It’s been a grimly familiar story for Southampton recently. With 15 goals scored in 15 games, manager Mauricio Pellegrino has struggled to rid the club of their goalscoring woes, which were entrenched thanks to the unpopular brand of football played under his predecessor Claude Puel.
Unfortunately for Pellegrino, the transfer window proved frustrating. Although the Saints made impressive acquisitions by landing Mario Lemina from Juventus and Lazio’s Wesley Hoedt, there were no attacking reinforcements.
The lack of new firepower, coupled with the sale of Jay Rodriguez to West Bromwich Albion didn’t create much optimism for a return to high-intensity attacking football, and such consternations have been proven right.
Having failed to score in six league games already this season it’s likely Pellegrino will be given funds to bolster his attacking options in January. Here are six candidates he should consider to breathe new life into the Saints’ attack.
Still only 24, the striker has found it tough going breaking into a Barcelona team that boasts attacking talents such as Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, and could be the spark to reignite the Saints up front.
Alcàcer has been told he can leave the Camp Nou and, assuming he has grown disillusioned with life in Spain, he may be open to a Premier League move, which would represent a new challenge and an opportunity to revive his career. Alcácer was the hero for Barca, though, when scoring twice in a 2-1 win over Sevilla.
Before he made the switch to Catalonia, Alcácer was a reliable source of goals for Valencia, scoring 29 in all competitions in the two seasons before he left. The Spain international is an intelligent forward who makes incisive runs and is a clinical finisher inside the penalty area – something the Saints have lacked recently.
He is well-known for playing on the last man, looking to beat the offside trap and taking up classic poacher positions to maximise his chances of scoring.
All six of league goals last season were from 15 yards or less (above) so he would be an ideal penalty box striker for Southampton’s creators, Dušan Tadić and Sofiane Boufal, to find with crosses and through balls.
The 28-year-old has not started a Premier League game for the Gunners this season and, with the club reportedly uninterested in renewing his contract, a Saints reunion is very much on the cards.
According to The Daily Mail, Southampton are willing to pay between £12-15million for Walcott, who signed for the North London club in 2006. Inter Milan, Everton and West Ham United are also thought to be interested in the pacey winger, but the club that handed Walcott his start in professional football at the age of 16 may hold an edge over other potential suitors.
Walcott would add considerable flair and firepower to this Southampton side. Last season, he scored ten league goals and created 13 chances, 53 per cent of which came from down the right. Signing Walcott could allow Pellegrino to shift Tadić into a central position, which is the Serbian’s best position. “I can have a lot of influence and I think everyone can see that,” he said last season when he excelled centrally under Puel.
Signing Walcott could hold the key to enhancing the natural width in this Saints side and they should do everything in their power to sign him.
Although the Austrian striker flopped at Cardiff City, he hasn’t stopped scoring since. He was averaging about a goal every two games for Nürnberg (with 34 in 70 appearances) while he has made an impression at Schalke, scoring 12 times in 25 games last season.
According to Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung, Southampton sent scouts to watch Burgstaller feature in Austria’s 3-2 win over Serbia. They would have been impressed, too, as the 28-year-old scored one and set up another in a 3-2 win.
At 6ft 1in, Burgstaller is a great physical presence and a genuine target man, the type of player who would relish getting on the end of crosses from Cédric Soares and Ryan Bertrand. He may not be a ‘flair’ player, but he would certainly boost Pellegrino’s options in attack.
Considering his previous struggles in England, though, perhaps he is one of the riskier options.
Vietto, who was also a Monaco transfer target in the summer, flourished on loan at Sevilla last season, scoring ten goals 31 appearances in all competitions, as well creating 16 chances.
At his best, Vietto is a swift attacker and an excellent dribbler, capable of beating defenders in one-on-one situations. He averaged 0.8 dribbles and 0.4 key passes for Sevilla last season, notching four assists.
With the ability to play up front or out right, Vietto would provide competition to the misfiring Manolo Gabbiadini, who has managed only one goal this season.
However, while Vietto possesses a great deal of flair and could be seen as an exciting option, he was deemed surplus to requirements at Atlético by Simeone due to his struggles with the physical side of the game. Although diminutive, slight players can certainly still excel in the Premier League, that may be something Pellegrino and Southampton’s scouts will look at.
Revitalised under Neil Warnock at Cardiff City, the Canadian winger would represent one of the cheaper options for Southampton. The 27-year-old has been in excellent form for the Bluebirds this season, with six goals and five assists already to his name this term.
Hoilett particularly caught the eye with scintillating performances against his former side Queens Park Rangers and Leeds United. He has averaged 1.6 key passes this season, illustrating how he has been such a handful for Championship defences.
With 1.7 successful dribbles per game, Hoilett hasn’t lost that sharp turn of pace that enables him to beat defenders and create chances from wide positions.
Hoilett is a key player for Warnock, though, and signed a contract extension in the summer, so it will be difficult to prise him away from the Welsh club. But, with the chance to play Premier League football again, it would be tempting for the winger – and would certainly brighten up things from a Saints perspective.
Still only 21, the devilishly quick winger is definitely the type of player Pellegrino needs to inject some excitement into Southampton’s attacks.
With a game built on raw speed and trickery, Traoré is one of the most exciting players to watch in the Championship, even if he is still somewhat unrefined.
However, with some focused coaching, the Middlesbrough wide man can be a devastating talent in the Premier League. He could fit into Pellegrino’s 4-2-3-1 system, too, switching Tadić to the middle and giving the Saints genuine pace in wide positions with Nathan Redmond on the left and Traoré on the right.
This season, the winger has an exceptional dribble success rate, averaging 5.5 per game. In Boro’s 3-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, Traore collected two assists, made three key passes and completed 16 of 18 dribbles as he tore their defence to pieces.
Although Traoré is still working hard to improve his final ball, there is a genuine talent to work with for Southampton – and he could be a risk worth taking.