Saints

Ronald Koeman: This summers most important deal

Since Ronald Koeman took over in June 2014, Southampton fans have been gifted their highest Premier League finish and shown some of the league’s most attractive football – but it was the raw and hard felt passion on show from Ronald Koeman against Liverpool, that has left me desperate for more.

With just a single year left on his contract, It’s already been revealed that the club have opened talks with Ronald Koeman about a new deal – but the Dutchman insists he won’t decide on his future until the summer.

My point, however, is that I don’t just want the club to enter negotiations, I want them to impress. I want the board and higher forces to match, or potentially even surpass the clear ambition held by Ronald Koeman. This is the moment for our club to make a statement and show others, that we shall no longer be stripped of our finest assets.

Rather than chop, change and replace, we have to ensure that we maintain and build. Koeman signing a new contract would certainly do just that, as I believe that he is the man to take our club forward, here’s why…

Over the previous two summer transfer windows, Koeman has been presented the task of replacing and recovering a side striped of their core. Yet through these grueling months, Koeman has managed to pick out some of the Premier Leagues finest bargains and push Southampton on as a club.

Teams such as Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea crumbled beneath themselves with the departures of Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Wilfried Bony. Yet little old Southampton managed to survive, and progress, with the loss of seven guaranteed starters over a 12 month period.

You have to wonder, that if Koeman can bring such success in a side that was predicted for failure, imagine what he could conjure up without any departures?

Secondly, and unsurprisingly after last weekend’s madness, it’s the passion and class of Ronald Koeman. This personality has allowed for a connection between Koeman and the fans, something we so desired after a season with Mauricio Pochettino.

Under the Argentinian boss, the fans chants and praise were never met by a response. Instead, he would keep his head down and place all focus on the game – or the next move as we soon found out.

We were left out in the cold by Pochettino, but his results and the side’s performances helped to mask his lack of desire to truly be part of the club.

With Koeman, however, it’s a different story. Every chant is applauded. Every result is for the fans. Failure to perform is failing the fans. And as for that celebration when Sadio Mane struck the back of the net against Liverpool, it needs no explanation.

Koeman has embraced our club and it allows the fans to feel like we’re all part of a family. The way a football club should feel.

From his attractive style of football, his appreciation for English talent and his intelligent integration of youth, Koeman’s principles are also spot on. In fact, they work as a perfect match alongside the philosophies of Southampton Football Club. Finding a manager who can successfully embed all three principles into a club, are not only placing English football in a positive light, but are also rare.

And finally, his loyalty. As fans, we always talk about the desire to have individuals who show loyalty and the hunger to want more with Southampton. In the past, we’ve had players throw their handbags, demand for transfers as if they were a god given right and leave the club with the attempt to poison every last crevice. But now, we have a manager who loves his job at Southampton and a manager who wants to achieve… with us. Koeman took on a job that papers were calling a “nightmare” and continued to keep his cool as he helplessly watched the big boys raid our club twice over. Yet still, Koeman has promised to see out the final year of his contract with Southampton.

Considering the pressure and challenges that we have placed a manager of Koeman’s calibre  under, he has shown class and loyalty in abundance throughout.

Can we so willingly allow a man who has all of the above – whilst remaining the coolest and suavest manager in the league – to simply leave from a job that he loves?

This is an opportunity to create something truly special with an intelligent, professional and classy manager – a rare breed in modern football. To date, each and every decision that Koeman has made for the club has been calculated and undeniably successful. So, now that he is evidently hunting for greater funding and the means to push on, let’s show any who ever doubted Southampton Football clubs ambition, that they are wrong.

An incredibly detailed insight into the finances at Southampton FC

Whilst scrolling through tweets, retweets and various accounts on Twitter in hunt of all things Southampton, I stumbled across a site named The Swiss Ramble. This goldmine of information is produced by a figure that goes only by the name of “The Swiss Rambler” who, in their terms, “Usually writes about the business of football”. It sounds brief, incredibly so. But their work is far from it. This is easily accessible, yet incredibly detailed financial data for all fans to understand.

A better collection of such expansive and detailed financial data over Southampton’s 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons simply can’t be found elsewhere. Take a look here

With it now being seven years since Southampton faced administration in 2009, this data helps fans to appreciate the incredible work that has been completed behind the scenes. The Swiss Rambler shines understanding, logic and knowledge on the figures, whilst also suggesting reasons for decisions that the club has made – don’t worry, it’s all good.

