Transfers

Dusan Tadic: Should he stay or should he go?

According to reports at The Times, Dusan Tadic is believed to be a target for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool this summer.

This conveniently concocted transfer rumour isn’t what prompted me to start typing away however; Instead, it was the reaction to this news from many Southampton fans…  

This Premier League season has been a write off, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. The football has been dire for the most part, Claude Puel looks as if he will face the sack, and a number of players are certainly guilty of not matching expectations – perhaps none more so than Dusan Tadic.

With the way things are in the modern game, this has naturally caused a number of supporters to switch on the former fan favourite, claiming that they are open to let the Serb move on this window.

Whilst each fan is of course entitled to their own opinion, it baffles me that someone can talk about discarding a player with such clear and previously proven talent. Certain comments would have you fooled that the playmaker is rotting away as dead wood in our squad, when in truth, it’s simply been his first troubled season at the club.

Granted, a player of his talent should be doing far more in the final third, but does that mean we should give up on him just yet? Not a chance, and here’s why.

With the appointment of Claude Puel as first team coach last summer, there came a new vision for how Southampton should play their football. Puel adopted a number of systems during his first season as Southampton boss, trialling both a midfield diamond (442) and a conventional 4231, but the general approach was one of patience and disciplined structural organisation.

Puel encouraged his side to be comfortable on the ball and patient whilst in possession, searching for the perfect moment to cut through the opposition’s defensive lines.

This is a change in style that quite frankly, Tadic has found very little joy from, recording his worst Premier League season for both goals and assists

Where in the past Tadic would be tasked with the freedom to hunt for pockets of space and drive at the defence, he now finds himself surrounded by defenders with almost every touch of the ball. This is a symptom of Puel’s style of play, which hands the opposition the time to form two defensive banks as we look to break them down.

Whether this is Tadic’s failure to adapt, or even Puel’s failure to accompany Tadic in the side, It’s obvious to me that a patient style of football doesn’t bring the best out of Dusan.

Taking risks and playing with a high intensity has so often allowed Tadic to be at his best, but such a game plan was clearly discouraged by the Frenchman.

Evidence of this can be seen in previous seasons under Ronald Koeman, who played to Tadic’s clear strengths. During his debut season in the Premier League, Tadic fired in four goals and picked up seven assists, before recording seven goals and 12 assists in the following season.

Compare that to just three goals and five assists this season (despite starting six and three more games respectively) and it’s no wonder why he’s struggled this season.

It’s also worth noting that Tadic (24) has recorded more career Premier League assists than Alexis Sanchez, Raheem Sterling, Roberto Firmino and even Willian. A player of such quality doesn’t lose it all overnight.

There is however a criticism of Tadic that I can perfectly understand, and that’s his tendency to show a lethargic and disinterested attitude.

Tadic has never been one to run to the media and cause a stir, but this stroppy attitude on the field is one that doesn’t sit well with many fans – especially when the team is in a slump and needing inspiration.

Such a trait is infuriating to watch from the stands, but to tell the truth, it’s a common theme amongst attacking midfielders when they don’t receive the ball in the right areas. I’m not justifying his actions, but it’s certainly not unheard of. 

The final consideration for keeping Tadic is the potential for change this summer. If the Southampton board dismiss Puel as many are expecting, then a new manager will of course take charge, and this hands Tadic the opportunity for a fresh start.

We’ve seen first hand this season that new management can help talent individuals flourish. So if Cedric Soares and Oriol Romeu have been able to do so under Puel, what’s stopping Tadic from doing the same next season?

Whether Puel sticks around and decides to change his approach, or Southampton find new management, I’m certain that if we retain his services, we haven’t seen the last of Dusan Tadic at his very best in red and white. 

Southampton FC and VVD: It’s time to make a stand

With the potential sale of Virgil Van Dijk, the Southampton board could lose a damn sight more than just their best current player; they risk losing the trust of their fans.

According to Paul Joyce of the Times – one of the most reliable sources regarding Liverpool FC news – Virgil Van Dijk is set to snub interest from Manchester City this summer, in favour of a move to Anfield. Southampton have stated once already this summer that their club captain is not for sale, but Liverpool are set to test that resolve with an offer that could reach £60M.

