Southampton: Looking Back at the Saints' Preseason Preparations and Transfers
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With Southampton's 1-1 draw at Bristol City Tuesday, the Saints are seeing their preseason work coming to a close. Only the home match with Udinese stands between Southampton and their opening Premier League match against trophy-holders Manchester City.
It's been a solid, not spectacular preseason for Southampton. The friendlies offered no bad results and a couple of nice victories. The transfer market has gone fairly well—a few nice additions and no losses of major impact.
Southampton made four major transfer signings in the offseason. The Saints started by bolstering their already potent attack by bringing in Burnley's Jay Rodriguez for a club record six million pounds. Rodriguez scored 21 goals in 42 appearances with Burnley, and was named to the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
The Saints next went to strengthening the midfield by signing Northern Ireland international Steven Davis from the Rangers. The transfer was delayed for a bit while the Rangers contested that Davis could not void his contract and declare himself a free agent when the assets of the old Rangers were transferred to the new Sevco Rangers. The clubs finally settled on a fee rumored to be around 800 thousand pounds, according to The Guardian.
With only two keepers on the books, Nigel Adkins went and picked up a backup for Kelvin Davis and possible heir to the No. 1 jersey. Paulo Gazzaniga is a 20-year-old Argentinian who comes from League Two Gillingham for an undisclosed fee. The former Valencia academy member made 20 appearances with Gillingham last season.
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Finally, the Saints added to the back four by signing Nathaniel Clyne from Crystal Palace. Clyne was out of contract, but because of his age, Crystal Palace was entitled to compensation, which was agreed to be two point five million pounds according to Danielle Joynson of Sports Mole. The 21-year-old outside back was also named to the PFA Championship Team of the Year and made 123 appearances for Crystal Palace, and has made several appearances for England in the Under-19 and Under-21 teams.
Southampton lost one player of note in the offseason. Dan Harding, who was the second-choice left back behind Danny Fox, left Saints for Nottingham Forest in a deal worth 500 thousand pounds.
Two players have gone on loan. Defender Aaron Martin has joined Crystal Palace on a year-long loan. The same for goalkeeper Tommy Forecast, who was loaned to Gillingham as part of the Paulo Gazzaniga deal.
David Connolly, Lee Holmes, Bartosz Bialkowski and Ryan Doble were all given free transfers. Radhi Jaidi, 36, missed all of last season with a knee injury and announced his retirement.
Southampton hasn't been shy about challenging itself in the preseason, playing several teams that will be playing in Europe this season.
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The preseason campaign started off with the unique format of the Markus Liebherr Cup against Arsenal and Anderlecht. In the Liebherr Cup, each team plays a 45-minute half against the two other teams, with the winners decided on total points.
Southampton lost to Anderlecht in the opening half 1-0. After Arsenal defeated Anderlecht 1-0, Southampton bounced back against Arsenal, earning a victory on penalties after their 45 minutes ended in a 1-1 draw. Jay Rodriguez lived up to his billing, scoring with a header off of a Danny Fox cross. Although Southampton finished last with two points, it was an encouraging start against two squads playing European football this season.
After the Liebherr Cup, Southampton traveled to Évian-les-Bains, France, near Lake Geneva for training camp and two more friendlies. First up was Swiss side Étoile Carouge, who the Saints easily handled 4-1. Luke Shaw, playing in a midfield role, scored a goal while Billy Sharp tallied a natural hat-trick with the last three goals of the match. Next up in France was the host team, Évian Thonon Gaillard of Ligue 1. Jason Puncheon's first-half goal stood up as Southampton held on to a 1-0 victory.
Returning to the South Coast, Southampton would have another stern European test from Dutch giants Ajax. The Saints performed well, but ultimately, a 64th minute strike from Aras Ozbiliz proved to be the difference in a 1-0 defeat to the Dutch champions. Nigel Adkins was pleased with the performance, despite the result.
"We are pleased because they didn't create any chances," Adkins said on the official club website. "The goal they scored came through us presenting them with the chance but they haven't really cut us open."
Southampton rebounded well in their next friendly against the recently relegated Wolves. The Saints started the match well and scored when Adam Lallana's square pass across the six-yard box found Billy Sharp, who scored his fourth goal of the preseason to give Southampton the 1-0 advantage.
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Jason Puncheon continued to make a case for more playing time with a fine strike from the top of the area in the second half to give Southampton a 2-0 victory. Paulo Gazzaniga played the full 90 in net and kept a clean sheet.
Tuesday's result against Bristol City, a 1-1 draw, was a bit of a let down. But considering it was on the road and Southampton lost both meetings to Bristol City last year, it wasn't that disappointing.
Jon Stead's 36th-minute strike looked like it would hold up as the winner. Southampton made the trip back home a bit more enjoyable when Jose Fonte lobbed a diagonal ball into the Bristol City area, which Rickie Lambert headed back across to the far post into the path of Billy Sharp, who once again scored in the preseason.
“There were lots of positives to take today—I'm very pleased with the first half, how we started and pressed the ball, " Adkins told the team website. “It is just a shame we didn't score in that period – we forced a couple of good saves but went into halftime a goal down to their one opportunity.”
With all but one friendly left, the members of Southampton's 25-man roster are starting to become clearer. There have been rumors of a couple more transfer signings, but they seem unlikely at this late stage. Here is the current projected 25-man roster.
Goalkeepers (2): Kelvin Davis, Paulo Gazzaniga
Defenders (8): Danny Fox, Jose Fonte, Jos Hooiveld, Nathaniel Clyne, Frazer Richardson, Daniel Seaborne, Luke Shaw, Jack Stephens
Midfielders (10): Adam Lallana, Steven Davis, Morgan Schneiderlin, Jack Cork, Jason Puncheon, Steve De Ridder, Dean Hammond, James Ward-Prowse, Richard Chaplow, Calum Chambers
Strikers (5): Rickie Lambert, Billy Sharp, Jay Rodriguez, Guly Do Prado, Tadanari Lee
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