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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Southampton

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Southampton is in the middle of yet another rebuild.

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Manager Ronald Koeman left for Everton over the summer and key players Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle all departed as Frenchman Claude Puel has arrived to take charge at St Mary’s. It gets to a point where you ask yourself: can Southampton really keep flourishing despite constantly having to rebound from losing players and managers season after season?

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After recording higher finishes in seven-straight seasons since they were saved by the Liebherr family as third-tier team in 2008, Saints have been on a dramatic journey which culminated in them finishing sixth in the Premier League last season (their best-ever PL campaign) and qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League.

With a rich history of bringing through talented players from their academy (Gareth Bale, Luke Shaw, Matt Le Tissier to name a few) Puel’s task will be to mastermind another top 10 finish for Saints in the PL and also have a good go at the Europa League and the domestic cup competitions. For many, this season is a step too far in terms of player sales at Saints. It’s up to the players and manager they have to prove everyone wrong, once again, but judging on their preseason performances there is still plenty of work to be done.

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Saints will stun everyone, once again, a make a serious challenge for the top four: They came very close to doing this last season and only finished three points off the top four. If Puel’s side hit the ground running and find form early in the campaign, who knows? Not much has to change. The only starters they really lost were Wanyama and Mane but only the latter feels like a monumental blow. A team full of internationals, Saints are up for the challenge of kicking on again.

Most likely they will battle relegation and Puel will be gone by January because… That’s just the vibe coming out of St Mary’s from afar. You get the sense that Puel is taking a while to adapt to managing in England after 20 years coaching in France. With no new marquee players to replace those who left, if the Frenchman doesn’t get off to a good start he’ll be under pressure.


Best Possible XI

—– Forster —–

Cedric — Fonte — Van Dijk — Bertrand —

—– Romeu —– Clasie —–

—- Redmond —- Davis —- Tadic —-

—– Long —–


Transfers in: Nathan Redmond ($15 million, Norwich City), Pierre-Emile Hjolberg ($13 million, Bayern Munich), Alex McCarthy (Undisclosed, Crystal Palace), Jeremy Pied (Free)

Transfers out: Sadio Mane ($45 million, Liverpool), Victor Wanyama ($14 million, Tottenham Hotspur), Graziano Pelle ($15 million, Shandong Lenung), Gaston Ramirez (Free, Middlesbrough), Juanmi ($7 million, Real Sociedad), Kelvin Davis (Retired), Will Brit (Released), Jason McCarthy (Loan, Walsall), Paulo Gazzaniga (Loan, Rayo Vallecano)

Last season: The 2015-16 season was Saints’ best-ever finish and points tally in the Premier League. Under Koeman they finished sixth, surging up the standings in the final weeks of the season. Despite a wobble around the festive season which saw talk of a relegation battle emanate from management, Saints turned things around to become the form team in the final few months of the season. Only Leicester won more points than Southampton in 2016. Their club slogan rang true: We March On.

Star player: Virgil Van Dijk – The imposing Dutch center back has it all in his locker. A stunning debut season in the PL saw VVD rewarded with a new contract at St Mary’s and he’s their most important player. So cool and calm on the ball, he could be the next big name to move on. Alongside Jose Fonte he will hold this Saints team together.

OLDENZAAL, NETHERLANDS - JULY 27: Virgil van Dijk of Southampton runs with the ball during the friendly match between Twente Enschede and FC Southampton at Q20 Stadium on July 27, 2016 in Oldenzaal, Netherlands. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)

Coach’s Corner: Puel is a likable, experienced coach who has an excellent track record working with youngsters. He helped nurture Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet at Monaco, Eden Hazard at Lille and Alexandre Lacazette at Lyon. He played under Arsene Wenger at Monaco and won a Ligue 1 title in his first season as a manager. He has experience of managing in the UEFA Champions League and that is ultimately where he wants to take Saints. He’ll have a tough task to do that, or to better the sixth place finish from last season. Time will tell but Puel is under pressure from the get-go at a club which has ambitious plans.