Did you know? Southampton’s revenue is now the 25th highest in the world according to the Deloitte Money League, around the same as world renowned clubs such as Marseille £109 million, AS Roma £107 million and Benfica £105 million. Impressive stuff.

Also, that It was striking how much Southampton over-performed in the 2013/14 season relative to their wage bill, which was only the 15th highest in the Premier League. Only five clubs had lower wages (Stoke City, Cardiff City, Norwich City, Crystal Palace and Hull City) and two of those were relegated. Southampton meanwhile finished eighth.

Just a few areas that this in-depth report covers are…

  • Profit/loss data
  • Pre-tax figures
  • The details on player sales and how they are recorded
  • The impact of player sales on profits
  • Attendances and the resulting revenue
  • Reliance on TV revenue
  • Commercial revenue
  • Wages to turnover
  • Debt
  • Use of funds
  • Cash balances

As you can imagine, the finances of Southampton FC are incredibly interesting and worth a look. Even more so when the hours of research and painstaking data collection has already been done for you. 

 

Fraser Forster: Facts, stats and stopping attacks

It’s been widely documented how Fraser Forster’s return of form has been the true beginning of Southampton’s season. Having struggled to combine their usual fluent attacking play with strong defensive performances over the first 20 fixtures, Forster came back into the side with the Saints sitting in 13th place. Fast forward five games and Southampton are now in contention for European Football, scoring freely and have leapfrogged Liverpool for 7th place.

But, just how good has he been?

“He’s so quiet but he gives a lot of confidence to defenders. It’s not a coincidence that when he comes back we start keeping clean sheets.” said Ronald Koeman on the goalkeeper that he calls “Magic”. Koeman is right, and the statistics are there to prove just that.

Since Forster put the gloves back on, he’s seen the opposition line up 62 shots. That includes 15 placed on target, which reflects Forster’s shot stopping ability. Whilst also including 47 shots off target, which tells us the low probability shots that the defence is forcing the opposition to make.

Forster has placed confidence in the defence, which allows the back line to hold a strong, yet high-risk position on the field. By Forster allowing the defence to play further up the pitch, thus pushing the opposition deep into their own half, it’s not just the defence that has reaped the benefits of Forster’s presence.

In turn, he can also authorise the defence to drop deep and carry out a “backs against the wall” performance with confidence and desire, rather than fear. As shown in the closing stages against Arsenal (A) and most recently, against Slaven Bilic’s West Ham (H).

To take risks, you need to be confident. To win, you need to take risks. And judging by Southampton’s poor early season form, It seems fair to suggest that Marteen Stekelenburg places lower levels of confidence in the defence than Forster.

It’s been 479 minutes of Premier League football since the six-foot-seven-inch monster returned and not once has he had to pick the ball out from the back of the net.

Not to mention that after Southampton’s 1-0 home win over West Ham, Fraser Forster’s clean sheet percentage is the best of any goalkeeper with 30 or more Premier League appearances. That’s 18 clean sheets from his 35 games (51.4%).

Forster has been the catalyst to Southampton’s incredible form and such feats can never be a coincidence in a League as competitive as the Premier League. Watch out Joe Hart, the Euros are coming and Forster certainly wants a taste of the action.

 

Interview: Talking with Le Tiss

Today we had the opportunity to sit down and talk about Southampton Football Club with the legend himself, Matthew Le Tissier. We talk about the season so far, the effect of confidence on a team, players of the past, transfers, Wednesday’s win over Watford, the famed academy, Ronald Koeman and Matt’s expectations for the remainder of the season. 

00:05 – The season so far

00:45 – The January transfer window and Rodriguez’s return date

02:23 – How to overcome squad confidence issues

03:12 – The Morale of squads in Tiss’s time

04:28 – Cliques in clubs

05:23 – The effect of morale on performance

06:04 – The most effective mid-season signing for Le Tiss

06:55 – Koeman under pressure and beating Watford

08:02 – A team full of home grown players?

09:03 – Who from the current crop of youngsters does Le Tiss have his eye on?

09:47 – How Koeman has dealt with Wanyama

10:03 – The full story on Mane’s late arrival to the team meeting

10:42 – Season expectations

 

Vive La Différence: Morgan Schneiderlin

Crunching last ditch tackles, calculated yellow cards and a perfectly crafted French beard; I’m of course talking about Morgan Schneiderlin. It’s now been 163 days since the Frenchman left for Manchester United – obsessed? I hear you ask. Maybe, and the task of replacing our defensive midfielder of seven years is proving rather difficult, nigh on impossible in all honesty.

