Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A groundhog summer for Southampton fans

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman could once again lose key players this summer

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman could once again lose key players this summer

For Southampton fans this summer could feel like a groundhog summer. Much like the famous Billy Murray film Groundhog Day, it seems that Saints fans could be reliving last summer all over again.

Some of the Saints star players are once again heading to the St Marys exit door this summer, although it is not likely to be a mass exodus like last summer.

Close

Sky Sports are claiming that Saints full-back Nathaniel Clyne is set to join Liverpool in deal that could eventually be worth up to £15million with add-ons and bonuses.

Clyne has just one-year left on his contract on the south coast and has stalled on signing a new deal.

Meanwhile the Daily Mirror are reporting that French midfield playmaker Morgan Schneiderlin is close to sealing a £24million transfer to Manchester United, after telling a French radio station that his future would be settled ‘in the coming days’.

Repeat

Last summer Southampton were harvested and left for dead, as their star players were picked-off by so called ‘big clubs’. The likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Calum Chambers, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert all headed for pastures new.

However, despite a sense of doom and gloom surrounding the club their demise was greatly exaggerated. Dutch boss Ronald Koeman came in revived confidence, morale and most importantly managed to strengthen his squad.

Saints defied the odds and went from highly-fancied relegation candidates to being the surprise package of the season, finishing seventh in the Premier League and claiming a Europa League spot for next season.

This summer Koeman has been pro-active in strengthening his squad by bringing in Cedric Soares, Juanmi and Maarten Stekelenburg. The Dutchman is likely to be even busier in the coming weeks.

Predictable

The impending exits of Clyne and Schneiderlin will come as little surprise to Saints fans. Schneiderlin was reported to have put in a transfer request last summer, which was turned down with the team then low on numbers and seemingly low on quality.

Schneiderlin was linked with the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and of course Manchester United last summer. He was getting itchy feet and has professed his wish to feature in the Champions League in the near future.

Reports that Schneiderlin had agreed a deal with the Saints hierarchy that he would remain at St Marys last season and then move on this summer are unconfirmed, but it does seem like he will now move on this summer.

Clyne has impressed immensely in his two years in the Premier League. He was a big part of the Saints having a superb defensive record last season, which was only bettered by league champions Chelsea.

Clyne’s form has seen him elevated to the full England squad, were he has won four caps. It seems like he could be a regular member of Roy Hodgson’s squad for a long time to come.

The 24-year-old is very much a modern full-back, who is equally good at going forward as he is defending. In fact Clyne has been accused of being slightly suspect in his defensive play by some critics.

Southampton boss Koeman has already brought in a replacement for Clyne in Cedric Soares, so he is obviously convinced that the former Crystal Palace star will not be with the Saints next season.

Defence

As I previously mentioned Southampton had the second best defensive record in the Premier League, conceding just one more than champions Chelsea.

The good defensive record was built on the back five of Fraser Forster in goal and Clyne, Jose Fonte, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand in defence. The worry for the Saints is the fact that they could be missing three out of the five come the start of the season.

Alderweireld’s loan finished and despite Saints interest in signing the Belgian on a permanent transfer he could go elsewhere, with a number of clubs believed to be tracking the former-Ajax star after an impressive campaign.

Clyne looks set to complete hi9s move and Forster could miss the majority of next season through injury. Koeman has brought in Stekelenburg on-loan as a temporary replacement for Forster.

The concern for me would be are Cedric Soares and Stekelenburg of the same quality of Clyne and Forster? However after last summer’s relatively successful recruitment drive by Koeman, it would be hard to question the Dutchman’s judgement.

Difficult

It will be difficult for the Saints to pull off a repeat of last season, especially with the number of key players that they could have lost by the start of the campaign. It would also be hard to write the Saints off though as well and they are currently odds of 2/1 to finish in seventh next season.

At least this summer few have the Saints down as prospective relegation candidates like last summer. Who knows Ronald Koeman may just have his team challenging in the top six once again next season.

Can Southampton mount a top six challenge next season?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Nugent


David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.

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