Speaking to ProSoccerTalk during preseason (Saints are unbeaten through five games) Puel spoke about the players adapting to the new diamond formation he wants to implement in midfield.

“They begin to take themselves to this formation and they correct it between them,” Puel said. “It is important to give a detailed plan for the players and after that it is the player on the pitch that gives the good solution and life for this way of playing.”

GRONINGEN, NETHERLANDS - JULY 30: The team of Southampton poses prior to the friendly match between FC Groningen an FC Southampton at Euroborg Stadium on July 30, 2016 in Groningen, Netherlands. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)

PST predicts: It could be a season of struggle for Saints. Having to balance Thursday night games in the Europa League is never easy and couple that with a new manager who is still learning the English game, regression is likely for Southampton. That said, talk of a relegation battle is too extreme and they will likely finish in midtable and have a good run in Europe and the domestic cups. Not a disaster season but we may see signs that their policy to cash in on star players has gone one step too far.

American coach Marsch lauds players after Salzburg wins Austrian Cup

Jesse Marsch
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American coach Jesse Marsch has now managed a team to a silverware on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean following Red Bull Salzburg’s Austrian Cup triumph on Saturday.

Marsch’s men beat Lustenau 5-0 in the Austrian Cup Final, celebrating with a social distance-inspired celebration. Dominik Szoboszlai had a goal and an assist in the win, while Hee-chan Hwang posted two assists.

[ MORE: Thuram, Sancho honor George Floyd after scoring ]

The side’s red-hot start to the season dipped upon return from winter break after Salzburg sold a number of stars including Takumi Minamino (Liverpool), Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), and Marin Pongracic (Wolfsburg).

Salzburg is back atop the Austrian Bundesliga after rivals LASK Linz lost six points for team training during the coronavirus pandemic.

Marsch, 46, won the 2015 Supporters’ Shield as New York Red Bulls coach, and was a regular trophy collector as a player with DC United and the Chicago Fire.

His Salzburg side impressed in a challenging Champions League group and the LASK punishment gives Marsch a look at the domestic double. There are 10 matches left in the Austrian Bundesliga season, which runs through July 5.

Sancho hits hat trick in Dortmund rout

Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund recap and video highlights
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Borussia Dortmund clobbered bottom-dwelling Paderborn 6-1 on Sunday, piling on the goals late at Benteler Arena.

Jadon Sancho scored three goals in his return to the Starting XI, celebrating the first by removing his jersey to reveal a “Justice For George Floyd” message on his undershirt.

Dortmund stays seven points back of Bayern Munich with five matches to play and moves four points clear of both Gladbach and Bayer Leverkusen. RB Leipzig is five points back of second and plays Monday versus Koln.

Paderborn’s three-match unbeaten run is done, the last-place side eight points back of the relegation playoff spot and nine back of automatic safety. Uwe Hunemeier scored from the spot for the hosts.

[ Bundesliga: Gladbach wins | Saturday roundup | Bayern blowout  ] 

Thorgan Hazard had a goal and an assist, as did Marcel Schmelzer. Achraf Hakimi also scored, with Mateu Morey and Axel Witsel picking up assists.

Sancho now has 17 goals and 17 assists in 27 Bundesliga appearances this season.

Dortmund controlled possession but Paderborn manufactured some minor chances early before the visitors came close.

That’s when Julian Brandt set up Raphael Guerreiro for a shot across goal that bounded wide of the frame.

Brandt had a chance to curl a shot on goal just before half, but sliced the effort.

The breakthrough came just under nine minutes after half when Paderborn goalkeeper Leopold Zingerle couldn’t hold Emre Can’s hard cross and Hazard was in the catbird seat to slot home.

Sancho then scored his first from close range before a controversial penalty awarded for a sliding block by Emre Can allowed Hunemeier to convert from the spot. That made it 2-1 in the 72nd minute.

