After narrowly avoiding relegation and life in the Championship by the skin of their teeth, there is a common feeling among the supporters that the squad as a whole needs to raise their game in order to avoid a repeat of the 2017/2018 Premier League Season.
Here are three key players that could potentially be vital in ensuring Southampton continue to ‘March On’.
Since coming into the team in late December, McCarthy has become a firm fan’s favourite within St Mary’s. Making crucial saves, notably in our most important fixtures (Bournemouth home and Swansea away) McCarthy was being tipped for an England recall and crash the World Cup squad after an excellent run of form. His commanding presence has brought calmness and confidence to a defence which has been so easy to rip apart for the majority of the season.
Now, as we approach the upcoming Premier League matches, the former Crystal Palace man has a rare opportunity to start the campaign as the number one between the sticks. Rather than coming in midway through a season, McCarthy has a chance to kick on from the solid platform he set for himself and prove to be a significant figure in attempting to repair a rather leaky defence. With his contract expiring in 2019, Les Reed and the Southampton board will have to make it their top priority to tie down the Saints shot-stopper to a new, long-term contract.
After joining the club for a reported initial 16 Million pound fee, Lemina made a sparkling start to life on the South Coast. With dominant performances in the middle of the park, the supporters felt they had unearthed a gem. Standout performances such as Crystal Palace away earned heaps of praise from fans and pundits alike. However, after picking up an ankle injury, the Gabonese starlet’s form and consistency dipped. After such a bright beginning, Lemina looked a shell of his former self. There were times in games, particularly away from home, where the usual marauding central midfielder simply looked lifeless and statuesque. This led to supporters questioning his attitude and work rate.
Nevertheless, after recapturing his form in certain periods of the season and finishing the campaign extremely strongly, the former Juve star has to now kick on if he wants to fulfill his undoubted potential and bring a higher level of consistency into each contest. Arguably, Southampton most gifted player, the Saints will look for him to take games by the scruff of their neck and drag the team through tough moments. Now he’s had a full season to adapt to the English game, there is pressure on Lemina to be a key figure at Southampton.
When after a man of the match performance against Everton in 2016, in his full Premier League debut, the then 19-year-old was being tipped to be the next wonderkid along the Saints conveyor. Unexpectedly since then, Sims has had his promising potential slowed down; with injuries hampering his opportunity to stake a claim in the squad at the beginning of the previous season. After seven months out injured, Sims chance to build on from what was a magnificent start to his professional career never materialised and as result, he was frozen out of the majority of the former boss, Mauricio Pellegrino’s plans. When finally returning, Sims was limited to just 12 appearances, with 10 of them coming off the bench.
I and many supporters believe Sims can be an unlikely key figure for the Saints next season. Offering the innoce of youth, the now 21-year-old gives something different to the offensive options available; unlike many others, Sims is direct in attacking. He is not afraid to simply just run at players and use his frightening pace to get in behind and stretch the game. For the majority of the previous campaign, the team was accused of playing sideways and always in front of the other team. Now with a fully fit Josh Sims, the team now has an outlet who can commit players 1 against 1 whilst also offering the threat of running in behind the defence of the opposition.