It has been a difficult summer for Southampton fans, but there may yet be light at the end of the tunnel. After a mass exodus of key players along with highly touted manager Mauricio Pochettino – the outlook at St Mary’s Stadium is one of gloom and dismay.
Things were further compounded last week with Morgan Schneiderlin stating that the club has been destroyed. Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez’s uncertain future along with no new signings imminent ensures it will be an uncomfortable few weeks for Southampton fans as the end of the transfer window draws near. However, the following 5 reasons explain why Saints fans should feel quietly optimistic about the upcoming season.
Legendary Dutch centre back Ronald Koeman brings an impressive playing and managerial resume with him to Southampton. Koeman was renowned for his devastating free-kicks as a centre back long before the David Luiz’s of the world. Though his football ethos may not be as aesthetically pleasing as Mauricio Pochettino’s, he will ensure his team is set-up solid at the back and will remain ambitious against the bigger teams.
During a successful spell with Ajax at the beginning of the millennium, Koeman’s side was heralded for having the best youth production in the world. Koeman brought through the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Nigel de Jong and Steven Pienaar whilst nurturing a very gifted Zlatan Ibrahimovic. At Southampton Koeman will have the pick of one of the best academies in the country which, no doubt, enticed him to take the job.
Over the last ten years Southampton have produced an impressive academy line ; Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw have all gone on to represent big teams. Fortunately for The Saints after each departure the next person has stepped up; whether that be Bale after Walcott or Lallana after Bale. This has shown that there is room for recovery within the club and the next group who may be asked to step in are Lloyd Isgrove, Sam Gallagher and Harrison Reed.
Welshman Isgrove has made inroads after a successfully short term loan at Peterborough, whilst 18 year-old Gallagher made 18 first team appearances for Southampton last term scoring two in the process. Harrison Reed who made four appearances for the club last season was compared to the great Paul Scholes earlier this year, and not just because of the colour of their hair. The England U19 international recently signed a new four-year deal with the club and could link up with fellow academy graduate James Ward Prowse in the middle of the park next season.
James Ward Prowse has been a revelation since debuting for Southampton in the league on the opening day of the 2012/2013 season. The England U-21 international can’t be far off Roy Hodgson’s radar particularly with Steven Gerrard’s retirement from international football. At just 19, Ward-Prowse will be a player Southampton look to in the big games, as he will be the creative spark. James Ward-Prowse’s understanding of the game, passing range and set-pieces lead to a comparison of a young Frank Lampard. A stellar season this year will mean Southampton will face a tough task to keep hold of their young playmaker when the big boys come knocking next summer.
After saving the south coast from administration in 2009, the Liebherr family has helped turn the team’s fortunes around. With the smart appointment of Italian banker Nicola Cortese the League One club made a quick ascension to the Premier League. Despite the death of her father, Markus, Katarina Liebherr has kept Southampton a tight run ship. She kept faith in her fathers’ appointment, Cortese, and gave him the freedom of the club whilst financing him sufficiently.
She had no interference when the controversial decision was made to replace Nigel Adkins with Mauricio Pochettino and made funds available to sign the likes of Gaston Ramirez (£12m), Victor Wanyama (£12.5m) and Dani Osvaldo (£15m). The appointment of NHL coach Ralph Krueger has to withstand the test of time but the recruitment of Ronald Koeman has already shown ambition from Krueger.
Money to spend
The good thing about selling half of your team is that you have money to spend. With north of £100m to invest into the team, a rebuild can commence. That re-build has already started with the arrivals of Graziano Pelle, Ryan Bertrand and Dusan Tadic. Tadic may be the best of the bunch and will certainly go a long way in filling the void left by Adam Lallana. Reportedly on Southampton’s radar is Aston Villa centre back Ron Vlaar.
After a hugely impressive World Cup which has seen him linked to Manchester United, Vlaar would be a great snag by Koeman to slot in alongside Jose Fonte. An ideal player for Southampton would be Jordy Clasie. The cultured Dutch midfielder has gained rave reviews around Europe and was the staple of Koeman’s Feynenoord team which achieved Champions League football last season.
All in all, it’s not doom and gloom for Southampton fans. If they can manage expectations and Koeman/Krueger can create some smart deals they have every chance of having a successful season.
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