To the average football fan, the £27M deal to Manchester United last summer plays testament to Schneiderlin’s talent. However, to us Southampton fans, he was far more than just the (brilliant) central link in the spine of our team. Schneiderlin embedded himself into the Southampton family and became one of the poster boys for our rise to the Premier League. We were all watching on when he arrived as a weedy 18-year-old, making it all the better to see him tame the Premier League’s finest attackers.

Through growing up with the club and the players around him, Schneiderlin managed to learn each player and his own game inside out. He knew exactly where to be, where to order others and where to recycle the ball. He knew that if Nathaniel Clyne was about to bomb forward, he would release the ball and pull wide without a seconds thought. He knew that if there was a gap on the edge of the box, Adam Lallana would glide inside from the wide areas; his game was played by instinct and my god did he do it well. Games would pass by where his influence on the match seemed minimal; in truth, he was often so perfectly positioned that rarely, not even for a split second was he caught out. They say the best defensive midfielders go unnoticed. He was always there, picking up through balls, chopping down an overlapping fullback and switching the play.

The combination of an incredible talent with years of experience was on show for all to see when under the Premier League’s spotlight. For Schneiderlin to be replaced sufficiently, we would need a midfielder with greater talent, in order to make up for the loss in his understanding of Southampton, tactics in place and those around him. We simply can’t attract a player of that quality; our midfield is weaker and that’s the way that it will stay for now. As a fan of an ambitious Football Club, it’s hard to come to terms with.

To put it into facts, Southampton have conceded 21 Premier League goals in 17 fixtures this season. Last season – with Morgan Schneiderlin – Southampton only conceded 33 goals in 38 games. If we continue in this fashion then we are scheduled to concede 47 goals. 47.
Then let’s take a look at Manchester United. With Morgan Schneiderlin in the side, they have played nine games, winning six and drawing three. All whilst averaging 0.33 goals conceded per game.
Without Schneiderlin? Eight games, two wins, two draws and four defeats. Averaging 1.875 goals conceded per game. If his influence on a side wasn’t clear to see by the naked eye, it certainly is when printed in black and white.

There has been much talk about summer recruit Jordy Clasie being the one to fill Morgan’s boots, despite the fact the Dutchman’s qualities are that of a roaming playmaker. Whilst his technical ability is clear to see and his name now fills the gap where Morgan’s used to be, he can’t carry out the same destructive midfield role. As a result, a forced change of system and time needed for integration has affected our results and performances.
For Clasie, also read fellow Frenchman Giannelli Imbula of Porto; another name that has been tipped as the must-have replacement for Morgan.

Fans have been fixated with finding the player that they can name “The Next Morgan”, but sometimes however, the boots are too big to fill. Sometimes, you simply can not replace. Look to Gareth Bale at Tottenham Hotspur, Luis Suarez at Liverpool and on a smaller scale, Christian Benteke at Aston Villa. All four of the above players were picked up as young prospects that flourished during their time at their respected clubs – sadly, bigger clubs come calling for the bigger players. The cycle goes on.

Rather than looking to fill the gap that Schneiderlin left behind, we need to look forward and rebuild. Aiming to replace this exact position and role will only result in failure as a comparison to what we have seen with the Frenchman. It’s time to build a new role that is better suited to the players at our disposal.

Where we have gone against the odds in the past and replaced when many believed it to be an impossible task, we may have to admit defeat this time. There is no harm in doing so when we know that Morgan Schneiderlin is a world class footballer.
Allez, Morgan.

 

Talking Point: The Recent Reluctance On Academy Promotion

Ronald Koeman recently spoke out about his role as Southampton boss, stating that he sees himself as a day-to-day manager, rather than looking at his job as a three year project. Having dealt with two gruelling transfer window’s that saw key players depart for big money moves, such a viewpoint is understandable; as a matter of fact, it’s been the perfect take on a challenge that many managers wouldn’t be fit to face. However, this outlook from Koeman could also explain his reluctance to promote youth into the first team.

Since his arrival in 2014, Ronald Koeman has seen Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert, Calum Chambers, Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne and even loanee Toby Alderweireld leave the club. Losing five first team players in the first season, followed by three star players in Koeman’s second summer was always going to result in a call for experience. Once a club has been shaken as much as Southampton have been, dependable players with a strong mentality are the first to be called upon –  fragmenting academy players in turn.

