Saints

Tactical Analysis: Focus On Tadic

Entering a new season, football fans will always have their expectations, hopes and unanswered questions.  One of the great questions for Saints fans at the outset of the  2015/16 campaign, was whether we’d see the return of Dusan Tadic’s immense early 2014/15 form.

During Tadic’s debut season, he began to struggle with numerous muscular strains and knocks from December 2014, right through until the summer. Understandably, this affected his performances and in turn, we did not see that creative spark shine as bright again. Southampton fans were screaming out for the Serbian International to return to his previous lofty heights; this season however, he has done just that.

Coming off the back of beating Jose Mourinho’s title winning side at Stamford Bridge, Southampton have now produced three wins on the bounce – scoring 12 goals in the process. Whilst the transfer gossip subjects, Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama continue to reap the majority of the plaudits, Tadic’s work has truly been at the front of our stunning recent form. As a result, the Saints are flying high once again.

Over time, Tadic’s role in Southampton’s play has become more and more influential.

It goes without saying that the former FC Twente playmaker has incredible technical ability and vision; seven assists last year and a current season tally of 25 created chances, proves just that. However, his most recent flourishing has been due, in no small measure, to his mental attributes. Whilst his physical and technical ability has facilitated the execution, his intelligent play combined with world class positioning, has allowed Tadic to ply his trade so effectively.

So, What is the “role” that allowed for such a development in his play?

Upon face value, Tadic is deployed as a winger on the left hand side of Italian talisman, Graziano Pelle – Sadio mane playing on the right of course.

To use this simplistic label to describe his role in the side however, would be an insult to both Tadic and Ronald Koeman.

As we all know, Dutch managers have become famed for their promotion of fluent football and most notably, the era of beautiful play that goes by the name of “Total Football”. Total football, put simply, was a label given to a tactical theory in football, that any player can take up any position at any time. However, with the advent of more robust and defensive minded teams, down came Total Football, along with the rare breed of players to fit the mould.

Whilst the application of Total Football throughout the whole XI has died, that doesn’t mean it can’t live on for certain players. Dusan Tadic is one of those select few.

In games where Southampton are on top of play and pinning the opposition back, Tadic takes up his natural left wing position in a 4-3-3 formation. From there it puts best use to his quick feet in tight spaces, his ability to unpick a banked defence and hard drilled crosses with his strongest foot. When Tadic moves into this wide area, Mane knows to detach himself as a strike partner of Pelle and one of the midfielder three,  typically James Ward-Prowse or Steven Davis, push themselves into the number 10 position.

However, in games where Southampton themselves are under pressure and looking to counter, Tadic tucks inside and plays through the middle as a roaming playmaker. Playing as a number 10 allows for Tadic to be the main source of creativity, whilst Bertrand, Cedric and Mane amongst others know to bomb forward (Look below at the first image to see the runs when Tadic is playing as a number 10).

Pelle will be sure to stay central and ask questions of the centre halves, thus freeing up space for Tadic to run into. If need be, it gives Tadic the option to also pull wide on either side, provided someone occupies this central spot. (Look below at the second photo to see Tadic playing on the right, Mane on the left, Davis occupying the central spot and Bertrand as the furthest forward)

Tadic central with run

Bertrand through

Thirdly, Tadic takes up the role of a wide playmaker in moments where Southampton need to pick up their dominance of possession and play. This involves moving alongside the central midfielders to allow for greater stability and options from deep. The Serbian’s crisp and reassured passing will begin to dominate play from the left side of the field; typically, Tadic will look to dictate the play until an overlapping run occurs. When playing as a wide playmaker, Mane knows to join Pelle as a strike partner – forming a 4-4-2 formation. As a result, this means more options from deep, a stronger defence with two banks of four and a greater attention to the retention of the ball. ( Look below to see Tadic on the left wing as a wide playmaker with Pelle and Mane as a partnership )

Tadic playmaker

These movements from Tadic set the formation and positions of each and every other player on the field. Wherever Tadic plays, its down to the rest of the team to adjust accordingly. Tadic’s positioning dictates Mane’s role, it decides how far Bertrand can push forward, when the defensive midfielders should cover his wide area and when a centre half should cover the left side.

