Southampton 2022/23 season preview and prediction: Top half or relegation? It's hard to tell with Saints this time
The Southampton 2022/23 season preview and prediction looks at shrewd buys, getting battered and why James Ward-Prowse is underrated – no really
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Saints have been in a footballing demilitarised zone for years now. Too good to go down, not good enough to push on, they’re merely… existing. Sooner or later, conflict needs to kick them into action, especially as the stars of St Mary’s are no longer being plundered with boring regularity and Ralph Hasenhuttl has slammed the managerial revolving door shut.
With leadership throughout the side, there’s an opportunity to end this stasis and trouble the top half if the right faces arrive – because already, Che Adams, Mohammed Salisu (who last season won possession more regularly when pressing opponents than any other Premier League player) and free-kick cheat code James Ward-Prowse have significantly more to give than a third straight 15th-place finish.
Southampton 2022/23 season preview and prediction: The lesson from last year
How exactly can Southampton pick themselves up and out of slumps? Last year, they claimed their first victory eight games into the campaign and won only one of their final 11 fixtures – against Arsenal. The season prior, they were third just before Christmas and then lost 15 of their 21 matches after the winter mini-break; and in the campaign before that, they went two months picking up a single point.
Hasenhuttl needs to find a solution sooner, whether that’s by rotating the squad or coming up with a surer Plan B than bombarding opponents with a regimented press that’s being bypassed. A new owner at St Mary’s means that the next time Saints sag back into their old ways for 10 to 15 matches, things might become pretty uncomfortable for their manager.
The coach: Ralph Hasenhuttl
Ralph Hasenhuttl sits behind only Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola in the list of longest-serving current Premier League bosses. The Alpine gegenpresser shares many of Klopp’s principles and his intensity has helped to propel Southampton since December 2018, but is that enough to take them further?
The owners: Dragan Solak
Little is known of Serbian media mogul Dragan Solak, who took over the club in January 2022. Holding an 80 per cent stake, he may not be ploughing serious money into the club, but he could win over fans at this early stage with a gift of a statement signing, to ward off any relegation fears.
The mood around Southampton…
Southampton know what to expect. Hasenhuttl’s sides will wear the studs off their boots, but damned, dogged perseverance will take them only so far. New ownership, however, has given supporters hope that a quality signing or two may spruce things up.
The one to watch
Kyle Walker-Peters is back in position on the right due to the awful injury to Tino Livramento, who’d been electric. Being able to naturally stay wide could make Walker-Peters a season-defining player in Hasenhuttl’s narrow 4-2-2-2 system, and even earn the 25-year-old more call-ups to an England squad that isn’t lacking in right-back options.
Most likely to…
Get battered. Forget the ‘n’ number becoming Premier League folklore – last term Southampton also racked up some thrashings from Chelsea (6-0), Aston Villa (4-0), Leicester (4-1) and Brentford (3-0), and that was just in their final dozen fixtures. If Saints go 2-0 down, get your in-play bets ready.
Least likely to…
Sell a star to Liverpool. Virgil van Dijk was the last to tread that clichéd path, in January 2018; since then, though, Saints have borrowed Danny Ings and Takumi Minamino on loan from the Reds. Mo Salah to St Mary’s, anyone?
The fan's view: Jake Hughes (@JJHughes_ (opens in new tab))
Last season was ultimately disappointing. Things started promisingly, but Saints’ form nosedived from March with just one win from 12 games.
The big talking point is the approach of new ownership. They want to emulate the Red Bull-style multi-club model, so it’ll be interesting to see how they go about it.
This season will be different because we might make smart signings to add quality to our starting XI… This is very much wishful thinking.
I won’t be happy unless we improve on 15th. Also, it’d be lovely if we could put a stop to that gnawing stat about losing the most points from winning positions.
Our most underrated player is captain James Ward-Prowse, strangely enough. There’s much talk from outsiders about him only being good in set-piece scenarios, but his work-rate and ability on the ball is criminally overlooked.
The fans’ opinion of the gaffer is mixed. A poor end to last season had many questioning Hasenhuttl’s future, but it’s clear to most that he can’t work miracles with a largely average squad.
If he left, he should be replaced by Forest’s Steve Cooper, a proven manager at various levels – he’d be a great fit here.
The pantomime villain will be Danny Ings, again. The abrupt end to his time at Southampton, his so-called boyhood club, still cuts deep.
The one change I’d make would be to consistently invest in promising young talent. Tino Livramento’s transfer from Chelsea has been a success, and that’s a realistic model that a club like ours would benefit from. But we must spend more to secure top-tier talent beyond our normal £10-15m range.
We’ll finish 13th.
FFT'S VERDICT… 15th
Saints need a strong start more than most. After a sorry end to last season, Hasenhuttl is under some pressure.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.