Why Southampton should go all out for Youssouf Sabaly in January
According to Sport Witness (h/t Lancashire Evening Post), Bordeaux right-back Youssouf Sabaly has been offered to a trio of Premier League clubs, including Southampton, with the report suggesting that the French club is open to cashing in on the player during the mid-season trading period.
Premier League rivals Brighton and Crystal Palace have been linked while Championship promotion-hopefuls Fulham are also understood to be in the race to sign the Senegalese international, who is valued at around €15million by Bordeaux. (Sport Witness h/t Lancashire Evening Post)
The 26-year-old rose through the youth ranks of Paris Saint-German but his time at the French capital was marked largely by loan spells at fellow top-flight clubs Evian Thonon, Nantes and Bordeaux before Sabaly eventually went on to seal a permanent transfer to the latter back in 2017.
Having established himself as a quality full-back in Ligue 1 over the course of his loan spells at Evian and Nantes, Sabaly nailed down a regular starting role following his switch to Bordeaux and featured extensively during his first three seasons.
The versatile defender has suffered a significant fall in grace in the ongoing campaign, starting only thrice for Bordeaux in the Ligue 1 so far this term, and his abrupt slip down the pecking order has fuelled speculations over his future.
Sabaly, who represented Senegal at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and was a part of the squad that finished runners-up to Algeria at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, is essentially a right-back by trade but he is also versatile enough to play as a left-back and further up the pitch in a more attacking wide role.
The 26-year-old has accumulated a total of 109 appearances for Bordeaux in all competitions so far, accumulating as many as 15 assists in the process.
Meanwhile, Southampton have turned the tables in recent weeks after a lacklustre first half of the campaign that damned the Saints to the relegation zone.
Despite having managed impressive clean-sheets in recent victories over Chelsea and Spurs, Southampton’s defensive problems have been well-documented this season.
The Saints’ overall defensive record of 38 goals conceded in 21 games remains the second-worst in the entire division, with Norwich City being the only other team to have shipped more goals.
To that end, Ralph Hasenhuttl clearly has some food for thought as far as his shoring up his porous and vulnerable backline is concerned.
With Maya Yoshida out of contract in 2020 and Jannik Vestergaard apparently deemed surplus to requirements at St. Mary’s, the Saints might need to seek some cover in central defence moving forward.
However, right-back is another area where the Saints have been found wanting on several occasions this season.
The injury to academy graduate Yan Valery has opened the door for Portuguese star Cedric Soares to re-establish himself as a regular fixture in that role but his consistency hasn’t been all that great.
To put things into perspective, Southampton should be in the market for a new right-back in January and Youssouf Sabaly looks like an excellent option for the Saints, who will surely need to improve on their poor defensive record in the second half of the season.
Having clocked up 185 appearances in the French top-flight, the Senegalese international already boasts of a wealth of top-level experience under his belt. T
he fact that he is still only 26 means that Sabaly perfectly fits the bill at St. Mary’s as an immediate game-changer, as well as a long-term solution to the club’s defensive conundrum.
With Soares out of contract at the end of the season, Sabaly could well be the man to establish himself as Southampton’s first-choice right-back for the foreseeable future if he manages to get to grips with the English game.
Plus, his versatility to play as a winger and also as a left-back means that the Senegalese would be a better fit under Hasenhuttl, who has shown the tactical flexibility to switch between back-three and back-four systems.
Sabaly has an impressive CV to complement his obvious skill set as an attacking full-back and he could well be a bargain.
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All in all, Southampton beating off competition to land Youssouf Sabaly before the January transfer deadline would be a massive steal and a shrewd piece of business to sort out their full-back issues.