Transfers

Review: Southampton’s summer so far

Like many of you reading this, I spend a large amount of time in my day-to-day life checking the saintsFC hashtag on twitter, trying to find the latest news about all things Southampton F.C.

Over the past six weeks, things at Saints have been, in some ways, as turbulent as ever – our captain has declared himself mentally unfit to play, we have a new manager and there are constant links to European gems. However, in many ways, it has been a much quieter summer than in years passed, so I’d like to jot down a few feelings that I believe many Saints fans will share, and I’m going to break it down into four sections.

DISCLAIMER: Like all football fans, I am reactionary to a lot of news, and I have no insider knowledge at the club, as some other fans believe they do.

The Manager:

From his first interview as new Southampton manager, to his handling of the Virgil Van Dijk saga, I have been thoroughly impressed by Mauricio Pellegrino. Solely based upon the way he has spoken and his demeanour in interviews, we have seen his calmness, we have been engaged by his desire to play pressing, attacking football (something found wanting under Puel), and he also managed to convey the fact that he will take each game as it comes, playing to our strengths but accepting when to take a more conservative approach (something he was highly praised for at Alavés). Our pre-season friendlies have not set the world on fire by all accounts, but we must keep in mind that these matches are organised for team cohesion, fitness and adaptation to the new manager’s philosophy. His tendency to play a 4-2-3-1 has intrigued me, as it has worked in the past at St. Mary’s and is probably the formation that suits our current squad best.

Mauricio Pellegrino has managed to captivate and unite a fan-base that had been heavily divided under Claude Puel, he seems to have also intrigued many Southampton players, who again were divided under the previous manager. I am truly excited to see his press conferences, his team’s style of playing and to see where we end up under MoPe next season. One final point, though, I think his spoken English is excellent. Out of our last three managers, only Ronald Koeman truly captured the fans in press conferences and pre/post match interviews. I think this could be something MoPe manages to do with the language he uses and the way he speaks English, subconsciously swaying fans onside.

The Players:

From the way in which Southampton F.C. has used youtube, twitter and other social media, it is easy to see that squad harmony is at a much higher level than it has been for the last 12 months. The players seem to have bought into the new manager, they seem much happier, and they seem much more motivated than they were under the aforementioned Puel. I have seen and read interviews with certain players, most recently with Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, who, for me, could have a breakout season if given the chance. He admitted that the pre-season has been good thus far, that the players are enjoying the new manager, and that he wants to thrive this season under MoPe. For such a young man, he’s more mature than most footballers, and I am really excited by the prospect of more appearances for him this season, hopefully whilst learning under a manager who places faith in him.

Other special mentions have to go to Sofiane Boufal, who with a full pre-season could be another breakout star. Just from pre-season I’ve seen more defensive urgency from Sofiane than ever before, perhaps in an attempt to coerce Pellegrino into believing in him?

We Saints fans are proud of our academy graduates, and with new contracts for Gallagher and Stephens, and McQueen and Sims earlier in the year, it seems like Pellegrino and the board have agreed again on the promotion of youth. Like most of you, I never particularly liked Claude Puel’s beliefs in football, but he did manage to promote a number of youth players who shone under him, something that I hope continues under the new manager.

Virgil Van Dijk:

Here we go then, the arrogant, petulant, opinion-dividing centre-back that is both our best player and captain. As with many of you, I change my opinion every single day on him. One day, I want to hold him to ransom, force him to see out the remainder of his contract, just to prove a point to the “bigger” clubs that we are no longer a selling club. Other days, I want to get rid of him for £70 million, and to reinvest the whole of that sum in 2/3 quality players who both want to be here, and will improve our squad on the whole. But now that I’ve had a chance to sit back, to think about him and to come to a reasonable conclusion; I will have faith in whatever MoPe decides to do with him. From every statement made by both the club hierarchy and the manager since his appointment, it seems as though Pellegrino will have the final say on VVD’s future. I think his handling of our captain has been excellent, trying to get him on side, but accepting that squad harmony is more important than one player’s selfish needs. It will all come to a decision after the squad get back from France, it seems.

