What a journey it has been for Southampton Football Club. They were founding members of the Premier League back in 1992 but battled against relegation for the next decade. Financial difficulties meant that the Saints plummeted to League One, starting the campaign with -10 points, within six years of being in the FA Cup final and finishing eighth in the Premier League. Within four years, Southampton were back in the Premier League, but they weren’t finished there. In 2015 they finished in seventh place, and last season they went one better, finishing sixth and qualifying for the Europa League.
So what’s next for Southampton? Are they the perfect side to ‘do a Leicester’ and win the Premier League title? Well, probably not, and it is more about improving the identity of the club rather than climbing the table for the South Coast side. This underdog consistently punches above its weight making them an excellent choice to take on in FIFA 17, and if they can maintain the level that they have achieved for the past two seasons, they will lose their ‘selling club’ tag. Premier League titles and Champions League football may just be beyond them at this moment of time, but cup silverware should be the next goal for the Southampton board.
How you should line-up
With many players rated in the mid-to-late 70s, there is a lot of competition for places in the Southampton lineup. That also means that there are many systems that you can use, but the 4-1-2-1-2 new manager Claude Puel has opted for probably won’t suit you. 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 can be employed, but it looks as if the old fashioned 4-4-2 is the best option.
England international Fraser Forster is in-between the sticks, and he has the reliable back four of Cedric Soares, Jose Fonte, Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand. In midfield, there is no question that Dusan Tadic and Sofiane Boufal will be out wide, but you have a decision to make the midfield. Jordy Clasie and Steven Davis are your highest rated central midfielder, but with both men being under 5’9”, they won’t win many headers in the middle of the park. For this reason, you can consider Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oriol Romeu.
Up front, Charlie Austin can be partnered by either Shane Long or James Rodriguez.
On the bench, you should have Alex McCarthy, Florin Gardos, Jeremy Pied, Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse, James Rodriguez and Nathan Redmond.
The Transfer Market
Starting transfer budget: £42 million
Starting wage budget: £145,000
Who should go
With a 33 man squad, you can definitely afford to let some players go. The team is very well-balanced at the moment, so you just need to trim some of the players who are surplus to requirements and those who lack that little bit of quality.
Cuco Martina is the third choice right-back, and with a starting overall of 72 and potential of 73, there is no need for the Curacao captain Cuco Martina to be in the squad. With just one year remaining on his contract, you will only be able to receive £800,000 for the defender.
With Southampton having such a good record for bringing through young talent (Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana to name but a few), the young players in the squad need to have high potentials. Will Wood and Marcus Barnes have potentials no greater than 72, so you should look to sell and collect around £400,000 for the pair of them.
What the team needs
Quite simply, a lot needs to be done to the first team at Southampton. Losing the likes of Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Sadio Mane, Dejan Lovren (all to Liverpool) and Victor Wanyama in recent seasons is starting to get the better of them, so some reinforcements are needed.
With just two first-team strikers available, picking up a new forward should be your first order of business. Your £42 million transfer budget could increase to over £50 million if you make those recommended sales and perform well in a pre-season tournament. With strikers being quite expensive, you limit yourself to signing on for £30 million. With just two years remaining on his Arsenal contract, Frenchman Olivier Giroud should come in under your budget. The striker as an overall rating of 83, with 88 strength, 86 heading accuracy and 84 finishing. The 29-year-old has wages of £72,000.
– Javier Hernandez – Bayer Leverkusen, Age 28, OVR 83, POT 83, Cost: £30 million Wage: £86,000
– David Villa – NYCFC, Age 34, OVR 82, POT 82, Cost: £10 million, Wage: £22,000
– Robin van Persie – Fenerbahce, Age 32, OVR 81, POT 81, Cost: £15 million, Wage: £50,000
– Fernando Torres – Atletico Madrid, Age 32, OVR 81, POT 81, Cost: £12 million, Wage: £50,000
– Radamel Falcao – Monaco, Age 30, OVR 81, POT 81, Cost: £20 million, Wage: £50,000
Central midfield is the weakest position in the starting line-up, and despite having five centre-mids at your disposal, you will want to bring in another one. With Yaya Toure in the last year of his contract at Manchester City, the Ivorian can be picked up for a real bargain with a price of around £20 million. The central, defensive or attacking midfielder has an overall rating of 84, with 91 strength, 86 shot power and 86 short passing. The 33-year-old has wages of £65,000.
– Axel Witsel – Zenit St. Petersburg, Age 27, OVR 82, POT 83, Cost: £22 million, Wage: £79,000
– Bastian Schweinsteiger – Manchester United, Age 31, OVR 82, POT 82, Cost: £17 million, Wage: £72,000
– Hernanes – Juventus, Age 31, OVR 80, POT 80, Cost: £14 million, Wage: £43,000
There are a few talented players who aren’t yet ready to break into the first team, so you should consider sending them out on loan. Josh Sims, Jack Stephens, Sam McQueen, Jake Hesketh and Jake Flannigan all have potentials of 74 or higher, so a loan spell for a year or two will help you get a better understanding of their development.
Six Southampton players have contracts running out at the end of the season, but only two of them should be renewed. Lloyd Isgrove has a potential of 75 and Jake Hesketh 77, so they have enough about them to keep them at the club. Jack Stephens and Jake Flannigan both have potentials of 74, so they need to be showing some strong performance in the first season to warrant a new deal. Cuco Martina and 35-year-old goalkeeper Stuart Taylor are the other two men who will be out of contact at the end of the season, but you should not give them new deals. Martinez should be sold, and you should let Taylor run out his deal.
Unlike most clubs, bringing on youth players is the highest priority for Southampton. Your primary managerial objective will be to grow two youth academy players by at least ten overall points and play them in five matches. Not only that, but you will need to develop six academy players with potentials over 75 by ten overall points over two seasons.
As for playing matters, your Premier League aim will be to finish mid-table, but with the long-term goal of finishing in a ‘Euro League’ place (fifth) within two seasons. As for the FA Cup, you will be asked to reach the Last-16, which should be fairly straight forward. In Europe, you will be asked to reach the last four of the Euro League, and that should be your primary focus for the campaign.
For brand exposure, you will need to increase season ticket holders to at least 10% of the stadium’s capacity within three seasons. You can achieve this by regularly winning, scoring lots of goals at home and obviously lifting trophies.
Can the Saints go marching on
After two outstanding seasons, you get the impression that the Southampton side may have peaked, and a sixth place finish in the Premier League is optimistic. They didn’t make it through their kind Europa League group, which would have been the ideal next step for them. The cup competitions should be their next aim, but unfortunately, on FIFA 17 Career Mode, the managerial objectives take you away from domestic cup runs. You do need to use that to your advantage, and ignore the League Cup entirely, which will give you the opportunity to grow some of those young players. A fifth place finish within two seasons is a tough ask, but with some shrewd signings, you may even be able to do that straight away. If the Saints had Olivier Giroud and Yaya Toure this season, could they finish fifth? Quite possibly.
Be sure to rotate your squad effectively, with that first month of the season being absolutely crucial. If you can remain unbeaten during your first five games, you will be set to go when the Euro League kicks off. Playing on Thursdays and the weekend will undoubtedly stutter your league form, but there will be another chance to concentrate on the Premier League around Christmas time. Mid-table should be your absolute minimum target, with a top-half finish reflective of Southampton’s ability regardless of the other competitions. Even if you manage to achieve all of your short term managerial objectives, the Saints will be on the road to further European glories.
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