Luke Weir – Columnist
There is rarely a dull transfer window when it concerns Southampton Football Club and the summer of 2019 is proving to be no different.
This window was built up to be a rebuilding job for Ralph Hasenhuttl with new players needed and the future of many existing players up in the air.
It is difficult to know where to start so I’ll probably begin by getting the elephant in the room out of the way: Charlie Austin.
Hasenhuttl chose to omit several high-profile names from his pre-season squad to travel to Austria with the manager stating that they are free to look for a move away, one of which was a certain Mr Austin.
Following this, as reported by the Sun, the 30-year old striker launched an ‘astonishing rant’ at the gaffer as he accused the Austrian of being ‘disrespectful’ by freezing him out.
This would have been that last thing that Hasenhuttl would have wanted as this outburst is likely to have harmed his hopes of creating an excellent environment for team spirit.
It was also being reported that Austin had snubbed the chance to move to Championship side West Brom due to him wanting to stay in England’s top flight, preferably seeing out the last year of his Saints contract.
This is despite Austin now dropping down to our fourth-choice striker and Hasenhuttl already making it clear that he is not in his plans.
I therefore believe it would be in the best interest of both parties for Charlie to move on, especially as the Saints fans have started to turn against the man who had scored winners against Arsenal and Manchester United in his time on the south coast.
With one striker potentially on his way out, we do however have another one to look forward to seeing in red and white after the capture of Che Adams.
Adams showed what he is capable of just 116 seconds into his debut after scoring in a 1-1 draw with SCR Altach with a trademark turn and finish which Birmingham fans became accustomed to seeing.
£15 million could prove to be a bargain in the current market and a potential partnership with Danny Ings (who also made his move permanent) in Ralph’s favoured 4-2-2-2 has the potential to striker fear in the opposition.
Southampton’s third signing is the one they announced first: Moussa Djenepo.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know too much about the 21-year old when I saw this transfer completed and despite seeing him in action in the African Cup of Nations, he is still a bit of an unknown quantity.
What we do know about Djenepo is that he is likely to add even more pace to an already quick Saints attack with the Mali international set to join last season’s player of the season, Nathan Redmond, in providing chances from the flanks.
The similarities between him and a young Sadio Mane are difficult to ignore as well, we can only hope that Djenepo will be able to make a similar impact on the Premier League.
There haven’t been many high-profile outgoings so far with the biggest departure seeing Matt Targett joining Aston Villa for £17 million. I’m sure many Saints fans will join me in wishing Targett all the best for the future as he has been nothing but professional while giving all he had for the badge when given the chance.
However, I do believe this was the right decision with the Saints board working wonders to bring in Adams after the sale of Targett and making a profit in doing so.
This is also a great opportunity to promote another academy graduate in Jake Vokins who Hasenhuttl has spoken very highly of with the left-back even scoring the third in a 3-1 win over Preston in pre-season. To have the potential of two young prospects in Valery and Vokins at full-back excites me, especially with both having mentors in Cedric and Ryan Bertrand respectively.
The rest of the summer seems more likely to be about outs than ins. Mario Lemina, Guido Carrillo, Harrison Reed, Sofiane Boufal, Wesley Hoedt and Cedric Soares all join Austin in having uncertain futures at the club.
The latter two appear to have been given a second chance by the manager who has admitted he prefers working with a small squad which has led to these players all being linked with a move away.
Lemina meanwhile has taken to social media to issue a ‘come and get me’ plea by showcasing some of his highlights in a Saints shirt amid interest from both Manchester United and Arsenal. However, this reel demonstrated his main drawback as a player, most highlights came in the same 3/4 games which shows that on his day he can be unplayable, but a lack of consistency means we don’t see that often enough.
Carrillo and Boufal join Mohamed Elyounoussi in struggling to live up to their hefty transfer fee and if Saints were able to offload some of these players, then not only will there be extra funds for incomings of their own, but it would also ease pressure on the wage structure with some of the highest earners up for sale.
The only player Saints now appear to be in the market for is a centre-back although few names have been mentioned so we will have to wait for movement on that front.
I would have suggested that a right-back and central midfielder could also prove useful for next season but if Cedric is back to his professional best and we continue to play 4-2-2-2 then these positions aren’t necessities.
All-in-all, I am relatively pleased with how this summer is going and believe that our signings thus far represent good business for the club. I would still like to see some of the high-earners, who have fallen down the pecking order, depart for the sake of their career and Hasenhuttl’s desire to trim down the squad. A quality central defender may well be the final piece to the jigsaw which could elevate our season, although this won’t be an easy position to fill so we may have to wait a bit longer.
I must admit I am really looking forward to the new season for the first time in a couple of years and believe that if we get behind the Ralph revolution then we could be in for an exciting season. ffffffff