Thursday, September 21, 2023
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Four Saints to Survive the Drop?

Heading into the final stages of the Premier League season and the tension is beginning to reach fever pitch at both ends of the table. It’s Manchester City or Arsenal for the title, and two from Newcastle United, Manchester United, Liverpool and Brighton & Hove Albion for the remaining Champions League positions.

Hitting the Premier League News headlines just as frequently is the battle to beat the drop. Everton, Leicester City, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest all remain in deep trouble, but not quite so deep as Southampton, with the fate of the South Coast club now all but sealed. Even should they win their final three fixtures, the Saints would still only reach 33 points – and Southampton have shown precious few signs of late that they are capable of stringing such a run together. Relegation punters accessing the top new betting sites, such as those found in this Fafabet Review, are likely to find odds in the region of 1/66 about Southampton going down – which just about says it all.

Whilst Southampton may be doomed, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole squad will be plying their trade in the Championship next season. Disappointing as the overall performances have been, several players have ably demonstrated their capabilities at this level, and may already find themselves on the summer shopping lists of those sides remaining in the Premier League and/or the newly promoted clubs. Here we pick out a quartet of Saints stars who may still be spreading their wings in the top flight in the 2023/24 campaign.

James Ward-Prowse

The obvious first name on the list is all-action-midfielder James Ward-Prowse. Now 28 years old and in the prime of his career, Ward-Prowse is unlikely to wish to waste a year in the Championship – particularly as he is invariably either in, or on the fringes of the England squad.

A deadly set-piece specialist, it is thought a bid of around £34m would see him on the move, with West Ham and Newcastle United amongst the clubs interested.

Roméo Lavia

Whilst Ward-Prowse may be in his prime, the best years of 19-year-old Roméo Lavia are almost still ahead of him which – given the impressive level of his displays to date – makes him a very exciting midfield prospect.

Formerly with Manchester City, Lavia is one of the few players to have shone at St. Mary’s this season, using his athleticism, tenacity, and surging runs to have a big impact on games. Given his age, he will likely come at a premium, with Arsenal and Chelsea said to be amongst those monitoring the Belgium international.

Armel Bella-Kotchap

For a side sitting rock-bottom of the table, it may be surprising to learn that two of Southampton’s top performers are found at the heart of their defence. However, the Saint’s misfortunes can mainly be attributed to offensive inadequacies – with a league-low of just 28 goals in 35 games.

Of the Southampton back-line, it is 21-year-old German international Armel Bella-Kotchap who is likely to spark the most interest in the summer. Despite a campaign interrupted by a dislocated shoulder and knee injury, the youngster has still emerged to rack up 23 appearances, showing enough to catch the eye of potential suitors in the Premier League and other major European competitions. Despite only joining the club for £11m in July 2022, the club would likely secure a profit should he move on in the summer.

Mohammed Salisu

Linked with a number of top clubs, including Manchester United, before joining Southampton for £10.9m in 2021, Salisu made a strong impression during his first season, with his strength in the tackle, aerial ability, and organisational skills making him an asset at the heart of the Saints defence.

Much like the plight of the team as a whole, things haven’t gone so well for Salisu on an individual level this term, with injuries, and rumoured commitment issues seeing him all but jettisoned from the squad at times. However, in the 21 games he has played, he has consistently been amongst the side’s best performers but is perhaps ready to head for pastures new. With his contract running down in 2024, and seemingly unlikely to put pen to paper on a deal, it would be no surprise to see Southampton cash in over the summer.

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