Southampton needed to find their feet and steady the ship at the start of both seasons; calling upon young players at that time would have been a classic case of trying to run before you can walk.

When aiming to integrate academy players into the first team, you need a strong spine and experienced players alongside. The academy players need to be familiar with their surroundings and how those around them play, in order to impress when given their chance. That integration proves rather difficult once your experienced players have been poached by other teams.  Throwing a young inexperienced player in a side that is still under great development can be damaging on results and the youngsters mentality.

Simply take a look at how Premier League sides fair in the League Cup when they throw a collection of academy players, first team stars and second string choices together. The combination ultimately results in a not so unpredictable cup upset.

The best time to integrate young players is once you have a settled squad, but how frequently throughout his reign has the Dutchman held a settled squad? This period of fire fighting and balancing the team has taken up a vast amount of Koeman’s time on the South coast. Not mentioning our push for European football; which the Dutchman succeeded in achieving. Koeman has been thrown countless challenges and with each problem, he has come out on top.

The real catalyst behind our recent lack of academy progression is with the senior management and powers that be. Whilst they continue to provide spectacular facilities and develop one of the best academies in Europe, they also shoot themselves in the foot with the sale of our stars. This decision has blocked the pathway for academy players into the first team. However, preventing this is far easier said than done.

Koeman is so focused on having to rebuild the squad and get points on the board, that he is simply unable to place faith into academy players. You need a balance of experience, stability, quality and youth to bring long term success to a football club. Koeman has been limited on all four at the start of both seasons.

I’m certain that with a promise from the executives that we stand strong in the market, Koeman will provide a stream of home produced youngsters into the first team.

Jay Rodriguez: Where Does This Leave Southampton?

In Ronald Koeman’s latest press conference it was confirmed that Southampton forward and fan favourite, Jay Rodriguez, is set for yet another spell on the sidelines. The severity and time frame of the injury however is still unknown after Koeman told the media “Jay is not good, it’s now a long time and we have to make a really tough decision how we have to do the treatment”. So, where does this leave Southampton who are now a forward down?

Truthfully, pretty comfortable provided everyone in the squad is well and injury free. It’s no secret that Rodriguez – or any other player in fact – plays second fiddle to a fit Graziano Pellè, Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane.

Pellè’s influence in play and clinical finishing makes him unbenchable, not to mention that he’s one of Koeman’s favourites.

Sadio Mane offers immense pace, intelligent movement and quick feet. Whilst these are traits of Rodriguez, it’s a case of anything you can do, I can do better.

Finally we have Tadic who provides the creative spark for the front line. When a game needs that deft touch and classy pass, the Serbian comes up with the goods.

Every attack needs strength, pace and creativity. Unluckily for Rodriguez, those needs are already being met. Simply put, he’s not a set starter with a fully fit squad.

As for backup, this is when the issues rise to the surface.

Shane Long is without argument, our only proven Premier League attacker on the bench. When injury strikes or a tactical change is needed, the Irishman is the first name to be called upon.

Then we have former Malaga man Juanmi, who has struggled to settle into the ways of English football. So far, the Spaniard has found game time coming at a premium due to his slight frame.

The final option is 19 year old Ryan Seager. He will be a familiar name to those who follow the U21’s.

A strong and match fit Rodriguez would prove to be incredible competition for the Southampton XI. He would without doubt be the best player from those options on the bench, and be placed into the squad at the sight of poor performances; most likely retaining his place in the first team when in his best form too.

The only issue however, is that he is still yet to be match fit. With this new setback, Rodriguez could be looking at over two years of being unfit. It goes without saying that time like that out of the game is heavily damaging to a player’s career, both physically and mentally.

Injuries like this stop a player taking the risks they once took. It stops a player from pushing themselves to the limit. It can eat away at a winning mentality.

When Rodriguez had played this season, the safe option was taken all too often. We weren’t treated to a single one of those trademark inside runs or charges down the wing. He didn’t even fancy the idea of closing down or a shoulder to shoulder battle.  However, after the challenges he has had to overcome, not the slightest of blame is going on Rodriguez; some players are able to return from such a damaging injury, some can not.

I’m just not sure that people realise the possible severity of both his first injury, and this new setback.

