Top 5 Transfer Needs for Southampton This Summer
With the season winding down, and the only thing at stake for Southampton being whether or not the Saints can outlast Newcastle United for eighth place in the Premier League, it is a good time to ponder what areas of the squad could use some strengthening.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted last week, per The Daily Mail's Nick Purewal, that he didn't have much clue as to how much funding would be available for transfer spending over the summer.
"I don't know," Pochettino said. "I think the club will decide when they want to let me know that, but I don't know at this time."
We'll assess as we can at the end of the season, and we'll be able to see whether we want to finish, eighth, seventh, sixth, fifth or fourth. According to that, we'll be able to decide what goals we're imposing on ourselves, how that set-up is achieved and how we go about achieving those goals.
While the amount available may not be known, the areas that could use some fresh blood are not. Here are five areas Southampton can look to improve the squad for 2014-15.
5. Defensive Midfield
Morgan Schneiderlin has had another great season in defensive midfield for Southampton. The Frenchman ranks third in the Premier League in tackles, according to WhoScored.com.
But Schneiderlin hasn't had a consistent partner this season. Victor Wanyama served as the 24-year-old's partner during the early part of the season. When Wanyama was injured, Jack Cork came into the squad and made the position his own. On occasion when both Wanyama and Cork were unavailable, James Ward-Prowse was asked to drop into defensive midfield.
While each of them did solid jobs, none of them can match Schneiderlin's effectiveness on both ends of the pitch. Wanyama can match Schneiderlin defensively, but he completes about seven percent fewer passes than the Frenchman. Cork can pass as well as Schneiderlin, but he only makes 2.3 tackles per match compared to Schneiderlin's 3.5, according to WhoScored.
While another quality defensive midfielder isn't a priority for Southampton, it's an area that could use a bit of improvement if the right deal came along.
Lambert will turn 33 in February next year, and one must wonder how much longer he can keep up his current form. The England international has played in all but one Premier League match his season, showing great durability for a seasoned veteran.
Rodriguez will most likely miss the first couple of months of next season while he recovers from his season-ending knee injury suffered against Manchester City. Sam Gallagher, an 18-year-old academy graduate, is the only other true striker currently in the first team at St. Mary's.
Dani Osvaldo and Emmanuel Mayuka are both out on loan and set to return at the end of the season. But it seems unlikely that Osvaldo will be welcomed back after his training ground fight with Jose Fonte. Mayuka hasn't exactly impressed on his loan stint at Sochaux, scoring three goals in 18 appearances, according to WhoScored.
Southampton does have a number of promising prospects in the academy that could fit the bill but in the short-term, another striker is needed for next season if the Saints want to continue to improve their position in the Premier League table.
Speculation as to Luke Shaw's future with Southampton has been a constant this season.
Even if Shaw stays, Southampton will need to bring in another left-back for next season.
Danny Fox, who was serving as Shaw's backup, moved on to Nottingham Forest in January. Currently, Shaw has no true backup. If the young phenom were to go down injured, his spot would probably be filled by switching Calum Chambers or Nathaniel Clyne to the left side, or by playing Maya Yoshida out wide instead of the center. Academy member Matt Targett could also be an option.
But if Shaw stays, convincing a Premier League-caliber defender to come in and be the understudy to a 19-year-old may be easier said than done.
2. Attacking Midfielder
Southampton's big three of Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana have been quite productive, scoring 35 goals among them. The trio have also contributed 19 assists to the Southampton cause, according to WhoScored.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Saints have only scored 15 goals combined. After the big three, the leading goalscorers are the departed Dani Osvaldo and Jose Fonte with three.
Steven Davis has had a solid year, scoring two goals and adding six assists. But Davis is more of a work-horse two-way midfielder, not a true creative spark. Such a spark has been needed in many matches this season where the Saints have bossed possession but failed to convert their chances, such as last week's match with Aston Villa. Southampton had 68 percent of the possession, according to WhoScored, but they only managed three shots.
With Lallana's ability to play on the left, right, or in the middle, Southampton has the flexibility to recruit a player that can fill any of those positions.
If Southampton want to challenge for a European place next season, one more midfielder that can chip in seven to 10 goals will be a necessity.
Artur Boruc has always been a bit of an enigma.
There's the good side that has kept 12 clean sheets and conceded 0.96 goals per match, according to Squawka.
Next season will be Boruc's last year on his contract, according to Transfermarkt. The Polish international will turn 35 next February. While goalkeepers can play into their 40s, injuries can start catching up to them. Boruc has already missed nine games due to injury this season.
Kelvin Davis is 37 and has been injured for the majority of the season. Paulo Gazzaniga has yet to convince as the keeper of the future. The young Argentinian has only saved 0.86 shots per goal allowed, according to Squawka.
Southampton needs another goalkeeper that can challenge Boruc to keep him on form and potentially take his place when his contract expires after the 2014-15 season.