The last few years for Southampton have been a rollercoaster since their return to the Premier League at the start of the 2012/13 season. They’ve been robbed of talent with their better players leaving for Liverpool and have been robbed of their managers with Mauricio Pocchetino and Ronald Koeman finding themselves at Tottenham and Everton, respectively. Despite the loss, Southampton has continued to impress with bargain transfers and their top youth system.
Last year’s sixth place finish was testimony of how far the club had progressed, but following the departure of Koeman and the appointment of Claude Puel, fans could’ve expected a small drop in form from the club. The Premier League’s heavy hitters are back in contention this year, so Southampton find themselves safely hovering around the middle of the table. The side experienced heavy losses with Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle, and Victor Wanyama, but have not suffered with their transfers in both summer and winter windows.
The pick up of Nathan Redmond from Norwich City and Manolo Gabbiadini from Napoli have been directly felt with their presence up top, but the man who broke the Southampton transfer fee record, Sofiane Boufal, is quietly making waves at the club. The 23-year-old Moroccan international from Lille has been a solid addition to the Southampton side and has the potential to become a great footballer.
Boufal’s transition to footballing life in England was not easy as his first appearance for the club didn’t come until October, but his impact has been more than felt even if he stat line hasn’t shown it. In his 16 limited Premier League appearances for the Saints, Boufal has mustered a single goal and not an assist, but his contributions go further than the typical stats on the score sheet. His technical ability and willingness to take a man on has made him one of the most dangerous players on the ball for Southampton.
In comparison to the more usual Southampton players on the flanks, Boufal has completed more successful take-ons and in a lot fewer minutes. Sofiane Boufal’s abilities match up most similarly to that of Nathan Redmond with his pace and tricky nature. Although the Moroccan international’s success rate for take ons is lower than Redmond’s (65.85% to 61.29%), Boufal has completed more take-ons in 1433 minutes less on the field (57 take-ons to 54 take-ons). With the ball at his feet, Sofiane Boufal has the tools to take the Premier League by storm.
For the winger, success and his stock truly going up will result in having a more direct impact on the field. With his dribbling ability and confidence on the ball, he creates space and opportunities for teammates, but he has lacked goals and assists. At Lille in Ligue 1, it took Boufal a season to adjust to the league as he scored three goals in his first season and then scored 12 in the next season when he received the attention of top clubs across Europe. Give Boufal some time to adjust and he will be amongst the better players in the league and will eventually be sold like all top talent at Southampton.