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Southampton 2022-23 season preview - prediction, summer signings, star player

:Headline: Southampton 2022-23 season preview - prediction, summer signings, star player:
Sports Mole takes an in-depth look ahead to Southampton's 2022-23 campaign, including predictions, summer signings and their star player.
Sports Mole

After finishing 15th in each of the last two Premier League seasons, Southampton will hope to kick on under Ralph Hasenhuttl this season.

The Saints were never in any real relegation danger last time around, but four successive defeats ended the season on a sour note.

There has been a clear emphasis on attracting youth in the summer transfer window, with only Joe Aribo of the five players they have paid money for longer in the tooth than 20-years-old, but it may take time - which Hasenhuttl can scarcely afford - for the quintet to find their feet at this level.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look ahead to Southampton's 2022-23 campaign, including predictions, summer signings and their star player.


FIXTURES

Southampton open their campaign with a difficult trip to Tottenham Hotspur, before hosting Manchester United and Chelsea later in August.

The Saints travel to South coast rivals Bournemouth on October 18 before hosting Brighton & Hove Albion at St Mary's on Boxing Day, with the reverse fixtures coming on April 26 and May 20 respectively.

Hasenhuttl will be keen to have his side's safety wrapped up before the final day of the season given that they face potential title challengers Liverpool.

Click here to see all of Southampton's 2022-23 fixtures


SUMMER SIGNINGS

In
Gavin Bazunu (£12.6m, Manchester City)
Sekou Mara (£11.7m, Bordeaux)
Romeo Lavia (£11.1m, Man City)
Armel Bella-Kotchap (£9m, VfL Bochum)
Joe Aribo (£6.4m, Rangers)
Mateusz Lis (free, Altay)

Out
Fraser Forster (free, Tottenham Hotspur)
Shane Long (free, Reading)
Harry Lewis (free, Bradford City)
William Smallbone (loan, Stoke City)
Dan N'Lundulu (loan, Cheltenham Town)

Total spent to date: £50.8m
Total received to date: £0m

Net transfer balance: -£50.8m


SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu, Alex McCarthy, Willy Caballero, Mateusz Lis

Defenders: Kyle Walker-Peters, Tino Livramento, Yan Valery, Jan Bednarek, Mohammed Salisu, Armel Bella-Kotchap, Jack Stephens, Lyanco, Romain Perraud

Midfielders: Ibrahima Diallo, Romeo Lavia, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, Joe Aribo, Stuart Armstrong, Nathan Redmond, Mohamed Elyounoussi

Forwards: Che Adams, Adam Armstrong, Theo Walcott, Sekou Mara, Moussa Djenepo, Nathan Tella


STRONGEST XI


STAR PLAYER - James Ward-Prowse

Having resisted reported interest from West Ham United and Aston Villa in recent summers, helped by him signing a contract until June 2025, Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse looks set to stay for at least another campaign.

The 27-year-old hit double figures in a league campaign for the first time last season, scoring 10 goals and laying on five assists for his teammates in a remarkable feat of individual brilliance.

The England midfielder's set-piece ability makes him both Southampton's biggest goal threat and creative presence in the side, while providing industriousness and quality from a deep-lying role in open play, too.

Who knows where the Saints would be without him?


MANAGER - Ralph Hasenhuttl

Despite receiving plenty of criticism from the home crowd since joining Southampton in December 2018, hardly helped by being on the wrong end of two 9-0 defeats to Leicester City and Man Utd, Hasenhuttl has generally kept his side away from relegation trouble despite working on a shoestring budget at times.

His preferred 4-2-2-2 formation provides a unique tactical edge to the Premier League, too, with his wide players regularly drifting inside to create a box midfield shape.

However, with his contract expiring in less than two years' time and the board spending £50m and counting so far this summer, now feels the time for Hasenhuttl to deliver on his immense reputation in the game.

Whether he truly has the quality at his disposal to do so, though, remains to be seen.


LAST SEASON - 15th

Having amassed 35 points from their opening 26 league games, Southampton fans could have been forgiven for thinking that their side looked set for a first top-half finish since the 2016-17 season.

However, nine defeats from their final 12 games left the Saints looking nervously over their shoulders, with only the relatively poor form of Burnley, Leeds United and Everton preventing them from being dragged into the relegation mix.

Only three teams conceded more than Southampton's tally of 67 goals, which was only one fewer than their defensive record from the previous season. This must be improved upon if Hasenhuttl's side are to avoid another difficult season.

Moreover, only Ward-Prowse, Che Adams and loanee Armando Broja - who has returned to his parent club Chelsea - scored more than four league goals, suggesting a weakness in both penalty areas exists at St Mary's.


PREDICTION

Despite spending more money than in recent summer transfer windows, we are not convinced that Southampton have solved the issues which have plagued their progress in recent years.

Aribo could prove to be a bargain buy and inject some much-needed creative flair in midfield, but a lack of individual quality at either end of the pitch will surely continue to be a major issue for the Saints.

Having flirted with relegation danger in four of the last five seasons, we think that this could be the season that Southampton finally find themselves finishing inside the bottom three.

VERDICT: 18th body check tags ::

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