Pitchside

Not all doom and gloom for ‘crisis-club’ Southampton

Pitchside

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Despite such a successful season, Southampton fans could not have envisaged an exodus of this scale at St. Mary’s.

Mauricio’s Pochettino’s appointment at Tottenham proved to be the first domino to fall, with Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers following their former boss out of the exit door.

Pablo Osvaldo looks set to depart for Inter, while Morgan Schneiderlin, Jay Rodriguez and José Fonte have all been linked with new clubs ahead of the season, although chairman Ralph Krueger insists Schneiderlin and Rodriguez won’t be sold this summer.

The French midfielder’s rant on Twitter on Tuesday night, however, implies that he is willing to force a move away from the club in order to link up with Pochettino once more.

Nonetheless, Saints haven’t allowed the money accrued to gather dust in the coffers, with new head coach Ronald Koeman raiding the Eredivisie to secure the signatures of Graziano Pellè and Dušan Tadić, while on Wednesday the south coast side confirmed the loan signing of Ryan Bertrand.

Such an upheaval of personnel can have an adverse effect, but Koeman’s permanent acquisitions haven’t been poor if their performances in Holland’s top tier last term are anything to go by.

Pellè (7.96) and Tadić (7.80) were WhoScored.com’s two highest rated players in the Eredivisie last season, so the pairing should be capable of replacing Lambert and Lallana.

Only Alfred Finnbogason (29) netted more league goals than Pellè (23) last term, while Tadić played the most accurate through balls (16), executed the most key passes (132) and created the most clear-cut goalscoring opportunities (31) in the Dutch top-flight.

The duo, should they adjust to the rigours of the Premier League, should fit in nicely under Koeman. During his 3-year spell in Rotterdam, Feyenoord gained WhoScored.com strengths of ‘creating chances using through balls’, ‘finishing scoring chances’ and ‘creating scoring opportunities’, three aspects in which Pellè and Tadić excel.

Either way, Saints haven’t replaced the outgoings with tripe, though that isn’t to say they won’t miss the players who have left the club; 24 of the 54 league goals scored last season were netted by players who have since moved on to pastures new.

That figure will rise once Osvaldo’s move to Inter is confirmed and were Schneiderlin, Rodriguez and Fonte to depart, Saints would have lost nine players who scored 47 league goals between them in the 2013/14 campaign.

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Each of their seven top-rated players from last season according to WhoScored have either been sold or are heavily linked with a move to another team, so losing a number of key members of the starting XI will weaken Saints.

However, this will give Koeman the chance to build the team in his image. The Dutchman managed Pellè for two of his three years at Feyenoord, Tadić’s displays in Holland clearly did not go unnoticed and Bertrand is a solid Premier League and Champions League experienced full-back. Fortunately for Saints, the funds raised from player sales look set to be reinvested back into the first team as Koeman aims to rebuild.

The new boss also has academy products James Ward-Prowse, Sam Gallagher and Harrison Reed, to name three, to utilise, with the Dutch manager famed for his work with young players. The 51-year-old is credited with turning Bruno Martins Indi, Stefan de Vrij and Jordy Clasie, amongst others, into household names, and the board will hope he can do the same with the current youth-teamers.

Saints fans certainly have every right to be disgruntled at the recent pillaging at the hands of bigger teams. The performances of the players during Pochettino’s only full season at Saints helped them to an eighth-placed finish, though the downside of a club performing above expectations is rival sides’ taking an interest in their stars.

Nevertheless, it isn’t all doom and gloom on the south coast.

The departures are enough to dishearten even the most steadfast Saints supporter, but Koeman has been in this situation before and if he is given time to implement his playing style, there is no reason why he can’t replicate his Feyenoord feats at St. Mary’s.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

By Ben McAleer - @BenMcAleer1

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