The only light to be seen in this unfortunate event is the possibility of a signing in the January window. We’ve seen time and time again that a series of injuries in quick succession can severely affect a squads season, making the need for a new signing all the more crucial with Rodriguez now side lined. One more injury on top of Rodriguez and we will be short on supplies. If a deal was to be struck, expect a loan signing like the Filip Djuricic and Eljero Elia deals of last season.

After 19 months since that injury versus Manchester City, it will be a delight to see Rodriguez back doing what he does best; because in all honesty, was he ever really back? The Rodriguez we know is yet to return.

The Year Of Liebherr: Where Are They Now?

The day that it all changed. On the 8th of July 2009, a Swiss businessman stepped in to save Southampton Football Club. That businessman was called Markus Liebherr and he is the reason for Southampton obtaining their first silverware since 1976, achieving back to back promotions and becoming THE Premier League model club . For if Mr Liebherr had not stepped forward, we wouldn’t have a club to support. With our six years of success and never ending drama, It’s easy to forget where it all started. So, where is that first Liebherr team now?

Let’s start with the men between the sticks

Kelvin Davis – 271 appearances for Southampton. Current club captain and club legend.

Bartosz Bialkowski – The Polish Keeper is currently applying his trade at Ipswich Town, having made 32 appearances since joining in 2014.

Tommy Forecast – Oh we have a cracker already. Since he joined Southampton in 2008, Forecast has turned out a rather shocking 34 career appearances over seven years for seven different teams. Since 2013 he has found work as a taxi driver in Essex, whilst hosting children’s Football parties on the side.

The boys at the back

Jose Fonte – Come on, really? Do I have to say anything?

Wayne Thomas – Thomas now finds himself as a Worcester City regular having spent two seasons in the Greek Superleague.

Chris Perry – Since being released at the start of the 2010/11 season, Perry has found work as a summariser for TalkSport and BT sport. His only outings relating to Southampton have been as a weak link of opinion for Tottenham Hotspur transfer targets.

Radhi Jaidi – After Jaidi slipped down the pecking order through injury troubles in 2012, he took on a role as overseas development officer. Since then his role has increased at the club – the Tunisian now works as an assistant manager for Southampton’s U21 side.

Dan Harding – Despite Dan Harding proving his worth at both Millwall and Nottingham Forest in the past two seasons, the former Saint has taken the drop to Eastleigh Football club. The man has had an incredibly emotional 12 months and some tough decisions to make on his journey. Take a read http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/sport/13579896.Ex_Saint_Harding_opens_his_heart_about_joining_Eastleigh/

Joseph Mills – Having shown impressive performances in the first team at just 19 year’s old, Mills never kicked on further in the way that he was expected to. He is still lingering down in League One having made 30 appearances since June 2014 for Oldham Athletic.

Danny Seabourne – Having spent time in every division of The Football League and even the Conference, Seabourne has taken his career to the Scottish Premiership with Partick Thistle.

The Midfield Magic

Morgan Schneiderlin – This all doing defensive midfielder is now showcasing his talents for the world’s third most valuable Football Club, Manchester United. Schneiderlin has even wormed his way into Didier Deschamps French national team.

Dean Hammond – Many would have been pleased to see Hammond get his much deserved Premier League runabout for Leicester City, but perhaps Southampton fans were even more delighted to see him rejoin ex-manager, Nigel Adkins. He has been at Sheffield United since the start of this season.

Adam Lallana – Lallana has made a strong early impression under new manager Jurgen Klopp, whilst continuing to be a part of Roy Hodgson’s plans.  Most notably however, he features as a prop in Nivea adverts.

Jason Puncheon – As a once inconsistent winger, Puncheon has become a reliable Premier League starter for Crystal Palace. He’s even built himself up to be a bit of a set piece master in this reinvented  “Number 10 role”.

Lloyd James – The 27 year old has made 95 appearances for Leyton Orient since joining in 2012 – the Welshman has scored six along the way.

Anthony Pulis – After spending two years at USL club Orlando City, Pulis retired to hold greater focus on full time coaching. This has now seen him take charge of Orlando City B, who start playing in 2016.

Paul Wotton – Paul Wotton has been fortunate enough to hold a lengthy career spanning from 1994-2015. After returning to his beloved Plymouth Argyle in 2013, Wotton decided to hang up the boots at the end of the 2014/15 season. He is currently working as a first team coach after being offered a role to continue at the club.

Lee Holmes – After an impressive loan spell at Exeter City, Holmes re-joined the League Two side from Preston North End on a permanent basis.

