Southampton supporters in the Transfer Tavern are eagerly anticipating the 2018/19 Premier League season following the news that Mark Hughes has penned a long-term deal to remain as the club’s manager.
The 54-year-old took over at St Mary’s back in March following the sacking of Mauricio Pellegrino, who had up until that point overseen a shambles of a league campaign, and one that left the Saints in danger of losing their top-flight status. Yet former Stoke City chief Hughes led the side to safety with key victories over Bournemouth and Swansea City, eventually ending up 17th in the Premier League table, three points clear of the relegation zone.
Regardless, many of our resident Southampton fans will be expecting a lot better this time round, and as such are likely to be intrigued by recent reports suggesting that Jack Grealish is seeking to leave Aston Villa this summer.
But with Tottenham reportedly in pole position for the £4.5 million-rated sensation (as per Transfermarkt), Hughes’ Southampton must seek to hijack their move for the 22-year-old during the close season.
Ultimately, while there is no doubting that the lure of working with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, given his track record of developing young talent, is going to interest Grealish, he must be somewhat concerned that he is likely to find it difficult to get into the starting eleven, what with Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, and Son Heung-min enjoying decent seasons last term.
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Yes, Pochettino is likely to give him the opportunity to shine, as he has done with messrs Alli, Eric Dier, and Harry Kane during his stint in North London, but with Spurs eyeing major honours and perhaps a Premier League title challenge this term, Grealish may find it tough to command the regular football he wants at Tottenham.
Whereas given Southampton’s struggles in the final third of the pitch, alongside their own willingness to develop and nurture young talent, the 22-year-old may find St Mary’s the best destination for his progression.
The Saints only managed 37 goals in 38 Premier League games last term to underline their supreme difficulties in the attacking department, with the likes of Sofiane Boufal, Nathan Redmond, and Dusan Tadic (bar from his brace against Bournemouth) failing to live up to expectations.
And if the South Coast outfit are serious about reaching the top half of the division again, having done so in each of the four seasons prior to the last one, Hughes will have to improve the attacking ranks – Grealish’s arrival would do just that.
The 22-year-old may only have scored three goals and laid on six assists for Aston Villa last term, but there is no doubting that he developed a maturity that hadn’t been seen in his career to date, perhaps suggesting that he is ready to return to the top-flight.
And having failed to do so with Villa, having got agonisingly close in losing the Championship play-off final in May, the 22-year-old reportedly appears willing to leave his boyhood club this summer – Southampton should be his destination.
Thus, Hughes’ men simply must seek to hijack Tottenham’s move for the English youngster, to potentially offer him the best place for his development in the years to come.
Southampton fans… what do you think? Let us know!