Reports from the Daily Echo have since claimed that Southampton have requested that the Premier League investigates Liverpool over their “illegal” approach for the Dutchman, but the following point still stands. Regardless of who the interest is coming from, the Southampton board need to stand strong this summer.

Viewed objectively from a neutral’s perspective, it could be seen as yet more fine business from Les Reed and co (£60M is superb in fact). But I’ve got to say as a fan who well and truly loves his football club, I’m sick and tired of having to justify departures to myself, let alone anyone else, each and every summer.

I tell myself that the money is good for the club and that it’s hard to turn down such an offer, but there’s far more to football than positive balance sheets. For once, could the board please deliver on their comments and previous promises.

Now by no means am I stating that Southampton’s business model of buying low and selling high should be abandoned; it would be simply ridiculous to scrap a model that has helped our club to stand where it is today.

There comes a point however, when the board need to remember that this is a football club, and not just a business.

This business model has allowed us to find some of the most exciting gems in football, and it’s vital in preventing our club from ever facing the darkness of 2009 again. But it needs to be followed with moderation, and the reason being is that in football the board aren’t just managing finances and business, they’re also responsible for the emotions of loyal lifelong supporters.

Time and time again us Southampton fans have been promised that we will “build for next season”, or even retain the services of a particular player. The only exceptions that spring to mind are the board’s handling of Morgan Schneiderlin in the summer of 2013, and Victor Wanyama in 2014.

As mentioned before I completely understand why this business model has to be followed, but once every now and again, it need’s to be put aside. Virgil Van Dijk has five remaining years on his contract, whilst also currently assuming the role of club captain; so please, tell me now why our board shouldn’t stand strong and demand another season from the Dutchman.

Not only are we clearly in what many would consider a strong position to deny such a transfer, but it’s not like a similar offer won’t come along again next year.

Given that he’s arguably the most sought after defender in the Premier League and will have four years remaining on his contract by the end of next season, I certainly don’t expect his value to fall. You could even argue that it has the potential to rise.

Schneiderlin stuck around for another season after wanting out, and soon after received his “dream move” to Manchester United in return. If Van Dijk does the same, then who knows which European giant could come calling next summer…

A series of poor decisions at the top of a club can cause uproar amongst fans, leading to a divide between those running the club and those supporting the club. It’s worth remembering that behind any successful football club is the unwavering support of their fans, and for this reason, I will be distraught if we sell Van Dijk this summer.

With fans becoming increasingly wary of emotionally investing into Southampton FC, I worry about our club losing it’s identity and becoming yet another soulless Premier League side. With the chance to refuse the sale of Virgil Van Dijk this summer, we have an opportunity to prevent that from happening.

Charlie Austin’s fitness will be key in our upcoming season

Many Southampton fans are unhappy with how the 2016-17 season turned out, but should they be? There were many clubs that performed below par last season, and none more so than the former Champions Leicester City. Other teams like Manchester City, Stoke City and West Ham will all be looking for a big improvement on last term too. 

Southampton manager Claude Puel has come under criticism, but it’s kind of weird how a successful season comes back to haunt a club. Southampton came 6th in the league in the 2015-16 season and finished on 63pts. In the major football betting markets last season, the betting firms were clearly not fancying the Saints to repeat that. The problem that Claude Puel faced was twofold.

Had the Saints Peaked?

The fact is that Southampton are not a “top six” club despite coming 6th in the 2015-16 season. Their financial resources are far behind the traditional big six in England, so it was always going to be difficult for the Saints to replicate their previous form. Secondly (and something that went largely unnoticed) every single team in the top six finished last season with more points than the previous season.

This acted like a syphon on the rest of the division and led to many clubs being compressed in terms of points totals. An absolutely staggering 94pts more were earned by the top six clubs in the 2016-17 season, than in the previous year. This is a factor that must be taken into consideration when we look to assess Puel’s first season in the top flight of English football.

Southampton Faded

Many Saints fans were unhappy at how they finished the campaign, but they were not the only club to tail off towards the end. Southampton finished the season winning only two form their final nine, and it’s safe to say that such form is worrying for onlooking fans. However, there are a number of key factors that would have no doubt played their part in this poor run.

