There are only 3 weeks to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at Southampton.
Southampton enjoyed a very successful last season under manager Mauricio Pochettino and finished 8th in the Premier League. All looked well at St Mary’s until this summer when a mass exodus took place. Pochettino has departed, joining Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur, and key players Lallana, Shaw, Lovren and Lambert followed him out of the door with Rodriguez and Schneiderlin set to leave the club too. Bright prospect Calum Chambers has also left for Arsenal. Suddenly, Southampton look like a side in free-fall and will be battling for relegation rather than pushing for a place in Europe.
Ronald Koeman enjoyed a glittering playing career for the likes of Barcelona and Ajax, scoring over 200 goals which is remarkable for a defender. He has since turned his attention to management and has had spells with Ajax, Benfica and Valencia, to name but a few. He has been relatively successful in his time as a manager, winning the Eredivisie on several occasions and the Copa Del Rey. The Premier League represents a new challenge for the Dutchman.
This summer, Southampton have brought in two new faces; Graziano Pelle from Feyenoord and Dusan Tadic from FC Twente in deals worth a combined £20 million. Pelle will arguably be viewed as the bigger signing by Saints fans as he played under Koeman at Feyenoord for the past two seasons and scored 50 goals. They will hope that he can at least match the goal-scoring contributions of Rickie Lambert.
Who is tipped to join them?
Koeman has declared his interest in Villa captain Ron Vlaar as a potential replacement for the departing Dejan Lovren. Southampton are also rumoured to hold an interest in Danny Ings, Fraser Forster and Argentine full-back Marcos Rojo.
Who should they sign?
With so many key players departing, Koeman is in desperate need of several quality recruits. Vlaar would be a good replacement for Lovren and it may be possible to prise him away from the West Midlands club as he is entering the final year of his contract. If he is unavailable, however, then a move for Younes Kaboul or Michael Dawson could be an option as a makeweight in the Schneiderlin deal. Schneiderlin is tougher to replace. A move for Cardiff’s Gary Medel would be smart, although they would have to fend off interest from the likes of Inter Milan.
James Ward-Prowse. Remarkably, the Southampton academy product has already made around 50 appearances for the Saints despite being only 19. He is a player with a very bright future ahead of him and this could be the season for him to step up to the plate, especially with so many of their key players departing.
Southampton have lost so many players that it’s hard to see them enjoying a season similar to the last campaign. Koeman has no Premier League experience and will undoubtedly take time to adjust to the rigorous demands. So too will his signings so far and the quicker they adapt to life in English football the better. I see this being a season of struggle for the Saints but believe they are able to survive, although it will be close. Expect Southampton to finish 17th.