Michail Antonio – After an incredible 2014/15 season at Nottingham Forrest, Antonio had Premier League clubs circling. Desperately in need of a winger, West Ham snapped up Antonio for £7M in the past summer window. However, he has struggled with game time at The Hammers having only made one Premier League appearance. Club Chairman David Gold was pranked by a fan into retweeting a missing person appeal – that missing person being Antonio.

Goals, Goals and more Goals

Lee Barnard- After a number of loan spells from Southampton, Connolly made the switch to Southend United. However, he proved unsuccessful having only scored one goal throughout his time at the club. Now in League Two with Crawley Town, he is yet to score in nine appearances.

David Connolly – Rather like Barnard, Connolly too took the drop down the divisions; sadly, his goalscoring also replicated Barnard’s struggles. After joining AFC Wimbledon on the 5th January 2015, he scored once in eight appearances. On the 7th March 2015, Connolly retired from playing.

Papa Waigo – The Senegalese forward currently plays for Al-Ittihad Kalba SC in the United Arab Emirates. Over two seasons in the UAE, he has maintained a goal every two games; the Waigo dance should be fairly familiar by now. I wonder if he is still offside?

Who better to end this trip down memory lane with than Sir Rickie Lambert? 207 appearances, 106 goals. By now, everyone knows the story of the Liverpool born striker; but none quite like the Southampton fans who enjoyed five years of belting free kicks, rifled penalties and net ripping volleys. Having only scored one goal in ten games for West Bromwich Albion, it’s up for debate whether Lambert still has it. However, one thing for sure is that he looked a damn sight better in red and white.

Match Preview: Sunderland vs Southampton

Surely any team in the league would currently feast their eyes, licking their collective lips in anticipation of a weekend trip to the Black Cats. Especially when the team making the journey to the Stadium Of Light is a free flowing, goal scoring, in-form Southampton. The recent appointment of Sam Allardyce was unsurprisingly an attempt to sure up what is the Premier League’s worst defence – the 2015/16 campaign has seen them concede 25 goals in just 11 games. But with seven goals conceded in three games and a 6-2 humiliation at the hands of Everton, all has not gone to plan for Allardyce. So, what can be expected?

Reflecting on the drubbing at Goodison Park seems a positive start for Southampton fans. During the opening 20 minutes it was a new look Sunderland side on show; fullbacks were bombing on, runs were made from the midfield and efforts were oh so close to putting them one goal to the good. However, after the visitors rattled the post twice early on, Everton smelt blood and proceeded to take a two goal lead, courtesy of strikes from Gerard Deulofeu and Arouna Kone. In all the excitement of Sunderland’s attacking play, they left themselves wide open to Everton’s clear strengths of wide play and pace.

With the same attack-minded approach, Sunderland soon clawed two goals back to level the scores. These goals came in the form of a smart individual finish by Jermain Defoe and a textbook Steven Fletcher header. Yet once again, Sunderland’s naivety prevailed and they steered away from Allardyce’s strict defensive priority. Just 26 minutes later and Sunderland found themselves having to overhaul a four goal deficit – that’s a goal every six minutes.

Despite fielding five defenders, no formation can compensate for defensive ill-discipline and a severe lack of pace. Where John O’shea and Wes Brown would have swept the ball with a clean crunch years ago, they now run on empty with lazy legged lunges, watching wingers bound past.

As for fullback Patrick Van Aanholt… well… defending isn’t his forte. So much so, that it’s a rare sight to catch him in defence.

Credit where it’s due however, Van Aanholt is certainly an attacking threat. The Dutchman has blistering pace and given the space to run into, he can deliver a fantastic cross. His style of play as a free spirit attracts positive and negative comments in equal measure. With Cedric typically holding high positions on the pitch, Koeman will be sure to find the right balance between attack and defence. The Sunderland fullback is a familiar face to Koeman, through their shared time in the Eredivise – Van Aanholt was under contract with Chelsea at the time, but spent a two year period on loan with Vitesse.

What will be key to Koeman’s boys winning this game? Runners from deep and confidence in their own ability.

It goes without saying that the Black Cats defence presents just about every weakness possible; own goals, a lack of pace, a disjointed unit and an ever-present likelihood of the away fans singing a chorus of “Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio” as any one of the backline walks down the tunnel.