The shoulder injury to Charlie Austin was a big loss to the Saints, having fired in six goals in just thirteen appearances wearing the red and white stripes. A big negative for the Southampton fans over the 2016/17 season was their lack of goals overall, and this is an area that Puel (if he stays beyond this season) needs to correct.

Austin finished the season as the clubs highest scorer, and that is staggering considering he spent five months out injured. It’s clear that the Southampton fans expect greater contributions from players such as Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez and even Manolo Gabbiadini to some extent.

Long is a hit and miss striker and his stats are there back that up. Just 18 goals from 89 appearances won’t give opposing defenders sleepless nights before a game. As for Rodriguez, there are glimpses of his former self as games go by, but to tell the truth, he’s never been the same since that injury in 2014.

Gabbiadini arrived in the January transfer window from Napoli, where he scored 15 goals from 56 games, and a grand total of 42 goals during the entirety of his time in Italy. He kicked off life on South coast in immense form, scoring six from his first four appearances, but then ended the season on that same tally.

Do the Saints have the quality they need?

The fact is that Southampton clearly cannot go out and buy the top quality strikers like other clubs can. They need to stumble on a new “wonder kid” or another gem using their black box method to recruitment, and whilst the jury is still very much out on just how good Gabbiadini is, fans will want to see a greater involvement from the Italian come next season.

This makes Charlie Austin key to their chances of a successful year in the 2017-18 season. Austin has scored 93 goals in 183 games for Burnley, QPR and Southampton, and that goal every other game strike rate is exactly what the Saints need. They can’t just go into next season relying on Austin though, and they need better back up beyond Gabbiadini. Is it time for both Long and Rodriguez to move on?

Free-flowing attacking football has been engraved into the DNA of Southampton Football Club in recent years, and in order for fans to look back on the 2016-17 season as a strong building block, that needs to be corrected; I’m certain that Charlie Austin will play a vital role in doing so. 

Saint-Etienne optimistic in acquiring Claude Puel

Ligue 1 outfit Saint-Etienne remain confident in securing Claude Puel this summer, but only in the event of Southampton dismissing the Frenchman.

The latest update regarding Puel’s current situation on the south coast was reported by France Bleu, who claim that whilst Puel hasn’t been in touch with Saint Etienne personally, his lawyer has been acting on his behalf.

With thanks to Patrick Kendrick’s translation, we are able to bring you the details of this France Bleu report.

The article states that Puel rejected an offer to take over from Christophe Galtier just two weeks ago, but Saint Etienne are now preparing a revised offer; it’s been said that Puel is far more interested to hear what Les Verts will offer this time round.

On top of potentially receiving a salary in the region of €3.7 million a year, the former Nice boss will also have the luxury of being nearer the south of France – a destination that he loves to visit during his time off.

Not to mention that Saint-Etienne themselves are willing to embrace new ways of playing, allowing Puel to take over a similar project to that of his time at Lille and Nice.

The only reported stumbling block between the two parties appears to lie with Puel, who wishes to take over control of all aspects at the club whilst in charge. If Puel becomes available, then Saint-Etienne will have to budge if they want to secure their top target.

From the outside looking in, this looks to be a far more comfortable proposition for Puel, who in truth, has had a torrid time in winning over the Southampton fans and adapting to the Premier League.

The bottom line however is that with Puel unlikely to leave of his own accord, any chance of a shuffle in management this summer starts and stops with the Southampton board.

Over to you, Les.

 

Southampton offered cash and Christensen for Van Dijk

Surprise surprise, we’re here again. According to an exclusive from The Sun, Chelsea currently lead the race for Virgil Van Dijk this summer, having blown away Arsenal’s offer of £150,000 a week.

Whilst Southampton are obviously reluctant to sell Van Dijk, the game-changing aspect of the offer is the fact that Andreas Christensen is also included in the deal.