To suggest that Koeman is implementing an aspect of total football in Tadic’s play is certainly an argument that holds water.

So for now, in Tadic, those pre-season expectations and hopes are being met to the delight for the fans in red and white.

Match Preview: Monk Comes To The Chapel

After being held to a goalless draw on their travels to West Bromwich Albion, Southampton returned home to St Mary’s in search for a valuable three points. In what was to be a battle of the Dutch men’s bragging rights, fans were gifted a five goal thriller – sadly for Southampton fans as we know, Manchester United came out on top with a 3-2 win. Just three days later and Southampton have ripped apart MK Dons with six away goals and a clean sheet in the league cup. But, what have we learnt from these game as we look forward to this weekends fixture against Swansea City?

Throughout the opening 30 minutes of the Manchester United game, it would have been insane to label the performance as anything other than a tactical masterclass from Ronald Koeman’s army. The perfectly orchestrated and well positioned pressing was pushing the United defence deep into their own half, bringing mistakes from both the defence and midfield in turn. Provided Southampton can start the game with this same intensity and show Gary Monk’s side their intent, Swansea’s neat possession based football could work in our favour. This is of course if we repeat the opening third of the game; if we resemble anything after this ( minus the final ten minutes ) then an inform Bafetimbi Gomis and Andre Ayew will be sure to capitalise.

In that same performance against Manchester United we were treated to an incredible attacking performance throughout – the sharp incisive football that has become a part of Southampton’s DNA was back. Most notably, Graziano Pelle was at the fore of all proceedings; if we are going to beat Swansea City, then our talisman will need to continue his rich early season form. Each and every pass played into the Italian’s chest, feet or head was recycled with just a single touch, allowing runners to put the United defence on the back foot. With Swansea holding no true defensive midfielder, the pocket of space in front of the centre halves will play a key role in the outcome of this game. Ronald Koeman will certainly look to bring Mane and Tadic into this space, to benefit from the knock downs of Pelle.

All of this was play was carried out whilst Pelle continuously humiliated Daley Blind with a number of flicks, tricks and raw strength. With six goals in nine appearances this season, he’s the man that teams will be doing their homework on.

So, who have we got to look out for in this current Swansea side?

Jonjo Shelvey – fresh from his recent return to International football, Shelvey will be high on confidence and sure to show Hodgson why he deserves a starting spot. Not only has the roaming playmaker taken his game to yet another level this season, but he also holds fond memories of his visits to St. Mary’s – having scored an incredible strike from distance in the same fixture of the 2014/15 campaign, securing all three points in the process.

If Southampton show the same defensive sloppiness that has been displayed many times this season, then Shelvey will be in dream land. His right foot is one that can spray a 40 yard ball to the corner of the pitch, penetrate a defence and even sail a shot into the top corner – a scene that sadly Southampton fans know all too well.

If given space then he will be used as the centre piece of the side, dictating the game’s tempo with ease. Games of which Shelvey has been allowed space and time on the ball are when Swansea show their greatest displays.

Besides the hat trick of braces from the forward line, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the mid week fixture was the return of Ryan Bertrand, adding a positive attacking element to the full back role, mirrored by Cedric on the other side. Which as we all know, was an important factor in last seasons success. Welcome back, Ryan.

With both sides playing open and attractive football, we are sure to be in for an entertaining afternoon.

Who’s bringing the Mars bar then?

 

Talking Points: Bertrand On Targett For Return?

During yesterday’s press conference it was confirmed that Ryan Bertrand has not yet recovered in time for Saturday’s trip to the Hawthorns.

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman then went on to say “I hope that he will start training with the whole group from Monday” You have to understand that he didn’t have a pre season and that’s always difficult for a player”. The England International has been sidelined for just over three months now and with his return on the horizon, can he replicate last seasons success and where does this place Matt Targett?

Confidence is the key factor in the comparison between both players; however, the reasons are quite different. In a Southampton XI with the oh so reliant Bertrand, each player around him is fuelled with confidence in both his ability and movement; defenders, midfielders and attackers alike take great risks in play due to the trust they hold with Bertrand. This confidence allows the left side of the field to play in the instinctive manner that has been drilled into their minds through Koeman. This instinctive and fast paced football is the play that we have grown to love.

