Hey Dave: Can Southampton secure a placement for European competition?

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Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles, left, and Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong, right, challenge for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Southampton and Newcastle United in Southampton, England, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. Photo by Michael Steele/Pool Photo via AP.

We’re about a quarter of the way done with Premier League fixtures, and already we’ve seen quite a few shocking placements. These include, Everton’s short stint at the top, both Manchester clubs in 10th or below and Sheffield United going from 9th last season to dead last. However, some clubs have drastically improved. For this column, I’ll be focusing on Southampton, which were at the top of the league at the beginning of matchday eight, but fell to 4th after the rest of the games were played. The last time Southampton finished in the top half of the table was the 2016/17 season, where they placed in 8th. 

At this rate, I think the Saints this season, along with a couple other clubs, have potential to remain on the upper half of the table. But to be strong enough to secure a top five placement and get European competition? That’s where their chances start to get a bit slim, but not by much. 

First off, Southampton started this season with back-to-back defeats. Since then, they haven’t lost a game; only equalizing once against Chelsea. Looking at their future schedule, the Saints will be tested by some of the larger teams to remain in the top half of the table. Their next game will be on the road against Wolves and, quite honestly, the game can go either way as both squads are relatively strong in their own ways. 

Some other games that will test Southampton’s strength will be Man United on Nov. 29 and Man City on Dec. 19. Even though neither Manchester club is doing that well on the table, it’s their squad depth that could end up having the upper hand, especially in City’s case. I don’t think Southampton’s squad is poor, especially since they picked up Kyle Walker-Peters from Tottenham and Theo Walcott on loan from Everton, but compared to other giant clubs fighting for European placements, their depth is only okay. 

As I said, some of the key players Southampton brought in were Walker-Peters and Walcott. Out of the two, Walker-Peters has proven to be a more successful signing. Playing every game this season, the 23-year-old defender won half of his duels, about three-quarters of his tackles and currently has a high pass accuracy of 80%. Walcott, on the other hand, has only played half of the games so far, that half being the more recent games. While he hasn’t scored yet, the loanee has managed to provide two assists, which I would say is fairly decent when you compare his season last year with two goals and four assists. It should also be noted he was a consistent starter for Everton as well. 

But the true challenge is their list of injured players, which has already started to stack up after their game against Aston Villa. One key player that will be out for 4-6 weeks is their top goalscorer, Danny Ings. While he’s been crucial in the Saints’ progression so far, the club has started to prove its success without the Englishman after securing a 2-0 win against Newcastle. Che Adams will likely continue to step up his role while his duo partner sits on the bench to rest, but with a fairly rounded midfield of James Ward-Prowse and Stuart Armstrong along with Walcott up front to fill the void, they might be able to suffice. 

While Ings might be back in time for their game against City, only time will tell how long Southampton can fight to stay toward the top after the rough few years they’ve had toward the bottom. 

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