Christensen spent the majority of his youth career at Danish outfit Brondby FC, before being snapped up by Chelsea at just 16-years-old. From here, he worked his way up through the academy and after two years of fighting for a chance in the first team, it arrived at the age of 18-years-old. The Dane then went on to feature once again in the League Cup, before making his first Premier League appearance on the 24th of May 2015 – just like many other Chelsea youngsters though, the opportunities stopped here.

This prompted both Chelsea and Christensen to look for game-time through a loan move, and in the form of Borussia Monchengladbach, Christensen has found exactly that. Two seasons and 76 first team appearances later, and Christensen has proved to be a stellar piece of business for the Bundesliga side.

During his two seasons with the club, Christensen has placed himself at the heart of the Gladbach defence, showing himself to be an extremely intelligent defender, who is more than capable with the ball at his feet. Quick concise passes around the defence and midfield are a regular feature of Christensen’s play, as he aims to push the team further up the field.

Fancy Southampton to beat Liverpool this coming Sunday? £10 plus a 10bet free bet wins you £113

Christensen is also extremely aware of his surroundings, and whilst there is still some work to do with the clumsiness of his close quarters tackling, time is on his side at just 21-years-old.

All in all, I have to say that if Southampton do go through the heartbreak of losing Van Dijk this summer, a cash plus Christensen deal would certainly soften the blow. Not only does the player suit Southampton’s style of play, but his age also helps him to be a suitable signing and a valuable asset.

It’s worth noting that we are approaching the summer transfer window, however, so with papers needing to be sold and articles hunting for clicks, it’s always worth taking each rumour with a pinch of salt. Southampton were linked with Nathan Ake and Christopher Jullien only earlier this week.

Whilst the potential acquisition of Christensen excites me, this certainly isn’t the first time that I’ve heard a report like this, and I’m certain that it won’t be the last.

Christopher Jullien joins Southampton’s centre-back shortlist

According to the Sun, Southampton are watching over Toulouse defender, Christopher Jullien, as a potential target for this summer transfer window.

Standing at 6 ft 4 inches, the 24-year-old plys his trade in Ligue 1, and has built up a reputation this season as a reliable and commanding centre back.

Despite this being the Frenchman’s first year in the top flight of his home country, he has missed just three game this season, featuring in 31 League fixtures – this has helped Toulouse climb up to 11th place in the table with four games still to play.

This season has been somewhat of a breakthrough year for Jullien, who prior to becoming a dependable first choice Ligue 1 centre-back, has been playing at a much lower standard.

Jullien started his senior career with Auxerre in Ligue 2, having fought his way into the first team through the academy. But after just two years with the club, the Frenchman was snapped up by Bundesliga side FC Freiburg on a free transfer. He failed to make an impact with the first team however, and went on to play 49 games for the second team, before being loaned to Ligue 2 side Dijon for the 2015-16 season. It was here that Jullien truly started to impress, and as a result, Toulouse offered him a four-year-deal in the top flight at the end of the season.

Unsurprisingly given his size, Jullien takes up a physical and combative approach to defending, often showing his greatest strengths through set pieces and aerial duels.

Jullien has also been known for his no-nonsense style of defending, showing no hesitation in clearing the ball at any cost, and having the ability to instigate attacks with long balls up to the forwards.

Jullien isn’t just effective in his own box either, as he’s managed to conjure up an impressive five goals in all competitions this season too – the same tally as both Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long!

But whilst many many be hoping that this transfer would be a nice ‘addition’ to the squad, the report states that Jullien would be signed as a replacement for Virgil Van Dijk. And whilst this may well prove to be typical gutter journalism to simply generate more clicks, my opinion of such as a transfer strategy remains unchanged; any centre-back shipped in this summer should be there to join Van Dijk, not replace him.

Southampton keeping close watch on Nathan Ake

With Virgil Van Dijk expected to be a wanted man this summer, it’s been reported that Southampton have their eyes on Chelsea’s Nathan Ake as a potential replacement.

Above: Nathan Ake wearing the Mansion sponsored AFC Bournemouth shirt – Mansion are the owner’s of the online casino platform Casino.com

Southampton Football Club aren’t expected to be alone in their pursuit of the 22-year-old however, with both The Telegraph and the Metro stating that AFC Bournemouth will also join the race for the Dutchman.