Where as 19 year old Matt Targett desperately relies on self confidence – of which he has lacked – and the trust of his team-mates in order to perform well; both of which Bertrand holds in abundance. During Targett’s forced promotion to the starting line up, we have seen two sets of performances. One being a shaky and error prone youngster, the better side being an expressive and positive player that lives up to the Southampton academy reputation. In fixtures such as Norwich (Home) and Vitesse (Away) we have seen the brighter sides to his game, but for now those performances come around all too little.  

So, upon the inevitable occurrence of Bertrand reclaiming his starting spot, what could be next for Targett?

The club could look to give Targett the same chance that Gallagher, Stephen’s and Turnbull are currently experiencing on a loan spell; whilst this may be effective for the growth of Targett as an individual, it would damage the squad depth in turn and therefore force the club to bump into some avoidable transfer expenses. Combine this financial irresponsibility with Southampton’s academy ambitions and this looks like a weak possibility.

Instead, I expect to see Targett reinstalled in his role as backup. During his recent run of Premier League fixtures you could easily argue that as just a raw talent, Targett’s demands have been all too high. At such a young age he has been thrown into the starting line up with the responsibility/expectation that comes with it, all whilst he has no genuine competition. Being just 19 years old, competition is key in the unfortunate event of falling out of depth; this added bonus of quality is a safety net for the morale and health of a youngster, a safety net that Targett has had to deal without.

We have seen flashes and flickers of his talent during Bertrand’s absence and provided he stays within the first team plans, he has much more to learn from a manager who knows it all about defending. As for Bertrand, a player of his quality surrounded by the talents on show at St Mary’s will only continue to star in the red and white stripes. Perhaps Bertrand can mentor Mathew to keep him on Targett?

 

James Ward-Prowse: Is It Time To Kick Off Under Koeman?

Coming off the back of an incredible performance against Norwich City, James Ward-Prowse has been named as the England U21 captain – this reward will see Ward-Prowse take charge on the pitch for the forthcoming Euro qualifier against Norway. Southampton fans would agree that this achievement is a testament to the youngsters recent showings in the red and white stripes. So, is this the moment for Ward-Prowse to truly nail down his starting place?

A mature set of performances, International recognition and a current starting spot in the first team; the 20 year old is certainly doing his career no harm.

Though Victor Wanyama’s tantrum has given a helping hand to Ward-Prowse, it didn’t mean he was guaranteed to fill the boots. Yet here we are, Ronald Koeman shall be dealt a manager’s best nightmare upon the players return from International duty.

In the past two seasons Ward-Prowse has dealt battle with one of the league’s strongest midfield partnerships. Sadly however for the now England U21 captain, it was a partnership that held quality in abundance and rarely fell short of fitness; thus forcing Koeman to predominantly place Ward-Prowse in a less familiar advanced role. Whilst he has undeniably come up with the goods in assists and creativity, his lack of bursting pace, quick feet and poor finishing has left him ineffective when played as an attacking midfielder. His talent is clear to see, but for quite some time now we have been wanting to witness him apply his trade in a more natural position; perhaps a place in the midfield partnership, Ron?

With Morgan Schneiderlin now spending every waking moment studying the almighty Van Gaal “Philosophy” and Wanyama coming out the tail end of a disruptive transfer saga, this really is the moment for the young Portsmouth born boy to earn his spot.

In Southampton’s three nil domination over Norwich City, the La Masia academy star Romeu joined Ward-Prowse in the middle of the park. This partnership seemed to click from the very first whistle as it provided the much needed base to push Southampton onto victory. With both players holding incredible technical ability and an intelligent mind, the two put an end to the hoof ball that Southampton fans have become accustomed to as of late. Instead, fans were treated to the site of a classy Romeu – playing as the anchor from deep – and Ward-Prowse splitting the defence open and co ordinating in perfect harmony. Simply put, it was the perfect midfield balance and if either of the duo were not to start on Southampton’s visit to The Hawthorns, it would be a despicable decision. Fans have labelled the performance as their most attractive in recent games and best of all, it placed a smile back upon the face of Ronald Koeman.

