Despite now being six points from safety and requiring a minor miracle to avoid the drop, Southampton have some very good players. They’re by no means in the ‘too good to go down’ category, probably because the majority of their very good players are also very young. Experience pays at the back-end and the Saints are clearly suffering through a lack of it.
Unfortunately for Southampton, some – if not all – of their very good, very young players will likely be poached at the end of the season, quite possibly earning some very favourable moves.
We’ve picked a player every Big Six side (except Man City) could poach at the end of the season, with relegation set to make for easy pickings at St Mary’s.
Tino Livramento to Manchester United
The 20-year-old returned to action for Saint U21s earlier this month after over a year out with a cruciate ligament injury. But Livramento’s displays in 2021/22 for Southampton caused everyone to question Chelsea’s decision to allow him to leave, and prompted then manager Thomas Tuchel to state he did “everything” to convince him to stay.
With the considerable roadblock of Reece James standing in the way of a consistent first-team place at Stamford Bridge, Livramento took a step down to Southampton before what everyone presumed would be a speedy climb back up. Injury has hampered his progress on the field and off it, but Manchester United could well be in the market for a new right-back this summer.
Livramento would provide a very different option to Aaron Wan-Bissaka and has a ceiling far higher than that of Diogo Dalot, who seems to have long been stuck at a point where he looks to be on the brink of becoming a very good right-back, suggesting he may never actually become one.
James Ward-Prowse to Liverpool
Oh how we laughed when Liverpool ‘feeder’ club Southampton finished two points behind the sixth-placed Reds in 2014/15 after Brendan Rodgers signed Rickie Lambert (£4.5m), Adam Lallana (£25m) and Dejan Lovren (£20m) from the south coast side, apparently deeming them enough to bridge the gap from second to first in the Premier League.
Nathaniel Clyne followed for £12.5m in the summer of 2015 as Liverpool’s woes continued, with fans presumably questioning whether they should leave Southampton alone for a while.
Then Jurgen Klopp arrived, and again raided Southampton, but to far greater effect. Sadio Mane joined in the summer of 2016 for £34m before Virgil van Dijk walked the well-trodden path for £75m in January 2018.
In dire need of two, maybe three central midfielders, James Ward-Prowse would tick a lot of boxes for Liverpool: cheap (£30m or so?); experienced; reliable; a leader; a fan; very good at football.
Romeo Lavia to Chelsea
More than a few people scoffed as Chelsea made a £50m deadline day bid for Romeo Lavia, after the 19-year-old had only moved to Southampton from Manchester City for £11m about a month before. They seemingly did so simply on the back of him playing well and scoring against them just before the transfer window closed.
Although a player playing well and scoring against Chelsea absolutely shouldn’t provide the basis for a signing, as the Blues would also by that logic want Brenden Aaronson from Leeds and to reunite with Fulham’s Willian, in Lavia’s case they were bang on the money.
In terms of the transfer fee as well as it turns out. Reports suggest Chelsea are now ‘closing in’ on a £50m deal for the Belgium international, hoping to tie him down before the end of the season.
Armel Bella-Kotchap to Arsenal
Of all the theories as to why Arsenal have ‘bottled’ the Premier League, the most clear-cut and universal is the injury to William Saliba.
Rob Holding has played as well as you would expect Rob Holding – a mediocre Premier League centre-back – to play. He is not Champions League-worthy, and actually, when you really think about it, you would struggle to come up with more than a couple of top-flight teams that would be improved by his presence.
Bella-Kotchap suits Mikel Arteta’s model at Arsenal – he’s young, raw and impressionable. He’s made some mistakes this season, but has also put in some utterly brilliant displays to show consistency is the only barrier to him becoming a world-class defender.
Carlos Alcaraz to Tottenham
Southampton would have beaten Arsenal had Ruben Selles not made the bizarre decision to take the Argentinian off at half-time. He scored, got an assist and was everywhere.
Tottenham lack an everywhere-ness. It’s all very considered and cumbersome, and there’s a distinct lack of energy that permeates the whole team. Alcaraz, who joined Southampton from Racing Club in January for £12m, has that energy in spades – you can wind him up and let him go.
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