Is Sofiane Boufal set to emulate Payet’s heroics for Southampton?

Is Sofiane Boufal set to emulate Payet’s heroics for Southampton?
Aug 29, 2016

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The transfer deadline edges closer as many teams are eager to bolster their squad to maintain or increase their Premier League status. Several clubs are desperate for a prestigious Europa League spot with one of them being Southampton, as Claude Puel will look to replicate Ronald Koeman’s success and retain a top eight finish for the Saints this season.

After signing the likes of Nathan Redmond from Norwich City who is relishing playing in a newly central role, they didn’t hesitate to swoop into the market once more and capture the signature of the promising asset that is Sofiane Boufal. The Moroccan international signed for a staggering £16m fee from Lille, with the winger being their record signing. Dani Osvaldo previously owned this title after quite a horrific campaign at St Marys, scoring just 3 goals for the club whilst costing them £15m from Italian giants Roma.

Southampton are now the tenth side in the Premier League this summer to break the bank and acquire a new record signing to their alliance, as the competitive nature has risen to a whole new level. The majority of teams are showing great ambition as they attempt to increase their reputation in the top flight of English football and make a statement to fellow Premier League clubs.

The 22-year-old arrived at French club Lille in 2015, from Ligue 2 side Angres. After emerging through Angres’ youth system and making his debut at just 18 years of age, he finally achieved his first professional start. Leading his side triumphant prior to an emphatic 4-2 victory he gradually became a starter for the side, cementing his spot in the starting eleven and contributing to 32 of their League games in the second division of France.

Being the catalyst to their title push Angres finally gained promotion to Ligue 1, with Boufal being significant for their success and glory at the time. As they looked to beat the drop, half way through the season the winger attracted interest from more elite Ligue 1 clubs as Sofiane saw his sights elsewhere.

Inevitably, he completed his desired move. Now representing Lille at the time he wanted to make an impression to all the clubs across Europe as he capitalized on this opportunity and certainly didn’t shy away from the spotlight. Racking up 12 goals in 35 appearances for a winger was something special, and his reputation and market value pretty much doubled after his sublime years with Lille.

Attracting interest from Premier League clubs such as Tottenham, Chelsea and Watford just indicates his talent and potential. Watford looked favorites to land the big money move with the deal looking imminent, then talks broke down and both parties struggled to make agreements with each other. The heartache regarding Sadio Mane’s departure to Liverpool (who else?), Saints decided to strengthen their attacking options and are hopeful the Moroccan can mirror Mane’s success at St Marys for many years to come.

What will he bring to Southampton?

Competition

The abundance of quality Southampton have equipped in their squad goes unnoticed, they will constantly be a threat going forward. Shane Long’s blistering pace complimented by Dusan Tadic orchestrating in the final third is the reason why the Saints are such so dangerous on the counter and when in control of the game.

With positions up for grabs this will make players like Tadic and Redmond more determined to impress the fans and newly appointed manager Puel, because nobody wants to be sitting on the bench. A marquee signing may also trigger some motivation to the players, knowing the club you represent is luring in huge talents will only bring the best morale to the whole squad and also positive vibes in the changing room.

Beneficial for Tadic 

With Boufal causing havoc down the wing it will create more space in the middle for Tadic to operate, he produced the 3rd most assists over the last two seasons (19) and is criminally underrated in my opinion. The Serbian’s exquisite passing can be utilized to its fullest extent by free roaming round the oppositions area and finding pockets of space to feed Shane Long plus new arrivals in Nathan Redmond and Boufal, where they can all demonstrate their sheer speed and acceleration while stretching out the defence.

Creating the most chances in the opening game week in back to back seasons shows how he can pull the strings and be the difference when on form and playing with confidence, which he certainly doesn’t lack.

Width and positivity 

Being a revelation in Ligue 1, with his pace and dribbling ability being the best traits to his game, he takes advantage of this by constantly looking to run at defenders and causing chaos upon the opposition. We can identify this as he completed 127 successful dribbles last year, the second best in Ligue 1, backed up with an impressive dribble success rate of 59.9%, the 3rd most successful last season. In addition, being a wide play-maker and creating 72 chances for a rather average Lille side isn’t too bad is it?

A variation of quality has arrived from the French league, Riyad Mahrez and Dimitri Payet may spring to mind? But also many have failed to supply the goods when competing in arguably the most competitive league in Europe, like Frenchman’s Remy Cabella and Florian Thauvin several years ago, when Newcastle United tried to integrate a flurry of French internationals into their squad.

Wrapping this up, I’m truly confident Boufal will re-ignite the Premier League with his audacious skill set and high levels of confidence he possesses and will undoubtedly justify his staggering record breaking fee, whilst proving pivotal in Southampton’s Europa League campaign where they will face elite opposition in Inter Milan.

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