You could easily argue that to see Southampton play in such a positive and attractive fashion is no surprise, given that Ward-Prowse was handed the chance. In previous fixtures we have seen a mistake filled and sluggish paced transition from defence to attack, this has strongly damaged our power at both ends of the field in turn. Most notably, these uninspiring performances have occurred when Wanyama and Steven Davis form a pair; whilst both players hold fantastic attributes in the correct system, they both rely on their physical strengths.

At this point to restore Southampton’s beautiful fluid football they need reassurance and class on the ball. Strangely enough, thats exactly what was shown against Alex Neil’s Norwich last weekend. The young man offers a calming influence on the ball, the ability to switch play over any distance, the intelligence to find space, a positive approach to play and not to mention his beautiful set piece deliveries.

If Ward-Prowse is able to maintain his position in the first team, it would not only be an incredible achievement for him, but also for the fans and the club. It’s a proud moment as a fan to watch over a player and know that he is one of your own, a feeling that as a Southampton fan, will never die.

 

Talking Point: Why Saints Fans Shouldn’t Worry About Sacrificing League Form For a European Run

After ex Saint Tim Sparv stunned St.Mary’s last Thursday by snatching FC Midtjylland an away goal and a share of the spoils, Southampton have it all to do this coming Thursday. With the score tied at one apiece, Ronald Koeman’s side will have to score at least one goal to book their place in the group stages of the Europa League.

 

The height of optimism by some for the season ahead is what I can regrettably only describe as, unrealistic – just like any other club would after a successful season, Southampton host a group of naive fans who think we can finish in the top seven, reach a domestic final and make the later knockout rounds of the Europa League. These same fans are those who scream MELTDOWN, claim that we are not reinvesting the money and that we are “going backwards” after a goalless draw to an inform Watford that have a point to prove.

The way I see it, Southampton are due a major trophy. If that were to mean a 14th place finish rather than a top half spot, I think I’d be content – as would many others upon watching club legends Jose Fonte and Kelvin Davis lift the trophy. After all, what’s the difference between 10th and 14th anyway? bragging rights over other mid table sides? extra prize money that is equal to one weeks wages?

Its safe to say we are no European Giants. The last time Southampton prepared for those oh so desired European nights was back in 2003 – even then, that was only two qualification legs against Steaua Bucharest.

However, this time round with an experienced European manager and a squad with greater depth, we have already beaten our 2003 European tour – If you can even call it that.

There are some big names in Europe’s second biggest club competition this year and Saints fans could have some extraordinary away trips. The electrical atmosphere of those Eastern European sides and jaw-droppingly vast stadiums such as Westfalenstadion – the battlefield of Borussia Dortmund – are certainly something to look forward to.

Realistically, we don’t have the squad to go far in all four competitions. If by the odd chance that we did go all the way in every competition, were talking about an 81 game season. However, that just won’t happen. Not only would that drain the players physically and mentally, but it would also destroy each player’s marriage in turn.

Now, lets take our mandatory 38 Premier League games and chuck in an early cup exit, getting to a respectable Europa League finish and a half decent FA cup run. We are now presented with our “What could be” 60 game season. Fans must understand that in a season consisting of 60 games, our form will peter out at some point; tired legs and sloppy passes happen to the big guns and we are certainly no exception.

So Saints fans, we can’t have it all. But that’s not to mean we can’t give it our best shot. Simply remember where we were six years ago and enjoy the journey, for were all going on a European Tour.

Talking Point: Why Southampton Fans Shouldn’t Be Disheartened By Lack Of English Signings

 

Unsurprisingly, this summer has been yet another busy one for Southampton; seeing three familiar faces leave and six new bodies enter the building, Steven Caulker is the latest recruit that has Southampton fans talking. Whilst business to build and replace in the squad has been swift, some fans have voiced their displeasure over Caulker being the only English recruit. So, are Southampton losing their English core that they have become so famed for owning?

Judging by Southampton’s outgoing transfer business it would be hard to argue any other case. In the past two summer windows Southampton have waved goodbye to England stars Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Callum Chambers, Luke Shaw and most recently Nathaniel Clyne – Fraser Forster and Ryan Bertrand being the only incoming English talent on permanent deals. Point taken, Southampton have let go of a first team English core – through an incredible set of business worth £85.5M – and it’s understandable for fans to want English replacements, that is of course until you ask “With who?”.