The English winger bagged his second goal with a powerful striker Zingerle could only turn inside his near post in the 74th minute, and BVB scored three more times from the 85th minute.

American teen Giovanni Reyna came off the bench and had a goal ruled out in his 10-minute cameo. He had nine touches, completed all five of his passes, and registered a shot. Reyna both of his duels, drew one foul, and made a clearance (Stats by Sofascore).

Sancho, Thuram, Hakimi honor George Floyd after scoring (video)

George Floyd tribute
(Lars Baron/Pool via AP) (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
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Statements in support of George Floyd continued in German soccer on Sunday, as two African-European players used their goal celebrations to honor his memory and plead for justice.

Borussia Monchengladbach’s French star Marcus Thuram took a knee after scoring a brace Sunday in a 4-1 defeat of Union Berlin.

Then Borussia Dortmund’s English winger removed his shirt to reveal a hand-drawn “Justice For George Floyd” statement on the front of his yellow undershirt. Later, Morocco teammate Achraf Hakimi would do the same.

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Floyd was killed Monday after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes, and calls for justice have reverberated around the world.

The moments came a day after Dallas native and American midfielder Weston McKennie wore a black armband with the words “Justice For George” in Schalke’s match versus Werder Bremen.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN on Monday there have been widespread protests across the United States. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Thuram also turned to Instagram to confirm that his gesture referenced Floyd’s death.

Transfer news: Cavani freed by Icardi signing, Saul teases new home

Saul to Manchester United
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Edinson Cavani is going to be one of the top targets in the free agent markets, as Paris Saint-Germain’s purchase of Mauro Icardi ushers the Uruguayan out of the Ligue 1 champions’ stable.

Icardi’s loan move to PSG from Inter Milan has been made permanent for big money, and the 33-year-old Cavani is set to bring his 259 goals somewhere else.

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Cavani scored 200 times in 300 matches with PSG after arriving from Napoli, scoring seven times despite being limited to just over 1000 minutes due to several injuries.

The target striker is free to negotiate with teams having nearly moved to Atletico Madrid in the January transfer window. Inter Miami has also been linked with Cavani, but that was before the coronavirus pandemic lowered the market and put an emphasis on free transfer targets.

Chelsea, Spurs, and Manchester United were (are?) also in a mix that is going to be very deep with suitors for Cavani, who has 50 goals in 116 caps for Uruguay.


Lille has received plenty of offers for young striker Victor Osimhen, but the club tells The Daily Mail that they’re expecting a fee close to what Arsenal paid them for Nicolas Pepe last season.

That was about $87 million, though Pepe had a better (not to mention full) season in 2018-19 than Osimhen’s strong 2019-20.

Pepe is about four years older than Osimhen and has 22 goals and 11 assists during his final Ligue 1 season. Osimhen, 21, has 13 and four in about 1100 fewer minutes and scored in the Champions League versus Chelsea and Valencia, so the comparison is closer than upon first look.

Here’s Lille owner Gerard Lopez:

“I am not being a sales guy because last year people didn’t believe that we had the offers we had with [Nicolas] Pepe and it turns out we had multiple of them. “Let me tell you with Osimhen, it is the same thing, whatever number you heard, the high number I have read is very much on the money of the offers that we have received. That’s where we are.”

Osimhen has been linked with Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, and a host of clubs outside the Premier League. He lit up the Belgian league with RSC Charleroi the previous season after failing to score in his teen years with Wolfbusgr.


Atletico Madrid star and reported Manchester United target Saul Niguez is teasing a new club for him, saying he’ll announce it in three days.

We cannot be sure it won’t end with some sort of new sponsored product, but the game-controlling center midfielder has featured in reports of a “practically done” transfer to United in recent weeks.

Saul, 25, has become an indispensable part of Diego Simeone’s midfield and was one of the steadiest parts of Atleti’s victory over Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League.

He’s said to have an approximate $168 million release clause.