Ake’s 2016/17 season got off to a frustrating start, with his loan move at The Cherrie’s providing few first team opportunities for development – in fact, Ake failed to start in any of Bournemouth’s opening 11 League fixtures.

But with the AFC Bournemouth defence continuing to leak goals and results showing no sign of improving, Ake was called into the starting XI, and from here, their fortunes instantly changed.

Eddie Howe’s side were once again capable of playing their free-flowing football, with Ake operating as the main ball player in the back line. Better yet, results were on the up too, with wins over Stoke, Liverpool, Swansea, and Leicester, coming in quick succession.

Sadly however, just days after a thrilling 3-3 draw against Arsenal, Ake’s loan was cut short in the January transfer window, and since then, his season has come crashing down.

In the space of just a few months, Ake has gone from starting Premier League games week in week out, to becoming a third choice centre back that is yet to feature in a single minute of Premier League action. It’s safe to say that this career decision hasn’t gone to plan for Ake, and if this continues, he will surely be left with no other option but to seriously consider his future this summer.

If reports are to be believed and Ake is available this summer, then I personally would love to see Southampton make a move for the versatile defender. Not only is he strong in the tackle and mature beyond his years, but he also possesses great technical qualities that would allow him to fit seamlessly into Southampton’s back four.

When you consider that the Dutchman boasts undeniable technical ability and is also left footed, it’s worth noting that Ake could prove to be an extremely valuable asset with the recent trend of five at the back defensive systems. If Ake can reach his promised potential, then Southampton could certainly command a monstrous fee in a number of years.

One problem I hold over these reports though, is the suggestion that Ake would be Van Dijk’s replacement – let’s not forget that in January, Southampton sold club captain Jose Fonte, and failed to find a replacement. If Ake is shipped in this summer, then I would wish to see him line up alongside his fellow Dutchman come the start of the 2017/18 season.

Southampton youngster Gallagher in high demand

According to the express, Sam Gallagher will prove to be a wanted man this summer, with Aston Villa reportedly interested in lodging a £3m bid.

Steve Bruce won’t be short of competition for Gallagher’s signature however, with Sunderland, Sheffield United, and Cardiff also rumoured to be in the race to sign the 21-year-old.

Gallagher has been in fine form so far this season, netting 10 goals in 35 Championship appearances, placing a number of experienced players out of the the Rovers starting XI.

This goal record is made all the more impressive when you consider that this is only Gallagher’s second pop at the Championship, and he’s doing so in a relegation dog fight. Many would suggest that in such a situation, experienced players are the ones you should turn to, but Gallagher is certainly proving to be an exception.

During a recent interview with Rovers playerHD, Rovers boss Tony Mowbray heaped praise upon the young talisman’s performances in blue and white. 

“The supporters won’t necessarily know his personality but he looks you right in the eye and he wants to work hard, he wants to be a better footballer, he wants to listen and try and improve every day.

“They are fantastic qualities for a young guy to have really, he knows he’s not the finished article, he’s not sure about when to play deep away from defenders, when to use his physicality up against them, and when to use his speed.

He’s got some fantastic attributes that are going to make him a hell of a footballer in a few years time. A guy who can do everything, out-strength you, out-run you. Hopefully he can become cleverer with his movement, he is going to be some player.”

Mowbray even went on to praise Southampton’s handling of the youngster, stating “I think his club have done right in letting him go and play games, otherwise the development is not as fast in the Under-23 league. So we are delighted we’ve got him.”

The bottom line however, is that Gallagher is obviously still a Southampton player, and therefore, there is a big decision to be made this summer.

Southampton Football Club prides itself on it’s youth development, and if they had their own way, then Gallagher would of course be successfully eased into the first team. But Gallagher can only be as good as the opportunities handed to him, and with a current frontline of Manolo Gabbiadini, Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez, and Charlie Austin, opportunities would certainly be arriving at a premium.

It’s also worth considering the fact that Gallagher has thrived upon regular competitive football, which is something that he is highly unlikely to receive at Southampton. Returning to his parent club may in fact stunt his development.

On top of this, with Claude Puel’s need for a more technically able striker in the side, Ryan Seager may well be the preferred option in Southampton’s current system.