Southampton are a club who strive for progression and success. A club that prides itself on never settling for less. Following that theory, any transfer should therefore be an upgrade.

In positions such as right back, attacking midfield, wingers and especially defensive midfield, Southampton would be searching for English players who simply don’t exist.

In terms of a realistic English signing, Charlie Austin could be considered the only upgrade. Whilst that would be a move that I welcome with open arms, Graziano Pelle’ is the focal point of Koeman’s side and removing the Italian from the starting XI is something of a large risk. On paper, Charlie Austin would bolster our attack; however, in terms of the team’s final position come the end of the season, I’m not so sure.

The Dutchman has implemented a style of football that requires a very specific forward with incredibly demanding needs, this has allowed for other forwards and midfielders to thrive from Pelle’s service. Sadio Mane for example recorded an impressive 10 goals during his debut season, thanks to the space Pelle’ helps to create.Whether Charlie Austin could fulfill these   tasks is a question that for now will remain un-answered.

But is it all so bad losing these oh so treasured English stars when Koeman and co continue to discover some of Europe’s biggest gems?

Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Dusan Tadic are players that have surely doubled their market value since playing for the South coast club.

As for new recruits, the early signs are that Cedric Soares could be an improvement on Clyne, Juanmi is already amongst the goals and Maarten Stekelenburg has shown his worth in experience during a crucial period against Vitesse.

But back to the financial talk, a topic that is often first to arrive when talking about English talents.

Cedric is a portuguese International at 23 years old, Clasie is a Dutch International at 24 years old and Juanmi is a Spanish International at just 22 years old. All of these talents collectively reached a fee of £20.3M, you certainly wouldn’t be insane to suggest the fee would be in the region of £50M if they were to be English. Simply put, If Southampton wish to continue to strive to join the big guns, then they must conduct their business overseas.

The lack of English signings however, does not mean that the club will lose its English core, for we are Southampton football club; with that name comes our world famed academy. To onlooking lovers of football, Southampton are considered the “Model club”.

Year on year, new talents emerge from the academy and grace the hallowed St. Mary’s turf.

The faithful fans on the terrace dream of watching local lads fly their sides colours, and this season, Southampton’s youngsters shall be doing so in Europe.

Harrison Reed, Matt Targett, James Ward-Prowse, Ryan Seager and Sam Gallagher are just a few academy stars who made first team appearances last season.

Best of all, these English talents were handed appearances through hard work and talent shown in training, ensuring that Southampton continue to strive for excellence within the academy. With Southampton academy products Callum Chambers, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gareth Bale going on to make appearances for their National team, it’s no far fetched thought to believe that Southampton could build a first team in years to come with 50% home grown players; after all, that’s just another step in the five year plan…

Markus would be pleased.

Transfer News: Southampton Look To Secure Djuricic For The Season Ahead

This morning it was reported by Portuguese sources that Filip Djuricic – who joined Southampton on loan in January – is being targeted once more by Ronald Koeman, to bolster his attack.

The Serbian spent the remainder of the season at the South coast club, going on to make nine appearances during his short spell with the first team. Djuricic escaped from a season long loan at Bundesliga side Mainz, in order to join up with Eredivisie expert Ronald Koeman; the move was considered by many, as a bid to rebuild his career.

Djuricic entered the Southampton side whilst they were flying high, sitting in a 4th place Champions league spot. This resulted in a challenging start for Djuricic, as he faced stiff competition and needed time to settle, in order to show his qualities.

However, quality prevails and in the closing games of the season, his incredible technical ability soon become apparent. He went on to feature in all of the final 4 games, threading a number of killer passes, dropping defenders to the floor and showing his knack of finding space in the tightest of games. The most notable showing of his talent came in the 6-1 annihilation of Aston Villa; Djuricic picked up the ball on the halfway line with a classy 180 degree turn, he then exchanged a 1-2 with Mane. He then produced a “no look pass” behind his standing left foot and the onlooking Ron Vlaar. The Senegalese winger then whipped the ball in to assist Pelle.

Yet that is all that remains of his time at Southampton. A short winded career in the red and white shirt, that has left many Southampton fans certain that there was more to come from the Serbian.

