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January Transfer Window Mixed Bag For Southampton
Friday, 2nd Feb 2024 08:23

Saints fans will be divided on the January transfer window which saw two depart and two arrive in the first team squad, but what is the overall verdict, read on for the TUI viewpoint.

The good news is that the window slammed shut without any truly major departures, Che Adams & Kyle Walker Peters were still Southampton players when all was done and dusted and more to the point, there didn't appear to be any serious interest shown.

This indicates that any club interested and there were certainly a few were rebuffed at an early stage by either the players agent or Southampton FC themselves, usually serious rumours only emerge when one part of the selling process, ie agent or club shows encouragement to the potential buyer.

So January has seen Mason Holgate and Charly Alcaraz depart the latter on loan and coming in the other directions two loan signings from Bournemouth, Joe Rothwell & David Brooks.

Thus Saints haven't had spent any transfer money and have kept their transfer kitty intact for the summer.

On the face of it the squad hasn't changed much we have exchanged one attacking player in Alacaraz for another David Brooks and then brought let a defender go in Holgate for a midfielder in Rothwell.

For me we have upset the balance of the squad a little and this could be a worry.

The signing of Rothwell essentially a central midfield player could be justified on one hand by the fact that he is an experienced Championship player and will bring that to the squad, but on the other we have a plethora of experienced players in this position, Flynn Downes, Will Smallbone, Stuart Armstrong, Joe Aribo, plus the potential of Shea Charles means that Rothwell is the 6th candidate for 3 positions, yes we have strengthened, but probably only in the fact that we have more options.

The departure of Mason Holgate for me could be a potential problem, there are some who will disagree and point at Holgate as a failure, but I have looked at it with a bit of perspective.

In his first two games, Sunderland & Middlesbrough he did not shine, no one can argue with that, in his third an 89th minute substitute at Stoke, he played a part in a long period of injury time to ensure we didn't throw away a 1-0 lead.

His 3rd start at Preston perhaps wasn't pushing him forward to permanently replace the missing Taylor Harwood-Bellis, but again it was about being in a team performance that saw a 2-2 draw against a Preston side who were then in the play off spots.

His fifth and final Championship appearance saw him given the man of the match accolade as he helped Saints to a win over West Brom, again another difficult game.

His only two appearances after that came in the FA Cup, one an easy win over Walsall saw him do little wrong, at Watford he was poor at times, but overall no worse than those around him in what was essentially a reserve side.

But my point here is that in this transfer window we have strengthened two areas, but we have weakened another the defence.

Holgate was a good squad player, I am not sure why he was ignored so much by Russell Martin, who didn't seem to feel the need to give Holgate minutes on the pitch to keep him sharp, but showed no such hesitation for a fit again Jack Stephens, who was almost shoe horned into the side at moments where it was not needed.

Now we have just 3 experienced central defenders, Jan Bednarek, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and the aforementioned Stephens, after that it is fill ins Shea Charles and James Bree.

With Bree having been out injured since mid December and not yet back in training we now have just 5 fit specialist defenders for 4 positions and more to the point no experienced specialist full backs fit as back up to KWP & Ryan Manning, that leaves either youngster Jayden Meghoma or Jack Stephens as back ups in this position and in the centre just Stephens and Shea Charles in the centre of defence.

Letting Mason Holgate go was a mistake in my opinion, it is easy to criticise him but hard to defend him due to the fact he was strangely so overlooked by the manager.

Holgate could play as a central defender and full back, he was versatile and more to the point he was experienced and I think our now wafer thin lack of both quality cover and quantity of that could come back to haunt us, whereas in the midfield and up front we have two players in every position.

The problem with letting Holgate go was that we were never going to be able to replace him with a player of the same quality, with partnership of Harwood-Bellis and Bednarek so strong and the managers admiration of Jack Stephens well known, we could get neither experience, no out of favour Premier League central defender would come just to sit on our bench nor would a promising youngster whose club wanted game time.

We mismanaged Holgate and now we are wafer thin at the back.

So although I don't think it was a bad window for me it has been unbalanced.

Hopefully neither THB or Jan Bednarek will suffer any injury or suspension, but the chances of that are slim, but if they do we do not have adequate cover.

Anyway it is what it is now, going forward i think we have one of if not THE most potent attack in the Championship, we have a lot of midfield options and as long as they all stay fit the strongest defence, but later in the season we might well have to outscore a few sides on the road, rather as we do now and manage a slender wins away from home.

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halftimeorange added 09:07 - Feb 2
I think that Russell will rue his anticipated acceleration of Jack into our starting eleven. Bella Kotchap wasn't doing so well at PSV and I think he's on loan. Perhaps he'd welcome a return to a club challenging for promotion instead of the one he left getting beaten every week>

Monksway added 09:15 - Feb 2
Surely problem for Holgate was the number of loans available in a match day squad. I believe it is 5 only so if Brooks, THB, Downes and Fraser are starters it was either Rothwell or Holgate on the bench.

SaintPaulVW added 09:19 - Feb 2
We do seem a bit light on defenders. Only other player who has a first team appearance that springs to mind is Thierry Small, but he's in the Meghoma Category. Juan Larios seems to have suffered death by hamstring. Charles is obvs the CB cover.

