Saints

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.

 

Transfer Scouting: Jordy Clasie

Reports are surfacing once more regarding the transfer of Feyenoord’s Jordy Clasie to Southampton in a £10m deal – So we spoke to Feyenoord season ticket holder and editor in chief of Feyenoordpings.nl., Thomas.

The Dutch central midfielder produced yet more inspiring performances in a Feyenoord side that were quite the opposite. A fourth place finish in the 2014-15 Eredivisie season was one for fans in Rotterdam to forget.

For as long as Koeman is as the reigns of the club, it seems that this potential reunion is here to stay. Even more so with the inevitable departure of Schneiderlin from Southampton.

To find out more about our potential future Saint, I spoke with Thomas who is a Feyenoord season ticket holder and editor in chief from Feyenoordpings.nl.

1) Many Southampton fans will be unfamiliar about Clasie, what are his greatest strengths and what role does he play?

– His passing and defensive work stands out best. He doesn’t need the time to think where his next pass will go, he already knows where to play it. Therefore his nickname has become ‘The Dutch Xavi’. On the rare occasion he does lose possession, he will fight and do everything to get it back. His role at Feyenoord is to dominate the midfield,  this involves the defence looking to instantly play the ball into Clasie. The Dutch international will then look to push further up the pitch and get the team into an attacking position. However, this has also damaged his personal records. As he is so key in the centre of midfield (Like Xavi) he has just scored just 2 goals last season in 31 matches. That’s not enough.

2) What does the recent incoming of Vejinovic mean for Clasie?

– It means Feyenoord could be open to a move for Clasie. The new boss, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, admitted that if Clasie leaves, his successor is already in the club with Vejinovic. Although, they can play together as well as a partnership. The two differ in their play styles as Vejinovic is more offensive.

3) Will the under achieving season under now sacked Fred Rutten push Clasie for a move?

– Yes it could, Feyenoord haven’t qualified for European football next season so many fans would understand if the captain wished to move. However, Clasie should look to his friends Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum… They stayed for one more season at PSV to help the club win the Eredivisie title. As a result, Depay has left for Manchester United and Wijnaldum will also find himself a good club. This could therefore be a motive for Clasie to stay at Feyenoord. The club are certainly aiming for this after gaining the services of former Liverpool man Dirk Kuyt for the upcoming season.

4) Clasie has made 12 appearances for the Dutch national side, how has he performed at International level?

– In the Dutch squad he has a lot of competition in the midfield. Former Holland coach Louis van Gaal liked him, but Guus Hiddink did not look impressed by the Feyenoord captain. Hiddink (sacked by the Dutch FA on monday) had his midfield positions clear: Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum. Only in the final games did Hiddink look to change the squad, but Clasie withdrew himself due to illness.

5) What can you tell us about the relationship between Clasie and Koeman?

– This is a very good one. Before Koeman’s arrival in 2011 at Feyenoord, Clasie spent a year on loan at Excelsior. When Koeman arrived at Feyenoord, he got Clasie back in the squad. Straight from the beginning he believed in Clasie’s ability, despite his lack of strength. Since the arrival of Koeman, Clasie went on to play every match. You could say that Koeman ‘made him’. When Pellè and Koeman left for Southampton, Clasie was made the new captain of the team.

6) Reports have suggested Southampton wish to bid £10M for the Dutchman, is that worthy of his ability?

– After the summer transfer window last year Clasie extended his contract until 2018. A little bit earlier in that summer, his contract was expiring in 2016 and FC Porto really wanted him. However, they didn’t want to meet Feyenoord’s asking price of €10m (around £7,12m). Now he has extended his contract, Feyenoord will ask for more. Whether he’s worth it? Thats difficult to say. Koeman worked with him for three years, he would know Clasie’s true worth. I expect Southampton will try to pick him up for less than what Feyenoord want, Dutch reports say Feyenoord are looking for €18m (around £12,82m). I personally don’t see any club paying that. £10m will be a decent price.

7) Finally, how do you believe Clasie would cope with a move to the Premier League and more specifically, Southampton?

– That’s a good question. He will not easily fill the reported space of Schneiderlin simply because he is a different type of player. For Southampton I have no doubt he would be a good signing. Despite his short height (1,69 m), he can adapt to the speed of the English game. In addition, he’s just 24 years old so could be ready to take the next step up at Southampton if they push for European football success and repeat the ranking in the league like last season.

 

Many thanks from FreshSaints to Thomas for making this piece possible.

 

Southampton: Where To Strengthen Next?