In the short bursts that we have seen of Djuricic at St Mary’s and from his time at Heerenveen, it is evident that he is a player that Southampton fans have screamed out for in recent years. Yet, some other fans just can’t see it. In those agonising games where that final ball is just an inch wide and that classy touch is so needed, many feel that Djuricic can be the answer. He brings a spark to the pitch that can change a game and is another outlet for the team to attack through. By no means will he start each match, but given a good pre-season, he will be able to provide that difference in the games that need the best of players.

Like all players, he has his issues, with inconsistency has shown to be a trait of the Serbian International. This is due to his slight frame and need of regular service to his feet, which results in anonymous performances during games where Southampton struggle for possession.

Despite this, he is a player that would prove to be valuable in quality, coming off the bench and to spur on competition. If Southampton wish to take the next step on their journey, then integrating players of Djuricic’s class into the squad is necessary.

The buyout clause in his contract with Benfica is said to be in the region of nine million pounds. Taking his performances and game time to this point into consideration, it’s become clear that Southampton are not keen to meet this buyout. Yet that doesn’t mean Southampton cant bid less. A player who has started for Benfica just 5 times since signing in July 2013, can not warrant that price tag and the board at Benfica will almost certainly know that. For that very reason it may be worth testing the Portuguese clubs resilience with a lower bid.

A bid in the region of five million could turn a few heads at Benfica, as it’s clear he’s not a first team option. He hasn’t performed to the standard expected of him since playing in the Eredivisie and he’s bulking up their payroll with a  value may only drop from here with limited game time.

As for the player himself, he would be joining a club that he is familiar with. He would have the opportunity to feature more for Southampton than Benfica (especially with the inclusion of Europa League football) and at the age of 23 he must now look to push on in his career.

Combine all of this with the temptation of working under Ronald Koeman – who has become famed for his ability to bring out the best in players – and this looks to be a logical move for all three parties.

Transfer Views: Who Could Be Alderweireld’s successor?

Yesterday morning it was confirmed that Toby Alderweireld will not return to St Mary’s next season. Instead he’ll form a partnership with fellow Belgian International, Jan Vertonghen at Tottenham Hotspur. Southampton fans have become accustomed to such heartache over recent transfer windows and this was one of the more complicated examples. Now with this saga over, fans will be looking at who can fill the boots that Toby left behind.

Aleksandar Dragovic could be considered a like-for-like replacement. At just twenty three years old he has proved himself to be an incredibly smart, strong and tactically aware centre half. He has built a reputation as a tough tackling defender with technical ability in abundance. Any who have watched Dynamo Kiev, will be aware that they play a fast paced brand of football, Dragovic plays a key role in that link up between defence and attack.

Such a role can be physically demanding on a player, even more so in the Premier League. Dragovic has natural stamina and an ability to dig deep in the dying moments, lazy last minute lunges and tired legs are not a feature in his game.

It is reported that West Ham placed a £12M bid earlier this summer that was instantly rejected; they were then given a quote of £20M to acquire Dragovic’s services. However, fans should not be disheartened. As the the Hammers are known to have substantial financial backing, Kiev are no doubt looking to relieve them of a large element of those funds.

£15M should be enough to prise the Austrian away from Dynamo Kyiv.

A second option comes in the form of a man mountain, Omer Toprak. The Turkish International currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen and has built  a reputation as one of the Bundesliga’s most consistent defenders. His most notable strengths are his concentration in defence and presence at the back.

Any Southampton fan will tell you that if you wish to play under Ronald Koeman as a centre half, technical ability will be required; A great feature of Toprak’s play is comfortably bring the ball down and looking to recycle play along the floor, yet another reason why he is perfect for the spot.

Whilt most strong centre halfs lack natural pace, Toprak is an exception. This pace will avoid him being targeted early on and help him adapt to the Premier League’s fast style of play.

The 25 year old is said to be valued at £12M by Leverkusen, a bid of up to £15M could take him to St Mary’s and prove a wise investment.

The final option is Celtic’s Virgil Van Dijk. This is a player that many Southampton fans will be familiar with, having been linked to the Dutchman in previous windows. Standing at six foot four inches tall, he is a dominating and strong figure in defence, with world class distribution of the ball. These diagonal long passes have become a noted aspect in his play, as have his surging runs from deep to join the attack.

