadium would see them contend with the notion of being as big as Arsenal. Southampton’s Nicola Cortese holds a similar vision for Saints at St. Mary’s. In the immediacy though, a prediction of safety and by some margin is within the realms of realism, without performing with the elegance of Swan Lake.
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