The dust has settled on another stereotypical season for Southampton of drastic ups and downs that even makes Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” jealous, and Allen Gunn takes a quick look back before our summer becomes the defecation that hits the oscillation.
The “Wow, didn’t expect that” performer of the season: Maya Yoshida
Maya Yoshida went from unused substitute and saying to he will “fight for his Southampton place” to a remarkable season where he rose to one of the most important names on the team sheet. Maya. Yoshida.
With Jose Fonte hanging around like garlic breath as he looked for a way out of the club, Yoshida brought serenity to the heart of the best defence outside of the top seven. His stats won’t leap off the page, but he was solid playing all six Europa League group stage games and 23 Premier League appearances.
For what it is worth he was an unused substitute on 16 occasions across all competitions in 2016/17 in which Southampton racked up five wins, five draws and six losses.
But let’s be honest, no one expected it.
The “Milk carton ‘Have you seen?’” performer of the season: Dusan Tadic
Poor Dusan Tadic suffered the most from the January sale of Graziano Pelle. Tadic’s 12 league assists in 2015/16 was his second best effort since posting 14 with FC Twente, which earnt him a move to Southampton. The Serbian, however, had just five league assists in 30 appearances this season — the fewest since his first year on the South Coast.
Tadic’s regression rendered him almost unplayable at the tail end of 2016/17, and it begs to question what would’ve happened had the board properly addressed the departure of Pelle. It also begs to question what could’ve been had he not instilled the fear of Satan in Claude Puel for always being substituted.
Southampton’s attack is not dependent, but leans heavily on the production of Tadic and it was non-existent. With Puel’s future at the club hanging in the balance, a strong strike against him was not putting the attacking midfielder in a position to succeed.
Saints are once again linked with Gylfi Sigurdsson, whose 13 league assists ranked third behind Kevin De Bruyne (18) and Christian Eriksen (15). Should Sigurdsson find himself at St Mary’s next season it could spell the end for Diva Tadic.
The “From Outta Nowhere” performer of the season: Jack Stephens
Jack Stephens was thrown into the deep end in the EFL Cup semi-final against Liverpool following Virgil van Dijk’s injury and handled it aptly. Sure there were growing pains against the likes of Fernando Llorente and Andy Carroll, but Stephens had been facing League One competition less than a year ago.
Puel rightly stuck with Stephens, despite Southampton signing Martin Caceres on a free transfer and he answered the question of having to sign someone to replace Fonte. The 23-year-old ranked 23rd amongst defenders since entering the line-up permanently in January in defensive actions (interceptions, blocks and clearances) and tied first with 17 blocked shots.
Stephens will continue his development at the Under-21 European Championships in Poland with England, surely boosting his confidence ahead of what looks to be an important season.
… Until we inevitably sign someone to replace van Dijk and he gets sent on loan to a League One side.
The “Thank heavens for…” performer of the season: Manolo Gabbiadini
Yes, Manolo Gabbiadini went without a goal in his final eight appearances of the season, but he injected life into a frustrating stretch — van Dijk had gone done with an injury and Fonte finally got his dream move to a club who last played in the Champions League, well, never — and single-handedly nearly won Southampton their first major trophy since 1976.
Gabbiadini had a superhuman start after arriving off the Napoli bench and he couldn’t have been expected to keep that pace. Still, he made us dream on a beautiful February night at Wembley and will be a focal point of the attack along with Charlie Austin next season, which hopefully has improved service.
And that flowing mane, beautiful.
The “Covering my eyes” performer of the season: Fraser Forster
It’s hard to criticise someone who tied for third with David de Gea with 14 clean sheets, but Fraser Forster’s focus was highly questionable.
There was plenty of expectation with Forster eyeing to overtake Joe Hart as England’s number one goalkeeper. He, however, did little to back up his claim as he eyed up the worst save percentage of the top 20 goalkeepers in the league.
Forster comically gifted Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke a cracker of a goal when his attempted clearance rolled off his foot, and he hardly alleviated concerns when it felt as if he conceded goals on the first shot on target he faced.
Still, the England number two had his moments of brilliance, including a tidy penalty save at Anfield.
A capable back-up this summer, Les. Cheers.
The “Is it over yet?” performer of the season: Claude Puel
That 10 minute kip during Southampton’s vivacious goalless draw against Manchester United might be the highlight of the season. There were dreams of goals and hand-dipped ice cream.
So often there were things that would’ve been more exciting — laundry, grocery shopping, a root canal — than watch Southampton march towards a ‘brilliant result’ and/or a vital point in battle for mid-table supremacy.
Claude Puel can’t solely be to blame, but he is the man pulling the strings. He is the ma--...