Those from Celtic Park are not the only fans who have enjoyed his style of play and performances either. Dutch fans have made it very clear they believe he should start for the first team, especially ahead of a now ageing and error prone Ron Vlaar.

Van Dijk has come to the end of his second season at Celtic earning his plaudits along the way; at 24 years old he will surely be open about taking the next step in his career, as will Celtic provided they receive a bid of over £10M.

There is no hiding the difficult task in replacing Toby Alderweireld. To find a player of his quality would prove to be a challenging task and ultimately an incredible signing. However, no matter who the signing may be, Southampton fans should feel comfortable, knowing that one of the classiest centre halves to every play the game is at the reigns of the club.

If anyone were to know who to sign, Its Ronald Koeman.

 

Gaston Ramirez: Third Time Lucky?

It appears that Gaston Ramirez will get one last chance to impress at Southampton as pre-season begins.  Having failed to impress Koeman last year, we take a look at the make or break season that is in store for the Uruguayan International.

After signing for a then club record fee of around £12 million, Ramirez had an unusual first season, being largely inconsistent. He produced 5 goals and 3 assists in 26 appearances, showing flashes of brilliance in the process. That’s considered a good block to build with for a first season in a foreign country, but when you consider the fee and the hype around the player, much more was expected. More was also expected of Ramirez when fellow South American, Mauricio Pochettino,  replaced Nigel Adkins as manager. Sadly, Pochettino failed to strike a regular tune out of Ramirez in the remaining months of the season.

The start of the 2013/14 season was looking to be a big one for Gaston, with pressure building on the Uruguayan to finally put his stamp on the Premier League. The season ended up being more of a disappointment for both Ramirez and the fans, who so loyally supported him in hope he found his best form. He only played 18 games in the Premier league that season, 8 less than the season before. The attacking midfielder managed to produce three assists and muster up just the one goal in this time; his only goal came in the form of a beautiful long range effort against Everton. In both the league and cup competitions he managed 3 goals and 4 assists, fans on the south coast were beginning to have serious doubts.

Providing worse form than his debut season, clearly he was struggling to settle. Many blamed it on the fact that he was too lightweight for the division, countless times he was simply bullied to the floor. There was also the argument that his style of play simply did not suit the Premier League, he was clearly a player that needs space and time on the ball to work his magic – something you very rarely get in England. Whatever the problem behind it, he wasn’t performing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he then continued to be on the end of niggling injuries, reducing his game time. This resulted in less time to prove himself to the hopeful fans in St Marys Stadium.

A clean slate was on the table for Ramirez following the conclusion of the 2013/ 14 summer exodus, Manager Mauricio Pochettino was replaced by Feyenoord boss Ronald Koeman. Koeman gave everyone the opportunity to impress during the pre-season and win a place in the squad. After a largely disappointing pre-season where Ramirez’s contribution was making up the numbers, Southampton decided to loan him out in the hope of regained form.

Ramirez chose Hull city over Sevilla… this move appeared to be financially motivated as it was later revealed Sevilla did not wish to meet his wage demands. The Uruguayans fortunes were unable to turn even when away from Southampton; Hull City were relegated and Sevilla went on to win the Europa League. Ramirez racked up just 1 goal and 3 assists in all competitions. For the third season in a row he showed decline in his game. The only impressive side that could be said is that he isn’t shying away from the premier league, be it for money or just to live up to that fee; even if he doesn’t have what it takes.

So, after consistently failing to have any sort of impact in the Premier League, why would the Saints consider keeping him on books?

The achievement of Europa League football may well be the reason. Koeman will be well aware of the impact European football can cause and the so desired depth in order to combat the busy schedule. Afterall, many fans of clubs such as Everton and Swansea have labelled the Europa League as the killer of their Premier League season. The retention of Ramirez could allow rest for the key player’s ahead of big fixtures and with good performances, who is to say he couldn’t hold his spot in the side?

