Loan deals and contract extensions, what Southampton’s January is set to look like


Southampton’s winter transfer plans have already begun to take shape, with refining the squad and extending contracts the primary matters.

With the January transfer window opening on January 2, the majority of clubs across the football league are close to finalising their recruitment strategy for the upcoming month.

The situation at Southampton is slightly different, with any future transfer movement requiring closer introspection. The team’s start to the season has exceeded expectations and has been largely attributed to consistency in team selection and close-knit personnel. However, a significant caveat to this is injuries and they can be a determining factor in quickly reversing the side’s fortunes.

It is believed there will be a heavy focus on streamlining the squad, with players seen on the periphery or not in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s immediate plans free to find other clubs on loan until the end of the season. Only on the expiration of the loan deal will the Austrian re-evaluate a player’s standing within the squad.

The Saints boss will then decide whether to reintegrate the individual back into the set-up or allow them to leave on another loan, possibly permanent, deals.

Those inside the club forecast players that have previously been on the outskirts will be called upon in the not so distant future. Predicting which of those players have the ability to swiftly adapt to Hasenhuttl’s nuanced system and subsequently fill the void of an injured player is considerably tougher to do.

Though the size of Southampton’s squad is noticeably smaller than most other Premier League clubs, Hasenhuttl is said to be comfortable with a relatively trim group and believes those who are central to his plans have the quality to fill the gaps in positions that are scant in personnel.

Who is allowed to leave then?

A player who has dropped down the striking pecking order in recent months is Michael Obafemi. The Irish international is available for a loan move away from St Mary’s, with the Championship the most likely destination. Swansea City are one of a handful of clubs that have registered an interest in taking Obafemi until the end of the campaign.

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Yan Valery is in a similar predicament after seeing his progress severely stagnate over the past 12 months.

Confidence and form began to waver at the start of the 2019-20 season and a sustained spell out of the side with glandular fever has not helped matters. Valery’s lack of development in addressing certain physical shortcomings within his game has left some disappointed and feel a change of scenery would be beneficial.

The future of Shane Long had been discussed after a couple of Championship outfits had put feelers out in seeking his availability. With Danny Ings set for a spell on the sidelines and Southampton’s overall attack looking blunt in recent weeks, Long is set to stay.

A decision as to whether Fraser Forster can leave on a permanent deal will take place in the summer.

If Southampton want to, can they bring anyone to come in?

They can, but with the pandemic continuing to place a stronghold on the club’s finances, it is highly likely they will be cautious with any spending. Therefore, it is understood the club will exclusively operate through loan deals.

If you have ever listened to a Ralph Hasenhuttl press conference, he’s hardly the type to keep his cards close to his chest. In fact, those cards sometimes end up being quite some distance away. Unless a deal is in a precarious position or any communication to the media may offset the deal from going through, Hasenhuttl is happy to give you an insight into players he wants and those who he is keen to offload.

While it is expected to be a quiet winter in terms of incomings, Hasenhuttl is open to signing one or two loan acquisitions, providing they are the right fit and it is the right deal for the club. Replicating what ensued last January with Kyle Walker-Peters signing on loan until the end of the season – essentially acting as a trial period to see if the club wanted to sign him on a permanent deal – is also preferable this time around.

Hasenhuttl said last week:

“If you want to do something then we do something for the future like we did in the last window in January with Kyle Walker-Peters.  “Maybe a player brought in on loan and then give him half a year’s chance to show if he’s good enough for us and then we can decide in the summer if we want to buy him. 

“I think this is the best way to handle it and everything else doesn’t make sense. The squad is okay; in evert position we have double players there and this is okay.”

This kind of strategy has meant a revival of interest in Manchester United full-back Brandon Williams. Walker-Peters has played every minute of the season and Ryan Bertrand is without ample back-up or competition on the opposite flank. An injury to either is said to be a prominent concern and has only heightened Southampton’s need to once again engage courting Williams, who has shown an adept capability to play in either full-back position.

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A rekindling move for the 20-year-old had been on the cards during the final days of the summer window, only for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to veto the deal at the last minute. With Williams now third choice in both full-back positions at United, it is increasingly possible Solskjaer is open to the move. The 20-year-old is also believed to be in favour of a move to the south coast.

It is widely known Hasenhuttl is a firm admirer of Williams’ teammate, Scott McTominay. It is understood McTominay’s triathlete build and road-running qualities – the Scot can run 10 kilometres in 34 minutes – stands out within the Austrian’s liking of the midfielder. While there was tentative interest last January, McTominay is now a key part of Solskjaer’s plans and any remote chance of a deal being struck is now not feasible.

Rumours of Demarai Gray surfacing as a possible transfer target are currently unsubstantiated but the Leicester winger is available and may be an option if injuries or form woes begin to transpire.

What do Southampton supporters want?

In a recent poll, over half of Southampton fans believe the club need to strengthen in the full-back positions. Out of the 515 that voted, 50.7 percent believe Saints have to bolster the competition posed to Walker-Peters and Bertrand.

With Ings out for an indeterminable period through injury and goals lately proving hard to come by, 34.4 percent wanted an acquisition of a striker. Only 12.8 percent and 2.1 percent wanted to see a central midfielder or goalkeeper brought in respectively.

What about the contract situations?

Irrespective of chief executive Martin Semmens expecting a quiet window in terms of permanent deals in and out the door, the month of January may just mark a seminal moment in his role to date.

Semmens is tasked with leading negotiations to extend the stays of Ryan Bertrand and Danny Ings.

Bertrand’s contract is set to expire on June 30, 2021 and is free to talk to other clubs from the 1st of January. Although it is understood a deal will be ironed out over the next few weeks. The 31-year-old is keen to finalise the last probable substantial contract of his career. Possible hitches such as the length of the contract and possible roles that stretch beyond Bertrand’s playing days are still being discussed.

Circumstances with Danny Ings are slightly more opaque in forecasting. As reported a few weeks ago, a deal is there to be done for the forward to renew his contract, which is currently set to end in 2022. Southampton have already put a fresh new deal on the table that is a marked improvement on his existing one. Hasenhuttl described the offer as “fantastic.”

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The forward’s worth is likely to be valued higher if he were to be playing for a top-six club with greater resources at their disposal. Ings is happy on the south coast and is living in an area close to where he grew up. At 28 years of age, he is approaching one of the final lucrative contracts in his career and remains highly ambitious to achieve success near the top echelons of the Premier League.

Therefore, it should act as no surprise that Ings and his representatives are taking their time in deliberating and strategising the next step for him. Both parties find themselves in a precarious situation that must be thoroughly planned and extensively thought about.

It is up to Semmens and Hasenhuttl to convince Ings that remaining at St Mary’s is the best move. A resolution, one way or another, is likely to occur by the end of January.

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Football, Boxing and Cricket correspondent from Hampshire, covering southern sport. Editor and Head of Boxing at Prost International. Accreditated EFL & EPL journalist.

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