In the case that VVD does end up going, please not to Liverpool. It’s getting boring now. But who would I have as captain? I have seen lots of tweets arguing in favour of Oriol Romeu, and whilst he was excellent last season, he’s still only had one good season from start to finish. My pick would be England international and Champions League winner Ryan Bertrand, who seems set to stay this summer, and my hope would be that making him captain convinces him to stay for the long run. If Bertrand communicates his desire to seek pastures new following this season however, then we should of course avoid handing him the captaincy – we don’t want to find ourselves in a Virgil 2.0 situation. 

Transfers:

Finally, the interesting bit… or is it? Like most football fans, I want to see my team sign new players, so that I can get even more excited about the coming season, but it isn’t that summer at St. Mary’s. Almost every player we’ve been linked with has been ruled out of a move; Vietto was shot down overnight by sources close to the club, according to Adam Blackmore, Munir and Allan I just don’t buy into, and Stuart Armstrong’s transfer has gone very quiet, too. From an outsider looking in, I believe that this is the summer where we keep our players, rather sell and reinvest. Even the VVD saga has not ended up in a bid, and should we end up selling him for a premium, that is the only moment I’d expect us to spend big; when we have already made money.

But after a lot of thought, I think this is a highly positive outcome for the club on the whole. It means that all of our players will be Premier League ready, with experience of the league. They will know each other, and the manager, after a full pre-season together. Those who missed out on full pre-seasons last summer (Boufal and Gabbiadini due to later, and January arrivals) will now have a chance to build full relationships with their teammates. It is a cause for joy that, for once, we may not sell star players, and if we do, it will only be because the manager sanctioned the deal and thought it best for all parties, rather than the club being bullied by a larger club. As always, I am expecting a couple of additions, should some players depart, but our starting XI is looking very capable as things stand, should no player leave, and I believe that no outgoings and few players coming in will be a blessing after recent years.

Is Remy right for Pellegrino’s Southampton?

Once a fully fledged French International and a menace to Premier League defences, Loic Remy’s career has come to somewhat of a standstill, as he finds himself locked out of Antonio Conte’s plans.

Sky Sports have since reported however that he’s free to leave the club this summer, stating that Southampton are one of three clubs interested in the Frenchman.

Remy travelled with the Blues squad for pre-season and even scored twice during an 8-2 win over Fulham, but it seems that he was selected solely to improve his fitness.

So with Remy firmly placed in Roman Abramovich’s shop window, and Southampton fans divided in opinion, is this a deal that takes my fancy? And is it the kind of gamble Southampton Football Club should be taking?

Firstly, it’s only right to paint the picture of Remy as a footballer; he’s an experienced centre-forward who at 30 years of age, is still quick on his feet and cool in front of goal. He’s a more than capable dribbler on the ball, and whilst his movement is generally considered intelligent, he’s considerably more effective in sides that look to counter attack.

He’s proven himself as lethal forward in Ligue 1 from 2008-13 – maintaining a one-in-two strike rate – before scoring 20 Premier League goals in just 42 appearances for QPR and Newcastle United.

From this profile it would seem like a no-brainer to race for Remy’s signature. However, I have my reservations for a number of reasons…

Since moving to Chelsea in 2014, Remy has featured in just 37 Premier League fixtures, scoring eight goals. And whilst failing to start for Chelsea is certainly no insult, that tally includes a miserable half-season loan spell at Crystal Palace, where he failed to open his goalscoring account in red and blue.

It’s been a long while since Remy has been able to string together a number of promising performances, and injuries have certainly played their part too. As the years have gone on, it seems that injury is waiting for the Frenchman around each and every corner; this is an attribute that we certainly don’t need in our squad. Regular injuries not only cost the club, but they also disrupt the way the team are playing, as someone else with different qualities takes their place.

On top of this, Remy hardly makes for the most Southampton-esque signing given his age; there’s little room for development, next to no sell on value, and the possibility that he blocks the pathway into the first team for others.

Not to mention that with Charlie Austin and Manolo Gabbiadini, Remy will be facing hot competition, and I’m not convinced that’s what he needs for his own development. In order to get back to his best, he needs a guarantee of consecutive starts with limited competition and a manager who trusts him – something we can’t offer.

Admittedly Remy’s pace does offer us something different in our frontline, and I’m sure that under the right management, a revival of his career can be made. But when you consider the high wage bill, missing form and recurring injuries, I can’t help but feel this is all too big of a gamble for Southampton Football Club.