With the incredible achievement of gaining Europa League football and a 7th place finish last year, Ronald Koeman has a season defining summer on the horizon. Now fighting on four fronts the Saints will be looking to continue their sterling form and once again, do battle with the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool for a top four spot. All whilst flying the red and white flag in Europe.

Simply put, Southampton’s already strong squad needs more numbers if they are to cope with four competitions this coming season. Anticipating the departures of Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne, it’s time to look at potential signings which could take Koeman’s squad to the next level.

A name which has been strongly linked is that of Charlie Austin. The former Poole Town striker would be a great acquisition if Southampton were to beat teams such as West Ham and Newcastle to his signature. He’d add Premier League experience and an extra goal threat to the already potent looking front line options. However, the possibility of signing a player such as Austin is made rather unrealistic since the introduction of the black box scouting system. This system has pushed Les Reed and co to steer away from the mainstream transfer players, instead in hunt of a gem. A player who could fit Southampton’s transfer philosophy and prove a smart investment is Jan Kliment from Jihlava. The 21 year old Czech striker has impressed at this year’s Under-21 Euros and is thought to be on the radar of Juventus, however, this would be a risky purchase.

Though we cannot forget about the club’s policy of pushing through youngsters into the first team. Incoming signings will take up opportunities, potentially blocking the talented Ryan Seager and Sam Gallagher. Who’s to say that either Seager or Gallagher can’t be as good as Austin, provided they get the opportunities to become squad regulars in the next year or so. Nobody this time last year would’ve thought Harry Kane would develop the way he has done.

Toby Alderweireld is a must for every Saints fan and we really should work quickly to bring him in permanently. The reported club record-breaking £18 million fee is a steal if David Luiz was worth £50 million. Arguably one of the club’s best players last season has also been linked with Spurs and Chelsea. An alternative CB option could be Dynamo Kyiv’s Aleksandar Dragović. The young Austrian would be available for around £10 million and has a bright future, however he does lack top league experience.

Other players who’ve been mentioned are Giannelli Imbula, Yohan Cabaye and Grzegorz Krychowiak. Fans should also expect rumours of our annual raid on Celtic to surface after showing an apparent interest in Virgil van Dijk.

One final name to consider is Leroy Fer from QPR. The midfielder knows Koeman and is Europa League quality, not to mention a consistent performer who loves a pop from distance. Something the fans in the terrace have screamed out for over the years.

No matter who is recruited over the summer, the fans will have to trust Ronald and the team that they can build on last year’s brilliant business and put us in good stead come September 1st.

Blog: Will The Real Maarten Stekelenburg Please Stand Up?

11th July 2010, the World Cup final. Maarten Stekelenburg starts in goal for Holland against Spain in world class form that showed no sign of slowing down. The Dutchman was then considered one of the world’s best shot stoppers; but, seemingly that was the peak of his career and since then it’s been all downhill for the Dutchman. So where did it all go wrong and can he reach that form once again for the Saints?

The following season Stekelenburg went on to win the Eredivisie with Ajax, picking up his second player of the season award in succession. This sparked a move to Italian giants AS Roma for around Six million euros. It seemed that his career was still on the up playing for one of the best club’s in Europe, then came the ill-fainted move to premier league side Fulham.

Some players have it all, then make that one wrong move and poof, their career falls beneath them like a house of cards. It appears this is what happened to Stekelenburg, since his move in the summer of 2013 his stock has fallen faster than Ashley Young in the penalty box. Deciding to play for Martin Jol whom he’d worked with briefly during the 2009/10 campaign with Ajax, he signed a four year deal. In his first game he came off injured in the second half with a shoulder injury and did not return to the side until the 21st of October, where he went on to lose his next four starts in goal. He did not have the best of times in goal for Fulham as they struggled to survive relegation, changing manager twice in the process. This cost Stekelenburg his place in the starting 11 and then squad all together, with David Stockdale, Jesse Joronen and Marcus Bettinelli being favoured ahead of the Dutchman. Fulham were eventually relegated from the Premier league, but can you really blame the goalkeeper for such poor form? Consider two things, one being just how good he was prior to the move to London and the second being just how bad Fulham’s defence was that year. Conceding 85 goals and finishing with a goal difference of -45 is simply too poor to blame on one individual . Clearly Stekelenburg or any keeper Fulham used didn’t stand much of a chance.

