Football Manager 2018: Southampton Guide, Player Ratings & Tactics

This season Southampton may have slipped into a relegation battle, but over the past few years they have been the most consistent challengers to the Premier League top six. Under Mauricio Pochettino, the club finished eighth, and Ronald Koeman then took the Saints up to sixth place. Claude Puel was then harshly let go after an eighth-place finish and a trip to the EFL Cup final, and it is now your opportunity on Football Manager 2018 to take the South Coast club to the next level.


Chairman Ralph Krueger will welcome you to Southampton and let you know the board’s expectations for the season. You will need to play possession football, play attacking football and develop players using the club’s youth system with the Saints.


Director of Football Les Reed will then issue the expectations for the season. These are adjustable for a larger transfer budget, but the default is to finish in the top half of the English Premier Division and reach the fifth round of the FA Cup. If you target qualification for the EURO Cup, you will be given an extra £8 million to play with, and aiming for the sixth round of the FA Cup provides an additional £1.5 million.


Transfer: £30 million

Wage: £1.64m per week (Current spend: £1.54m)


With Southampton, you will want to be using some form of 4-3-3 system, and we have adjusted this to a ‘4-1-4-1 DM Wide Asymmetric’ to get the best out of your XI. 

Fraser Forster takes the goalkeeping gloves, with Cedric, Virgil Van Dijk, Wesley Hoedt and Ryan Bertrand making up the defensive line.

Oriol Romeu is the midfield anchor, with Mario Lemina just ahead of him. Manolo Gabbiadini and Sofiane Boufal flank attacking midfielder Dusan Tadic, as Charlie Austin leads the line in attack.

On the bench opt for Alex McCarthy, Maya Yoshida, Sam McQueen, James Ward-Prowse, Steven Davis, Nathan Redmond and Shane Long. 

Key players

Southampton have a reputation for developing players and then selling them on for profits. Can you change that and keep hold of the hottest talent at St. Mary’s?

Virgil Van Dijk – CA 4.5 star (159), PA 4.5 star (167)

A man who has recently left the Saints, but you have the chance to keep star centre back Virgil Van Dijk at the club. If Liverpool were to come in with a £75 million bid for the Dutch international it would be hard to turn down, but you can’t improve if you sell your best players. The 26-year-old has a 159 CA rating on FM, which is over 10 points higher than any other player in the Southampton squad. He can still grow to a potential of 167 which would make him one of the best centre halves on the game, with Van Dijk holding attributes of 19 strength, 18 heading and 18 jumping. 

Oriol Romeu – CA 3.5 star (146), PA 3.5 star (149)

Someone who you shouldn’t worry about leaving the club is Oriol Romeu. The former Chelsea defensive midfielder keeps things simple in the centre of the park, and offers superb protection for the back four. The 25-year-old Spaniard is close to his peak, with his 146 CA just off his 149 potential, meaning he should be at the top of his game for a number of seasons. Romeu offers attributes of 18 teamwork, 17 positioning and 17 anticipation on the game.

Manolo Gabbiadini – CA 3 star (144), PA 3 star (151)

The man who fired Southampton up the table last season was Manolo Gabbiadini. The Italian netted six goals in just 12 games after arriving in the January transfer window, but he's struggled so far in the 2018/18 campaign with just three goals. The 25-year-old can either play out wide on the right or up front, aided by his 17 long shots, 15 finishing and 15 first touch. His 144 current ability score can still rise to a potential of 151, so he will be a vital member of your side as you climb the table. 

Young talent

Southampton have one of the finest academy’s in the world, let alone just English football. Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer, Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all gone on to become internationals, so who's next to step up from the youth setup and become a Premier League regular. 

Josh Sims – CA 2.5 star (120), PA 4-5 star (130-160)

We have promoted Josh Sims to the first team squad on our FM save, with the winger making 13 appearances for the club last season. His 120 CA will come in useful for cup competitions or if injuries take their toll, and you want to give the 20-year-old as much game time as possible so his 120 CA can reach a potential as high as 160.

Callum Slattery – CA 2 star (105), PA 4-5 star (130-160)

A name you will be less familiar with is the 18-year-old Callum Slattery. The central or attacking midfielder has appeared for England U20s and is a regular for the Saints development side. His 105 current ability rating on FM could bring him into the first team picture towards the end of the season, or you could send him out on loan so he grows towards his potential between 130 and 160. 