Time for Southampton to cash in on Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk is one of the best defenders in the Premier League; there are no two ways about it. The Netherlands international has been on the books of Southampton since 2015, and over the past two seasons, he has shown what he is capable of.

Many would have been sceptical of Van Dijk when Southampton signed him from Scottish Premiership giants Celtic in the summer of 2015. It cost the Saints as much as £13 million in transfer fees, but the 26-year-old centre-back has proved to be worth every penny.

It should not come as a surprise to anyone that top clubs in England want to sign Van Dijk in the summer transfer window. Liverpool have been strongly linked with the former Groningen star, who is also reported to be on the radar of Tottenham Hotspur, who finished second in the Premier League last season. 

Liverpool could do with a centre-back of Van Dijk’s quality in their quest to finish in the top four for the second successive campaign. As for Spurs, if they bring in the Dutchman, then it would not be a bad idea to take advantage of a £20 free bet bonus and place it on the North London club to win the Premier League title next season at odds of 8/1 – they would become that strong in defence.

Southampton have stated on more occasions than one that they are not planning to sell Van Dijk in the summer transfer window, but every player has his price. A bid of over £40 million should be enough to convince the Saints to part company with the former Celtic star. After all, it is only a matter of time before the Dutchman leaves St. Mary’s Stadium. The 26-year-old’s stock is high at the moment, and it would make sense for Southampton to cash in on him and then bring in maybe a couple of young and promising centre-backs.

The Saints’ model of buying low and selling high has worked for a while now. Southampton took a chance on Van Dijk two years ago, and it worked. Instead of holding onto the defender for one more season, they should now be willing to let him leave this summer. There are plenty of young and promising defenders out there for the Saints to buy on the cheap this summer, develop them and then sell them at a high price in a few years’ time. Even if new manager Mauricio Pellegrino wants an established centre-back, he would still get to buy one with the money from Van Dijk’s sale and still have some change.

Celtic centre-back Erik Sviatchenko would not be a bad signing for Southampton; the 25-year-old Denmark international would come relatively cheap as well. Kieran Tierney is a left-back by trade, but the 20-year-old Celtic star could be moulded into a centre-back. Everton may not be willing to sell Mason Holgate in the summer transfer window, but the Saints could try to sign the 20-year-old, who can operate as a full-back or as a centre-back, on a season-long loan deal.

Nathaniel Chalobah: The perfect project for Southampton FC?

According to a recent report by Goal, Southampton are believed to be keen on England U21 International and Chelsea Youngster, Nathaniel Chalobah.

Numerous sources in recent weeks have stated that Marco Silva’s Watford are currently leading the race for the destructive midfielder, but Southampton are now keen to hijack the Hornets plans.

A bid in the region of £5M appears to be all that’s needed to prise the youngster from Chelsea’s grips, with Chalobah holding just one year left on his current contract.

But just where would he fit into our squad? And what can we as a club do to convince Chalobah to make the switch?

As a self-proclaimed admirer of Chalobah in recent years, this is a deal that certainly interests me; and here’s why…

Southampton are fortunate enough to boast a midfield with many young and creative options, yet despite this, we hold just one out and out defensive midfielder in Oriol Romeu. With the potential acquisition of Chalobah however, Mauricio Pellegrino has the tactical flexibility to select a compact two-man midfield partnership, similar to that of the Pochettino era.

Being able to organise a midfield of this style could prove to be crucial in handling the attacking threat of the Premier League’s top six sides – a challenge we failed to pass last season. We’re sorely missing a physical core at the heart of our midfield, and this is something that I want to return to our side, not only for the defensive stability, but also for the attacking freedom it gifts our frontline.

It’s also worth noting that if Chalobah does make the switch, he would have one hell of a first-team mentor in Romeu. Chalobah has shown glimpses of his obvious talent in the past, but has failed to channel this into a consistent string of performances at a top level.

With an experienced and intelligent player like Romeu, Chalobah has someone that can guide him in finding his role and responsibilities in the side; when to dive in, when to sit deep, when to press, and when to take risks on the ball. These are all questions that Chalobah will need help answering as an inexperienced midfielder.