Next he moved to Monaco on loan (Fulham being in the championship needed his wages off the books) looking to resurrect a career that just two year’s previous was on the up. That season he was deputy to Danijel Subasic, playing only four games for the club, one of those being in the league. Despite this he still impressed when played, winning a penalty shoot-out against Lyon by saving Jordan Ferri’s attempt and saving two spot kicks against SC Bastia in another penalty shoot-out. Unfortunately the saves were in vain as Monaco still crashed out. At the end of the 14/15 season, Monaco announced Stekelenburg would return to parent club Fulham.

So this brings us back to Southampton. Stekelenburg finds himself once again with Ronald Koeman, the manager who gave him his professional debut at Ajax and helped build him into one of the most rated shot stoppers in Europe. So, what can saints fans expect? Its hard to tell, but with the defensive record the club so proudly boasts upon the conclusion of the season (finishing with a goal difference of +21 letting in a measly 33 goals all season) you would like to think that Stekelenburg will have a solid foundation to build upon when between the sticks. It must also be considered that this is early business, thus giving Steckelenburg a full pre-season to settle and time with England goalkeeping coach Dave Watson. With the combination, support and experience of Dave Watson and Ronald Koeman, Southampton can help Stekelenburg put issues of recent years behind him, which is all the club needs; a solid custodian until big Fraser Forster is back

On this basis, it’s a smart move. A cheap, experienced goalkeeper who has European game time and has played at the very top, deputising until Forster returns. At the end of the day, the future is in his hands : let’s hope that they are safe hands.

Jay Rodriguez: A Season Preview

With Jay Rodriguez’s long awaited return to Southampton edging closer, a question on the mind of many Southampton fans is how the 25 year old will fit into Ronald Koeman’s side.

In a recent interview the forward told BBC Radio Solent “Physically I’ve improved my stats. That’s what I wanted to get out of this. I’ve improved my speed and strength.”

A positive sign for Southampton fans of what is to come, and an even better sign for Koeman who will be dealt a manager’s best dilema.

Rodriguez was deployed under Mauricio Pochettino as an Inside forward, starting from the left, making runs into the middle. His play was largely dependant on his perfectly timed runs from deep and fantastic service from ex Saint, Rickie Lambert.

Like Pochettino’s side, Koeman also starts with a big forward. That big forward comes in the form of Italian international, Graziano Pelle, who has been integral to Southampton’s success this season. These similar philosophies in wide forward play greatly involve fast one-two exchanges and the use of a centre forward as a focal point. This style will be all too familiar for Rodriguez who scored 15 goals in the Premier Leagues 2013/2014 season.

Senegal winger, Sadio Mane, has now firmly placed himself as the main competition for Rodriguez on the left side. After recording 10 goals in 30 games he has now more than settled into life on the South Coast, overturning a shaky start to his Southampton career. Unless of course Koeman wishes to play Mane as a number 10, a role that was becoming more familiar in the later stages of the season.

Dusan Tadic however is the polar opposite to Mane, the Serbian playmaker has taken a drastic dip in form since January after struggling with injury; the kind of form that Koeman need not tolerate with such depth in his side.

The second spot up for grabs is the centre forward role. Graziano Pelle hit the back of the net 12 times in the Premier League last season, featuring in every game of Southampton’s “against all odds” campaign. However, despite his great influence in play and dream start to the season, a number of poor performances and a 4 month goal drought brought great worry to the fans on the south coast.

Many suggested that this poor run was down to fatigue. With the return of Rodriguez we now have a forward who can rest the Italian and pose great competition for his starting place.
Due to the style Koeman wishes to play, last season’s signing Shane Long, was not seen as direct competition for Pelle. Instead, the Irishman was often deployed as a right Winger or as a second man up top. With Rodriguez holding a stronger figure and standing taller than Long, it’s only logical to see Rodriguez as Pelle’s greatest threat.
The final player to rival Rodriguez is new recruit, Juanmi. Southampton payed Malaga £5m for the forward, in a deal that Spanish experts and fans are labelling as a bargain. The Spanish International is a small, fast and intelligent forward who often plays as a second striker. At just 22, he possesses skill in abundance and incredible technical ability, Juanmi is a striker unlike any other at Southampton. This will give Koeman a great option to switch play style, depending on the opponent and the demands of the game. Whilst both Rodriguez and Juanmi can play as forwards, their roles differ immensely.

With such depth in attack, Rodriguez will be spurred on to work for his place in the team and leave Koeman the choice of where to play the versatile forward. Perhaps Southampton fans will see in pre-season, what role lies ahead for Rodriguez and if he can hit the heights he once hit before.

One thing for sure however is that Southampton currently boast their greatest front line in recent years and no matter where Rodriguez plays, he will be loved by every fan in St Marys upon his return.