Yan Valery – CA 2 star (105), PA 3.5-4.5 star (130-160)

Away from British talent, Yan Valery could go on to be a star for the French national side having made his debut for the U18s in 2017. The 18-year-old right back is perhaps a season or two off breaking into the first team at Southampton so he is another who could benefit from a loan spell away from the club. Valery’s 105 CA can also rise to a potential between 130 and 160.  

Team report

Centre    Back Depth
Left Back Depth
Youth Prospects
Goalkeeper Depth
Star Goalkeeper (Fraser Forster)
Overall Depth
Star Defenders (Ryan Bertrand, Virgil Van Dijk)
Right Back Depth
Wage Budget
Transfer Budget
Scouting Staff


Team leaders -  Steven Davis, Shane Long, Maya Yoshida

Highly influential - Ryan Bertrand, Virgil van Dijk, Dusan Tadic, Fraser Forster, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse

The most prominent new feature for Football Manager 2018 is Dynamics. It shows you the atmosphere inside the dressing room at the club, including the different social groups and the hierarchy inside the squad. With the more influential players you need to be careful with the words you choose, as if you upset one of the leaders it can have catastrophic effects on the rest of your side. 

Transfer targets

£30 million is much larger than most of the other Premier League clubs in Football Manager 2018, so it should allow you to bring in a regular starter for your squad.

Right back – Mariano (CA 151, PA 152)

Regardless of what the team report suggests, right back is the biggest area of concern at Southampton. A number of players may be able to play there, but Cedric is the only defender who is 100% comfortable in the position. Galatasaray's Mariano is available for a snip at £14 million, with his current wages £46,500 a week. The 31-year-old Brazilian offers you attributes of 17 stamina, 16 consistency and 16 acceleration, giving Mariano a CA of 151, just one off his 152 potential. 

Alternative options:

  • Nelson Semedo – Age 23, Barcelona, Portugal, CA 150, PA 164, Value: £14m, Wage: £63k
  • Mario Fernandes – Age 26, CSKA Moscow, Russia, CA 149, PA 156, Value: £18m, Wage: £31k
  • Antonio Valencia – Age 31, Man Utd, Ecuador, CA 149, PA 158, Value: £17m, Wage: £85k
  • Aleix Vidal – Age 27, Barcelona, Spain, CA 149, PA 153, Value: £14m, Wage: £79k 

Players to sell

With a large squad and the need to bring through youngsters at the club you will want to trim the players who will struggle for minutes this season.

Florin Gardos

You have six centre halves at your disposal, so there is simply no need for Florin Gardos. The Romanian’s 123 CA will only rise to a potential of 136, so he will not feature in the short or long term. The 28-year-old should collect you around £7 million in the transfer market, freeing up £30,000 in your weekly wage budget. 

Jeremy Pied

By no means a bad player, but Jeremy Pied’s 131 CA and 136 PA are just too ‘middle of the road’ to keep him at the club. If he was more comfortable at right back it would be a different story, but with other wing options you should sell the 28-year-old for around £10 million, saving £40,000 a week in wages.


Southampton are quite financially secure, but judging on their financial projection on Football Manager, things could be about to change. The overall balance of the club is on the decline, with profits set to turn to loss at the end of 2017. The only saving grace is that you should have a transfer budget of around £60 million next season. 

Step into Europe

With a deep, talented squad, there is no reason why Southampton can’t close that gap on the top six and aim for European competitions. They failed to capitalise on their venture into Europe last season, with a change of management coming at just the wrong time. That didn’t stop them making a cup final, so you can see the potential of this side. Keep hold of Van Dijk and add some useful players to the squad and you could sneak into a European place once again. 

Southampton first team squad, player role and ratings

Role   Ability
Starting lineup
Fraser Forster
3.5 star
143/ 150
3.5 star
140/ 148
Virgil van Dijk
Defensive centre back
4.5 star
159/ 167
Wesley Hoedt
Ball playing defender
3.5 star
143/ 157
Ryan Bertrand
3.5 star
141/ 146
Oriol Romeu
Defensive midfielder
3.5 star
146/ 149
Mario Lemina
Roaming playmaker/ mezzala
Support/ attack
3.5 star
142/ 156
Manolo Gabbiadini
Inside forward
3.5 star
144/ 151
Dusan Tadic
Advanced playmaker/ inside forward
3 star
142/ 146
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