Southampton Season Preview - Koeman's Boys Face a Tough Task
The Saints will be entering the new campaign with a new-look squad, despite the fact that the previous campaign was hugely successful for the club. Southampton entered the Premier League as mere hopefuls of retaining top division status. Nigel Adkins was a cult hero for managing to get the Saints promoted, but it was clear that he wasn’t cut out for the Premier League as Southampton looked favourites to go down at one point.
However, in stepped Mauricio Pochettino and he somehow managed to galvanise a depleted Southampton squad. He did it in style as well as he looked towards the British core and younger talents to lead them into a new era. He wanted football played on the deck and the Saints quickly became the team that opposition fans secretly admired.
That didn’t stop in the 2013/2014 campaign; in fact, things got even better for the south coast outfit. They managed to finish eighth and even challenged for Europa and Champions League spots. They were strong at the back and exciting in attack. Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana were to thank at their respected ends of the pitch.
Many assumed that they would go from strength-to-strength this season, but Pochettino leaving for the open vacancy at Tottenham Hotspur was a devastating blow. The fire-sale that ensued was nothing short of disastrous for their public image and the mood in the camp. When Ronald Koeman; a real legend of the game, was appointed as the manager, a small boost in moral was evident. But, that didn’t stop the mass exodus of stars that shone in the previous campaign. Koeman and the Southampton board faced a barrage of abuse from their own supporters, however, the new boss is attempting the rebuild his team and also the mood amongst the supporters with a series of smart signings.
Unfortunately, I don’t expect big things from the Saints this season and I think their main aim is to just do as good as last season. Obviously a hard act to follow.
There has been a transfer rumour involving Southampton almost every day of the summer which must be infuriatingly exciting because they didn’t want their start players sold, but they want to see what Koeman can do in the transfer window.
So, who have they sold? A hefty section of their English core has departed the club with Adam Lallana going to Liverpool along with Rickie Lambert. Calum Chambers travelled north to join Arsenal and Luke Shaw joined the Louis van Gaal project at Manchester United.
Dejan Lovren is the other big name to leave the Saints, but other names include; Guly do Prado, Danny Fox and Billy Sharp. While the outgoing files are piling up, the incomings are also making quite a large stack. Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle were signed from the Eredivise. Fraser Forster has been picked up from Celtic while Florin Gardos left his post at Steaua Bucharest to replace Lovren. As I write this, Shane Long has also agreed to join the club for a fee of around £12 million. Koeman has also exploited the loan market by acquiring Saphir Taider and Ryan Bertrand from their respective clubs.
One to watch
I can’t decide between Tadic or Pelle so I’m going to throw both names into the hat. The reason for this indecision is because so both have thoroughly impressed in their previous campaigns and arrive in great form; key positions as well. Tadic is known to be a goalscorer and creator. Everything you need in an attacking midfielder/winger. For FC Twente, he often assisted as many as he scored which suggests two things about his style of play. He likes to get into dangerous positions, but he doesn’t neglect his team mates in order to achieve that. Lallana is a very similar player to Tadic actually as the Englishman also made contributions in both departments. They’re lively and are willing to work hard for the team.
Pelle is your typical striker. A real goal-poacher with a certain arrogance about his game. But, he is allowed to be quite egotistical as he generally produces the goods on the pitch. 55 goals in 66 games for Feyenoord proves that. So, Southampton have a creator and a finisher in their ranks once again and that’s why I can’t pick between them.
While the Saints lost a very good manager and an even better team, they are assembling a good squad of players. However, when you lose so many stars and the morale is low in the fan base, it becomes a cut-throat business to be in. Koeman now has to produce a team just as good as Pochettino’s, but with players that are completely new to the English game or have very little experience.
Of course it will be tough, but when has being a manager not been tough? Ronald has a talented group of players that are eager to give repay the fans for their continued loyalty in tough times. However, I don’t think they’ll reach the heights they did last season and they may even battle relegation for a small chunk of the season. However, I do think they’ll be more than safe from relegation.
Do you agree and think that Southampton will struggle this season under Ronald Koeman, or that they will be able to surprise us all again and finish in a strong position once more? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @TBRFootball .
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