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Total Saints Opinion - Transfer Window : a balance of optimism and realism needed?

In our latest Total Saints Opinion, regular TSP panel member - Glen de la Cour - reflects on the recent summer transfer window...

Another transfer window "slams shut"!

“When the transfer window closes, there’s always people asking you to rate the window out of 10 or whatever.

It’s quite a dangerous thing to try and judge whether Southampton have had a successful transfer window, five minutes after the window has closed. You can never really judge the incoming players because it is something that is proved over time and, as Saints fans, we have fallen foul of this many times before. You can judge the outgoings based on whether they were important first-team players or not, and whether you got good money/out the door permanently or not. How many times in the past have we thought that we’d done well, only to find soon after that we’d achieved the opposite.

Sometimes you have a deep sense of foreboding, like the times when there is nothing about the player that you purchased which suggests he is going to be any good – Guido Carrillo being the most glaring example of that. There are times when the stats look good, the age of the player is in the right range and the pedigree suggests he is going to be a good player for you……before the opposite happens (*cough….Wesley Hoedt!!*).

With regards to the incomings during this window, what you can say is that if Mohammed Salisu turns out to be the “Rolls-Royce” centre-back that we’ve been promised, if Ibrahima Diallo makes good on the early promise of his French career, if Theo Walcott stays fit and proves that he can still do the job at age 31 and if Kyle Walker-Peters continues in the form that he has shown already, we will have had a marvellous transfer window.

As far as outgoings are concerned, we have only really lost Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from the first-team squad. There were a lot of people saying that he wasn’t a good player and they weren’t bothered about him leaving but he is already proving for Tottenham how good he actually is. What he does from here is largely irrelevant though. We already had Oriol Romeu to step into that position in the team and so the impact was lessened and, with the arrival of Diallo, there is no reason to believe that we are actually weaker in this area as the window shuts.

Sofiane Boufal has finally left and, although he was occasionally brilliant and was a great man to have as a substitute, he was never going to be a consistent Premier League performer. Although it appears we aren’t getting a fee for him, the wages being off the books is undeniably a good thing. His place in the squad has gone to Theo Walcott who, fitness permitting, is going to offer a hell of a lot more. More on Theo later.

Others out of the door permanently are Harrison Reed, Guido Carrillo and Christoph Klarer. Out on loan go ‘Instagramming Footballer’ Mario Lemina, Mohammed Elyounoussi and Wesley Hoedt – none of who will be missed from a footballing point of view, but the wages saved will be welcomed with open arms.

In my opinion, the way that teams should approach the transfer window in general is to look at their current starting 11 and decide where the weakest area is…and address it!

Sounds obvious, but it’s remarkable how many clubs fall into the trap of fan appeasement, with a fancy striker as opposed to signing the defender they really need, or buying whoever they could without any thought of how the new guy will fit in.

This is where Saints have done well this time around. Last year, Saints had Yan Valery or Cedric playing at right-back, which was clearly our weakest link, so we addressed it with Kyle Walker-Peters and we are stronger as a result. It isn’t rocket science!

The next area that needed addressing was centre-back. It wasn’t as crushingly urgent, because we have three decent enough options already, but the general feeling was that we needed an increase in quality and, in time, Mohammed Salisu will hopefully provide that.

It did take us a bit too long to address the central-midfield issue, because we basically knew Pierre was going to be leaving for about a year before he actually did.

It doesn’t look like Diallo was our first choice for this position, if the stories about Weston McKennie and Ibrahima Sangare are to be believed, but Diallo is here, is highly rated in France and the problem area has been addressed – without the new guy having to come in and perform straight away.

Theo, then....

The addition that most people will be talking about of course is that Theo Walcott. Last week on Total Saints Podcast I pondered that we needed a striker or a winger and then on deadline day, in came Walcott – meaning we got the ‘two in one’!

We (re)signed a 47 cap England international, who is only 31 and, despite there being doubts over his fitness, has managed to play 77 games in the last three years at Everton, which is not bad.

In addition to that of course, there is a certain sentimentality and feel good factor about him joining, which the club will/is massively playing up. Even to an old cynic like me, who was initially very sceptical, it makes me smile that we have brought him back.

Theo’s wages are being covered between Saints and Everton and, with the wages already saved by the deadwood going out the door, it all adds up and moves the deal into ‘no brainer’ territory.

People my age (51) and older, often bemoan the fact that we were there when Saints signed Kevin Keegan in the early 80s and that such a transfer was impossible these days. No, I’m not saying for a second that signing Walcott is in the same category but this is as close to a McMenemy-era signing as you are likely to get now, given the disparity in money on offer between the big clubs and clubs like ourselves.

Theo, now....

If the media is to be believed, Theo has given up potential bonuses to come and play for us which, along with his obvious enthusiasm for the move, is a glowing endorsement of his attitude towards playing for Saints.

This is the sort of thing that really shouldn’t be sniffed at in this day and age in the Premier League.

It also suggests that, if he does as well as we all hope, Saints will be in a very good position to be able to afford him when he is a free-agent at the end of this season.

Now that the window is closed, in my view, the next area to address is the competition at full- back. Whilst it would’ve been very hard to get in anyone who challenged either Bertrand or KWP for their place in the team, it has to be remembered that Bertrand is yet to sign a new contract.

Brandon Williams (Manchester United) was the name in the frame and it was pleasing to see that he wanted to personally join Saints, but unfortunate that it was blocked by the United manager, Ole Gunnar ‘Dead Man Walking’ Solskjær – who is going to be lucky to still be in his job by the time the January window comes around!

If we do revisit Williams in January, you can bet your life he will no doubt have spent 3 months not playing! It’s a shame that deal didn’t happen, but you can’t have everything.

On paper, it does seem like a really good transfer window for Saints, with everything seemingly happening for a reason, and all of the acquisitions looking like they have a decent chance of making an impact. This is all with a backdrop of having an owner who is not putting any money into the club, so the current Board have had to generate the spending money themselves, meaning getting certain players out the door before they could do any of the business that Ralph wanted them to do. We have to be careful and never get complacent – or start believing our own hype – which we’ve definitely done before!! It’s been hilarious watching the likes of Manchester United getting more and more desperate, signing players in positions that are not the areas of the team that they should be addressing.

Unlike them, we can’t afford to just chuck money around, especially in the current climate of ‘no fans being in the ground’.

We have been wasteful in the recent past, and have been paying the price for that ever since.

It’s not perfect, it never is – despite the successes in this window, we still haven’t got Hoedt or Lemina completely out the door for good, and we still have three ‘big money’ goalkeepers.

Overall, I feel quite confident that we are getting things right again and, hopefully, this transfer window will prove, down the line, to have been a major success.”


Article by Glen de la Cour

09/10/2020

(Photos by Getty Images ("Theo, then....") and Matt Watson, Southampton FC ("Theo, now...."))

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