The Europa League could be used as a springboard for Ramirez’s career. The opportunity is there for Ramirez and if he wished to take it, he may finally shine in the red and white stripes. It must not be forgotten that a certain Harry Kane used the competition to give Pochettino a thing or two to think about, the youngster went on to finish as the Premier League’s second top goalscorer. If he were to seize this opportunity and recreate the form in the Premier League, he could maybe, just maybe, be worthy of his £12M price tag. Either way, this would be a smart move by the club to give him one final chance. Either to increase his price tag, keep him on or just be certain the club and player gave it everything they had.

If Koeman doesn’t deem him worthy of the squad, even for Europa League, no one would blame the Dutchman. Considering his poor form since signing for the club, the board would take what they could get for him, even if that were to be a 50% hit on what was once our record transfer fee.

With the ball back in Koeman’s court, will Gaston Ramirez make it at the third time of asking?

Gossip: Alderweireld Still On, Porto Win Race For Imbula and Two Saints Set To Leave

Welcome to this weeks gossip column! Whilst Southampton’s start to the summer transfer window may not be as manic as the last, there is still top transfer news coming both in and out. Southampton have already secured the signatures of full back Cedric, forward Juanmi and the experienced  goalkeeper Steckelenburg; Who will be next to join Ronald Koeman’s red and white army?

Southampton Face Stiff Competition For Alderweireld (Express)

Many Southampton fans have hailed Toby Alderweireld as the greatest centre half to play at St Mary’s, but they will face great competition from a host of big clubs for his services. Tottenham Hotspur and Alderweireld’s current club Atletico Madrid being the main competition.

In an interview with Southampton, Koeman stated “The player likes to stay, we like to keep the player, but it’s a little difficult… I have good hope he will stay”.

This makes great reading for Southampton fans after it’s been reported the club are preparing an £18M bid, a Southampton record fee. Southampton initially held an agreed £6.3M fee for the defender but Atletico deemed him greater than that price tag, forcing them to remove the clause at a cost of £1.5M.

However, the situation continues to grow more complicated for fans on the South coast. It was revealed early Tuesday morning that Atletico’s Miranda is set for a move to Inter Milan, making Simeone all the more eager to hold onto his Belgian star.

Through all the complications and competition I am still oddly confident in Southampton securing Alderweireld, especially with a clause that forces any other club to bid £3M more than Southampton’s efforts. It would be an incredible achievement to obtain a player of such class for next seasons campaign.

Schneiderlin Replacement Set For Porto (ForzaItalianFootball)

Southampton target Imbula looks set for a €25M deal with Porto, according to L’Equipe. The frenchman is yet to make an appearance for the French senior side but has drawn comparisons to Patrick Vieira in his time at Marseille.

With 6 departures from Marseille’s first team this summer, Imbula will be eager to force this move away from the French side.

The 22 year old was considered to be the replacement for Morgan Schneidelrin, who looks set for a move to Manchester United, but attention will have to be placed elsewhere.

Clyne Is Liverpool Bound (Mirror)

Nathaniel Clyne’s imminent move to Liverpool looks all the more likely after the England International did not report back for training on monday. Reports and sightings then revealed that Clyne was undergoing his medical to become Brendan Rodgers sixth summer signing, in a deal worth £12.5M. Clyne’s transfer will pin him down on a 5 year contract at Anfield to tighten up the so often criticised Liverpool back line. Southampton have wasted no time in searching for a replacement, signing Portuguese international Cedric Soares for just £3.5M. The sporting Lisbon right back signed a four year deal on the 18th June, well in advance of Clyne’s departure.

No “Serious Bid” From Manchester United For Schneidelrin (ManchesterEveningNews)

Morgan Schneiderlin returned to Staplewood for the start of pre season with Southampton on Monday, amidst a move to Manchester United. Ronald Koeman spoke of Schneiderlin’s proposed move to Old Trafford saying “We have the situation with Morgan Schneiderlin, we will have to wait what will happen…Until now, we’ve not had a serious bid for him from Man United.”. Sky Sports reported that 10 days ago Manchester United bid for Schneiderlin, the bid was beneath the £25m expected and it was rejected. This is the transfer all Southampton fans have been dreading for quite some time, even if the club receive the £25M expected it would be some task finding a player of the same quality. The Frenchman has been the spine of our squad and unless a miracle were to happen, it seems we have seen the last of Schneiderlin.