Still probably got more options than most Championship sides.

davidargyll added 09:38 - Feb 2
Isn’t everyone missing the point here?
Holgate is NO GOOD! Which is why he didn’t play many games for us.
All this rubbish about needing him as cover for others. If who we now have are good enough, they will be adaptable and play in the middle or at the back as circumstances demand. Holgate clearly wasn’t.
But is he really better than Stephens? At least JS is fully supportive of the club which I seriously doubt Holgate was. He played poorly when he first came on and the fans didnt take to him as a result. So what does he do? Well clearly not enough.
Furthermore if Everton don’t rate him, surely that tells you something? And now he’s off to a very desperate Sheffield United. Which I reckon speaks volumes too. We took him initially as a punt but clearly he showed precious little on the pitch, was probably dead grumpy in training so we get rid of him. Good business I reckon getting some ludicrously large wage off our books.

SaintEPW added 10:06 - Feb 2
Maybe the difference on the cover needed for centre backs is generally less than is needed for midfield players.

Changing centre back in a game is much more risky - so they less game changes in those positions.

Midfield players do get changed more often and as well as being expected to put in many more miles in a game.

Bowlercow added 10:49 - Feb 2
Tuesdays game will tell us more If he wants to rotate players then someone has to go to CB The obvious choice is Charles alongside JS How do you rest KWP though ?

felly1 added 11:21 - Feb 2
One day Nick Jack Stephens will depart this club and once the celebrations have ended you can stop "shoehorning" your articles about the fact you don't rate him.
I think we we get it now mush!
Holgate wasn't very good in general when he played.
But he would obviously not be content in being a 4th choice CB at a Championship club.

kenis added 11:40 - Feb 2
Although not ideal Holgate has gone, can’t really blame him and can’t stand in way of players who want to leave, he came here to play and couldn’t dislodge what had become our first choice pairing and to know two players have to be injured or suspended or possibly three (if Shea Charles picked ahead to give him game time) makes sense. Would rather have the wages going on brooks. If we get a run of injuries then we’ll have to dip into the u21s which is no bad thing for their development and sometimes it takes being thrown into a proper league game that matters surrounded by an otherwise full strength side to truly test them rather than mixed teams and PL2/U21 games.

Rothwell was a surprise but seems to me we didn’t have a back up to do what Stuart Armstrong does or brings and so makes perfect sense from that point of view. With Aribo coming back frorm afcon we could allow for Charly to go.

Brooks is the standout signing - are there any better January deals across the championship than that? Adam Armstrong has done well in that position but now we can adapt and have more options.

Overall a good window in my view.

highfield49 added 11:49 - Feb 2
Thankfully the debate concerning the talents of Stephens v Holgate is nothing more than history now. I think it fair to say though that if we get promoted the centre of defence will be high on the list of the recruitment team.
Having mulled over the loss, or not, of Holgate maybe RM is considering a tactical change should THB or Bednarek become unavailable? Whilst Stephens is the likely choice to slot into the existing formation there is also the option to play three at the back and five in midfield. So, possibly, the curtailment of Holgate's loan spell is not going to be detrimental at all and an opportunity to play a more attacking formation, we shall see.

underweststand added 12:24 - Feb 2
If the last 18 months has produced a massive turnover in the playing staff, an eventual promotion will trigger another. Not the time for discussion now, but I can't see quite so many of the present squad being good enough for a long term Prem. career.
However, a somewhat low key window. Holgate may do enough to help the Blades survive but he did seem to be a bit of a square peg in the mix. The loan possibilities we have presently + Brooks may take care of some of our summer requirements and the endless combinations around the Alcarez loan may yet work out in our favour.

Meantime , we await the return of; Aribo, Bree, Edozie and Sulemana in the next few weeks, maybe even Lavia?...and the unlikely thought that Stewart may be fit enough for a little game time in the run-in during April, (despite previous predictions of next season).
Without chicken-counting, we may even see Adams staying - if promotion works out.

GRIM added 14:21 - Feb 2
How are we going to get Lavia back ?.
Do you mean Larios.

SaintPaulVW added 14:58 - Feb 2
By mentioning him, I seem to have given Thierry Small the Saints kiss of death lol

IanRC added 16:24 - Feb 2
Yes, I think Thierry Small has gone. I am still not convinced that losing Alcaraz for the promotion run in is great but we will see given he can unlock defences. I’m afraid I am with Nick that more often than not Jack Stephen’s is an accident waiting to happen, I can only guess what RM sees in him. Really looking forward to seeing Sulemana band Edozie back, will be interesting to see how they can all have game time. Hopefully their inclusion will mean less disruptive substitutions than in recent games.

HoustonSaint added 17:49 - Feb 2
If we get promoted Alcaraz is the type of player who can unlock a defense with that one moment and be a longer term premier league player. I don't think any of the players brought in have that. Are we going to go out and spend 50 mil for someone like him.....doubt it. We should have kept him and if we didn't make promotion then sell him.

SanMarco added 18:42 - Feb 2
We do now look light at the back. Holgate wasn't great but he was an experienced centre-back. Now we are one injury away from problems at the back.

Alcaraz I am less concerned about - he clearly wasn't a favourite of RM so this could be a good deal.

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