1. Gavin Bazunu
Resolution for 2024 -- get better diving to the left.
Bazunu has had a topsy turvy career at Saints to say the least. He began 2023 as an overmatched Premier League keeper, entered the Championship struggling, but found his form and has finished 2023 on a high. However inconsistency has still plagued him -- he can look like a world beater one moment then give up a howler the next. His stats reflect this -- he ranks near bottom of the Championship in most advanced shot stopping metrics.
And there may be a pattern here. We went through and tallied up all of Bazunu's goals conceded where the xG was low (defined as < 0.1), they were against: QPR, Sunderland (3 here, the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th), Leicester (the 1st), Ipswich, Middlesbrough (the 1st), Leeds, Rotherham, Preston (the 1st), Huddersfield, and Watford (a total of 12).
Of these 12, 7 were shots low to Bazunu's left (QPR, 2 against Sunderland, Ipswich, Middlesbrough, Preston, Watford). It is a worrying pattern for Baz, and something he should work on in the New Year.
2. Kyle Walker-Peters
Resolution for 2024 -- try not to get injured.
Please Kyle, do your absolute best. Wrap yourself in bubble wrap when you're in public. Keep your ankles permanently in an ice bath. If you need a hamstring, I've got 2 to donate. Whatever you need to do. We need you healthy the entire season. You're far and away the best right back, and possibly the best overall player, in the Championship. Keep doing what you're doing, you're perfect, we love you, don't leave in January.
3. Ryan Manning
Resolution for 2024 -- stop a few crosses into the box.
Ryan Manning has been polarizing for Saints this season. He is a consistent contributor on the offensive end, and one of Southampton's main creators. But defensively, he struggles. Specifically, anything down his wing gets into the box. And I mean anything. Manning ranks in just the 2nd percentile for blocks (defined as blocking anything, not just shots).
Part of this is schematic, as Saints defend quite narrow, and ask their fullbacks to cover a lot of ground when the ball is swung out to opposing wingers. But this is an easy way for Manning to improve, and cement his place in the starting 11 over the onrushing James Bree.
4. James Bree
Resolution for 2024 -- develop a left foot.
Breezy has not had a good 2023. His January move from Luton to Southampton was in theory a dream. Reunited with a former manager in Nathan Jones, he was finally making the step up to the Premier League.
Fast forward 12 months and Nathan Jones crashed and burned, Bree barely featured in the Premier League, he is now back to the Championship and not starting, and to top it all off his former club Luton are in the Premier League. Ouch.
To add salt to the wound, Bree has actually played very well in his limited minutes this season. His issue is that he plays right back -- and the Saints have the indispensable Kyle Walker-Peters in that position. When Breezy has played, it has mostly been on the left, unnatural for a right footer.
Bree is decent going forward off the right, but on the left he has looked limited. As KWP is (hopefully) going nowhere, getting better offensively on the left hand side is Bree's best hope of consistently contributing to the team.
5. Mason Holgate
Resolution for 2024 -- think about returning to Everton.
It's harsh on the loanee, but it might be time. Jan Bednarek and Taylor Harwood-Bellis are must-starts right now, and Jack Stephens is next in the pecking order. Holgate has looked decent since his horror debut against Sunderland, but is firmly 4th choice in a crowded center-back room. He is a good depth option for Saints, but it might be best for the Everton man to seek more playing time elsewhere.
6. Jack Stephens
Resolution for 2024 -- be a super sub.
Jack Stephens has lost his place in the starting lineup. Before his early season injury, he was the Captain, and undisputed leader of this Southampton defense. In his absence, the baton has been passed. Stephens has been, and can continue to be, an invaluable defensive weapon off the bench, especially when Saints are looking to kill games. He just needs to accept that role and continue to support the people ahead of him on the pitch.
7. Taylor Harwood-Bellis
Resolution for 2024 -- get promoted at all costs.
THB is a stud. He's solid defensively, calm with the ball at his feet, and can play accurate diagonal passes with the best of em. Southampton reportedly have a clause to buy the Manchester City loanee if they get promoted. If not, a young talent could slip right through their fingers. THB looks like the next coming of Virgil Van-Dijk, its up to Saints to make sure he doesn't get away.
8. Jan Bednarek
Resolution for 2024 -- keep doing what you're doing.
Janny B has been excellent this season. Not much more to say really. Keep it up son.
9. Flynn Downes
Resolution for 2024 -- start taking Vitamin C pills.
Flynn Downes has been a revelation for Southampton so far. He is tenacious, spearheads the Saints counter-press, and has the technical skills to avoid opponents pressing him. Flynn-iesta has one weakness...his immune system. Southampton have lost Downes to illness multiple times this season, and his illnesses have also rendered him unable to play a full 90 minutes. Saints need Downes on the pitch at all times, so keep that immune system strong Flynn.
10. Joe Aribo
Resolution for 2024 -- Win AFCON.
Aribo ended 2023 with a bang, forcing his way into the Southampton starting 11. But soon, the Saints will lose the Nigeria international to the African Cup of Nations. Might as well win the whole thing Joe, and bring that winning spirit back to Saints for the late-season promotion push.
11. Will Smallbone
Resolution for 2024 -- learn to beat the press.
Smallbone started off a regular starter for Southampton this season, but since has been in and around the side. He is consistently good at finding key passes, and has surprised with his goal scoring ability in the box. His issue has been in deeper positions, he struggles when aggressively pressed, and can often give up possession in dangerous areas. If the Ireland international can add press-beating ability to his game, he can be a key contributor for Saints going forward.