The last thing Koeman wants to see is hesitance to bomb forward or a missing sense of urgency; such a style of play would only invite Sunderland to get bodies behind the ball and then hit us on the break. With the quality we boast in our frontline and our current goalscoring form, free expression should be encouraged. Putting any of the Sunderland centre halves on the back foot is the order of the day and will be an exciting sight to this weekend’s away fans.

This is where Southampton’s danger man, Sadio Mane, comes into play. The Senegalese international would be picked out by any fans in the league as Southampton’s biggest threat, understandably so, with his recent form. It’s common knowledge that the combination of his ability to play on the last shoulder and pace has embarrassed some of the best defenders in the league. If Southampton want to come away with three points, getting in behind Van Aanholt and charging down on O’shea, Brown or Coates is key. Southampton must capitalise on Sunderland’s sluggish defence with Mane’s intelligent movement and natural pace.

Whilst the suspension of Victor Wanyama will be hard felt and no doubt a disadvantage, Sunderland operate without an established and recognised number 10. In theory this should reduce the damage caused by the Kenyan’s absence, but, Big Sam may well look to exploit this middle avenue. The gap will most likely be plugged by Oriol Romeu, who has proved his worth as a fantastic destructive defensive midfielder.

A worrying stat however is that Southampton have only beaten Sunderland once in their last ten travels up North. But, with Pelle, Mane and Tadic all riding high in confidence and form, there couldn’t be a better chance to put that stat to bed.

 

Review: The International Break That Has Southampton Flying Higher Than Before

Coming off the back of what is usually branded as a boring and uninspiring International break, Southampton couldn’t be higher in confidence. Before catching the plane to carry out their duty, the boys in red and white had put 3 back to back wins together – including a domination at Stamford Bridge that will live long in the memory of many Southampton fans.

Unsurprisingly, the first mention will go to Steven Davis. After the midfielder ended his lengthy goal drought – the last goal coming in February 2014 – he told the media how he hoped the floodgates would now open. However, even Davis himself wouldn’t have anticipated quite how quickly the next goals would come. Davis scored a game winning brace during the Euro qualifying clash with Greece at Windsor Park; those two goals would prove to be the crucial point in Northern Ireland’s first ever Euro qualification.

This wasn’t the only strong performance over the ten games either, Davis featured in the Euro qualifiers team of the tournament.

The second man to note is Graziano Pellè; the Italian has started the season in incredible form having netted an impressive five goals in just eight Premier League games. Not to mention joining Davis as a goalscorer in the preceding fixture against Chelsea.

With thanks to his move to the Premier League and Ronald Koeman, Pellè has become somewhat of a regular for the Azzuri. Every touch in recent games has turned to gold and the fixture against Norway was no exception; Pellè was on the receiving end of a lashed cross and with a clean strike of the left boot, he fired the ball into the bottom corner in the 82nd minute with what would prove to be the winner. The resulting goal placed Pellè as Italy’s top qualifying goalscorer, allowed them to top their group and extended their unbeaten run in European qualifying to 50 games.

The third big star of the break was Ireland’s new poster boy and cult hero, Shane Long. To the annoyance of the Republic of Ireland fans, Long once again began the fixture against world champions, Germany, as second fiddle to Jonathan Walters. But as Martin O’Neill looked to his options in the 65th minute, it was the Southampton man he turned to for a moment of genius. Just five minutes after stepping onto the pitch, Darren Randolph sent Long bounding through on goal to fire into the top left corner. Manuel Neuer stood no chance.

The goal resulted in Long being awarded with a start against Poland; however, this proved to be a poisoned chalice as the Irishman now finds himself sidelined for the next two weeks with an ankle injury.

Even England senior, Ryan Bertrand, and the U21 boys came away with strong results and showings to match. After missing out on pre season and the early Premier League fixtures, Bertrand would have been delighted to earn himself an instant recall to Roy Hodgson’s first XI. The full back gained 90 minutes under his belt during a routine 2-0 win versus Estonia, Bertrand was ever-present.

James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett also recorded a full 90 for Gareth Southgate’s U21 side. During their 3-0 victory over Kazakhstan’s U21’s, Ward-Prowse delivered a number of impeccable set pieces that should have made the scoreline all the more merrier.

Where International breaks are often seen as a time for teams to re identify in times of crisis, Southampton can use such results and performances to continue their recent rich vein of form. Afterall, if an International break can be used to re organise, then why can’t it be used to improve? Morale is running high and performances are even higher, the Tinkerman is next on Koeman’s list.