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Priority number 1 for Poch?
OK, so Saints have nothing really left to play for this season apart from the £700,000 or so difference between finishing eighth or ninth.
Cardiff City, in contrast, have their Premier League futures on the line. And while the Welsh club
battled for their lives at St Mary’s at the weekend, it was still Saints who enjoyed more than the lion’s share of the possession.
They had just under 70 percent of the ball, yet still couldn’t score against the club who rocked up in Southampton with the worst away record in the top four divisions.
It echoed the early December game against Aston Villa at St Mary’s, where Saints enjoyed more than 70 per cent of the ball – and still lost again, this time 3-2.
Without the injured Jay Rodriguez, Mauricio Pochettino admitted his side lacked a cutting edge. In the two hours of football since Rodriguez suffered his horror knee injury, Saints’ only goal has come from the penalty spot.
Pochettino is right to admit that Saints’ squad is “too short”. Certainly, Rodriguez’s injury has highlighted the lack of decent options that exist up front. Saints currently have four strikers out on loan, and there are large question marks over whether any of them will play for their parent club again.
That means Pochettino’s priority No 1 in this summer’s transfer market – providing the manager
himself stays, of course – is to recruit a new forward.
The most high profile of the four Saints out on loan is Dani Osvaldo, who has yet to score for Juventus in the league since joining the Serie A leaders back in January on loan.
With the manner of his departure still fresh in the mind, it remains unlikely whether he will ever come back to Saints.
If he doesn’t, though, the club might have to take a hit on the £15m fee they signed him for.
Elsewhere, who remembers Emmanuel Mayuka? He was loaned out to French club Sochaux last August and has bagged just four goals in 18 Ligue 1 outings.
His form was so grim he was dropped to the bench for a handful of matches last month, and in fact has not scored in his last 10 league games. Billy Sharp and Lee Barnard are on loan at Doncaster and Southend respectively, but there appears more chance of Artur Boruc being deployed up front by Pochettino than any of those two.
With Sam Gallagher still very much a promising teenager, and in any way more of a replacement for Rickie Lambert than Rodriguez, Poch’s cupboard is fairly bare.
Morgan Schneiderlin piled some pressure on chairman Ralph Krueger and his board last week by saying the players would be delighted to see some new signings this summer.
I’m sure they are not alone in that. There has been much talk about Saints wanting to challenge for the top five, but realism needs to take hold here.
At present, the club are 18 points ahead of the relegation zone and the same amount adrift of fourth-placed Everton (who have a game in hand).
Saints are 16 points adrift of the fifth placed team and 12 behind sixth placed Tottenham. Those are fairly chunky gaps to try and close, and to do so money will need to be splashed. That really goes without saying.
Don’t let anyone fool you by saying Saints had ‘nothing’ to play for against Cardiff.
You could argue the same was true of the recent home games against Norwich and Newcastle – Saints’ league position was almost identical to that of the weekend – and in both those games they belted four goals.
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