When this summer arrives, I simply hope that Southampton can find the greatest path for Gallagher to continue his recent development – something I know that our club will whole heartedly be behind.

One lion in and one lion out?

We may have over three months until the summer transfer window officially opens, but rumours are already circulating regarding two England Internationals – one reportedly coming to St Mary’s, and the other departing.

According to numerous sources – including the Sun – Southampton are plotting a move for England’s number one, Joe Hart, in the event of Fraser Forster leaving the club this summer. And whilst this is a report that lacks little substance at the minute *cough* The Sun *cough*, It’s certainly an interesting topic to debate.

It goes without saying that over the course of the season so far, Forster has been far from impressive. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he’s been our most disappointing player over the 2016/17 campaign.

On multiple occasions this season Southampton have dominated the match, finally snatched their reward, and then just moments later, witnessed it crumble before their very eyes. Time and time again, Forster has failed to step up in those all important game-changing moments, and quite frankly, it’s cost us dearly this season.

With the acquisition of Hart however, I strongly believe that those problems would be no more. Since 2006, Hart has made 266 top flight appearances for Manchester City, proving himself to be one of the Premier League’s top keepers in recent years. He’s received two Premier League winners medals, has won the golden glove on four occasions, and has been voted into the PFA team of the season twice over. 

Admittedly, Hart has shown from time to time he is prone to a howler, and he did have a horror show during the Euros of 2016, but his countless game saving performances of the past can’t simply be forgotten. The 29-year-old has certainly bounced back to form with his loan move at Torino, too. 

On top of this, Hart has shown great professionalism during his saga with Pep Guardiola, and a quality such as this would certainly be welcome at Southampton.

It’s also worth noting that Dave Watson, Southampton’s goalkeeper coach, was part of the England staff from 2012 to 2016, so has personally worked with Hart over each International break. Such a figure could be helpful in recommending Hart to Claude Puel, whilst also recommending Southampton to Hart.  

At this moment in time, Forster boasts the lowest save percentage for any goalkeeper in the Premier League, and if this form continues, then we will be left with few other options than to sign a replacement this summer.

Between now and the end of the season, I would love nothing more than to see Forster once again strike confidence into the Southampton defence. But if this isn’t the case, how can we possibly be expected to not swoop for a player of Hart’s pedigree?

The ultimate 2012-17 Southampton XI

The good news is that the League Cup final is now less than two weeks away. The bad news however, is that Southampton don’t have another fixture until that season defining day. But with all this spare time until we travel to Wembley, it got me thinking about just how fortunate I’ve been to experience such a remarkable journey. From the dark depths of League One in 2009, up to the Premier League in 2012, qualification for the Europa League in 2015, and now, a League Cup final in 2017. When you take a step back and look at how far our club has come, it’s really quite remarkable.

So, in the spirit of enjoying the next chapter that Southampton FC holds for us, I decided to pick my ultimate Southampton XI since our return to the Premier League.

GK: Despite his recent slump in form, there is still no doubt in my mind that Fraser Forster deserves to stand between the sticks in my ultimate XI. Since signing in the summer of 2014, Forster has produced some sensational goalkeeping displays (much to the annoyance of every Arsenal fan), whilst also writing his name into the Southampton history books – totalling 708 Premier League minutes without conceding a goal. The 6ft 7in shot stopper has helped Southampton to better their highest ever PL finish twice over, and is it any wonder when he’s recorded 28 clean sheets in 73 Premier League appearances?

RB: Signed for just £2.15M ahead of our return to the Premier League in 2012, Nathaniel Clyne went on to not only help us steer clear of relegation, but also become a fully fledged England International. Blisteringly quick, dangerous on the overlap, and surprisingly strong in one-on-one defensive situations, Clyne takes the right back spot with ease.

Source: http://bettingtips4you.com/

CB: Given that Virgil Van Dijk is arguably one of the most sought after defenders in European football at the minute, it will come as no surprise to you that he’s placed in this side. Not only is he an incredibly intelligent tackler, but he’s also capable of spraying 40-yard diagonals with ease, whilst possessing the strength to make Christian Benteke look like Nathan Dyer – as aerial threats go, there are few better in football than Van Dijk. If Southampton can retain the Dutchman this summer, he’s as big as any signing we could possibly ship in.

CB: We may have only been able to enjoy the services of Toby Alderweireld for a single season, but my god, what a player we had on our hands. Within just three performances in the red and white shirt, I remember turning to my Dad and simply asking, “How on earth have we got this man?”. Alderweireld boasts many similar qualities to Van Dijk, but perhaps what he loses in natural physical strength, he makes up for with his exceptional reading of the game. It’s for all to see that the Belgian International has received a footballing education at Ajax.

LB: When Southampton first signed Ryan Bertrand, it’s fair to say that there were doubters. Not only had Southampton just waved goodbye to Luke Shaw, but their replacement was a loan player who had failed to shine for Aston Villa in the season before. But over two and a half years later, Bertrand has arguably become one of Southampton’s most reliable performers, proving to be a true professional along the way too. He’s shown himself to be a capable player in all areas of the pitch, allowing us to play the positive and fluid football that us fans so desire. His fine form has even helped him regain a place in the National team.

DM: Ah, the one that got away. It may sound odd to others, but I’ve never known a player to grab the hearts of so many fans in the same way that Morgan Schneiderlin did. With the combination of his crunching tackles, the fact that he rose through the divisions with us, and never left the field without giving 100%, we all truly saw him as one of us. Over countless occasions we would witness Schneiderlin single handedly dominate the midfield, and still to this day, I’m gutted for him that his big move didn’t pay off. It would take one hell of a search to find a defensive midfielder as effective as Schneiderlin during his time at Southampton.  

DM: And here we have Schneiderlin’s partner in crime: Victor Wanyama. The Kenyan midfielder slotted in alongside Schneiderlin at the start of the 2013/14 season, and right from the off, we all knew what he was about. Wanyama may not be the most technical or aesthetically pleasing player, but over his three seasons at Southampton, he proved himself to be one of the Premier League’s finest in protecting the backline. How many other players can you name that have knocked Yaya Toure, Kouyate and Fellaini to the floor in a single season?

LW: When Adam Lallana departed for Liverpool, any football fan could see that Southampton had a colossal job of acquiring a suitable replacement; and in the form Dusan Tadic, Les Reed and co found just that. The Serbian International has been the creative Spark behind Southampton’s progression over the past two seasons, recording 21 assists in 81 Premier League appearances. Tadic’s greatest form for Southampton came with Graziano Pelle in the side, but with a new Italian in town – Manolo Gabbiadini – Tadic looks to have formed a new on the field bromance. When deployed as the main creative outlet for the side, Tadic is capable of tormenting any side with his defence splitting vision and deft execution.

AM: Given the manner of which he left the club, I was debating whether to select this man for my starting XI. However, I just can’t deny plain and simple talent once I’ve seen it with my eyes. Regardless of how you view Lallana for his actions, It’s undeniable that he was a sensational player for Southampton. He could play with either foot, was capable of leading the team as a captain, and had the ability to switch a game on it’s head with just a single touch. Not to forget the many Cruyff turns too…

RW: Southampton have had the joy of possessing some pacy players over the years to work the channels and overlap, but not a single player can match Sadio Mane for pace. When he first joined the club, he was used by Ronald Koeman to solely hunt for space and ask questions of the defence. But once he found his feet in the Premier League, he soon adapted into a controlled dribbler that was capable of finding the back of the net from the tightest of angles.  Since entering English football in late 2014, Mane has scored 32 times in just 89 Premier League appearances. Further testament to his talent is that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool simply aren’t the same side without him, as their poor form in 2017 shows.

ST: To not place this man in my ultimate XI would be wrong on almost every account possible. Rickie Lambert is, and forever will be loved by each and every Southampton fan. From that first Premier League goal against Manchester City, right through to scoring in his last ever game in red and white against Manchester United, Lambert never once let us down. The man was a natural born goalscorer who certainly wasn’t short of technical ability for a big man, and his penalties weren’t half bad either. It’s fairly safe to say that Rickie Lambert will never have to buy another pint in Southampton again.