But whilst this inexperience in the Chelsea side will no doubt raise a few questions marks over Southampton fans heads, I believe that we would have no need to worry.

Firstly because Chelsea’s pathway between the academy and the first team is a battered and bruised road, but secondly, because Romeu and Bertrand’s situations at the London based club weren’t a million miles away either.

Both of these current Saints showed promise at a big club from a young age, were then rewarded with a number of opportunities, before quickly being discarded from the first team the moment that there was a hill to climb. Through hot competition, injury and even inexperience, some ridiculously talented players can fall through the net at Chelsea Football Club.

But with thanks to the faith and guidance of Southampton, they’ve been able to revive their careers and show their full potential.

Presenting young talented individuals the opportunity to succeed and develop is what Southampton Football Club do best, and that’s exactly why I would love to see us take the gamble on Nathaniel Chalobah.

Jay Rodriguez and Southampton: The end of the road

After five years wearing red and white, it’s now been confirmed that Jay Rodriguez will be making the switch to West Bromwich Albion, in a deal worth £12M.

The transfer itself comes as a surprise to very few Southampton fans, who over the past 24 months have watched Rodriguez fight to rediscover his 2013-14 season form.

But despite failing to do so, this is a departure that’s been been left on wonderful terms, with each and every Southampton fan wishing nothing but the best for Jay, and rightly so too…

Rodriguez signed for the Saints in the summer of 2012 for a fee of £7M, as Nigel Adkins’ Southampton prepared for their return to the top flight.

With the pressure of fighting for survival, Rodriguez managed to show glimpses of his physical edge and positive movement, only for his unrefined technique and nerves in front of goal to let him down. The talent was there for all to see, but this diamond desperately needed polishing, having recorded just six League goals from 35 appearances.

But with the departure of Adkins – the man who placed his faith in Jay – there came the arrival of a certain Mauricio Pochettino, and this was the moment that we began to see the very best of Jay Rodriguez.

With a full pre-season under the Argentinian, Rodriguez had been endlessly drilled, physically pushed and given a vital responsibility in the way that Pochettino wanted his side to play.

The skinny forward that only 12 months ago would be bullied to the ground in aerial duels, was now leaping high-above 6ft 4in centre-halves as he sinks the ball into the back of the net. And that same player who would once crumble as he bares down on goal with just the keeper to beat, was now cooly slotting the ball home without a moment’s hesitation.

Operating as an inside forward from the left, Rodriguez was wreaking havoc upon the Premier League’s strongest defences, linking up effortlessly with Rickie Lambert through the middle, and showing the intelligence to stretch defences in wide areas.

With 15 League goals in just 33 appearances, Rodriguez was showing no sign of slowing down as the end of the season edged nearer. Having already made his England debut in mid November of that season, there was huge talk of Rodriguez being the wildcard selection in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad.

He was in the finest form of his career so far, but then it all came crashing down…

On the 5th of April 2014 against Manchester City, Rodriguez leapt to control a high ball in the air, only to writhe in pain as his feet touched back down on the ground.

The Etihad filled with a painful silence, as the Southampton players rushed to surround Rodriguez in shock of what they had just witnessed. They knew it was bad news from the moment he touched the ground, and the stretcher on the field just moments later only confirmed that.

News broke instantly amongst us Southampton fans, who were feeling every bit of Rodriguez’s pain. Our club had only been back in the top flight for a single season, and here we had a player who was helping to put us back on the football map, all whilst dreaming of representing his country on the biggest stage that football can offer.

I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t emotional watching his childhood dream be crushed before our very eyes.

Rodriguez had suffered a rupture to his anterior cruciate ligament, and was told that he would face the next 11 months on the sidelines. His World Cup dreams were well and truly over.

Rodriguez was about to endure the biggest challenge of his career to date, both physically and mentally. He would go on to face setback after setback, scare after scare, and even for a short time, have doubts over whether he would ever play the game again.

But after sixteen brutal, agonising months, having missed the entirety of the 2014/15 campaign, Rodriguez was once again ready to step back out onto St Mary’s.

It was chilling to watch him re-enter the field as a Saint, knowing full well just how deep and cruelly his strength had been tested over the last 16 months.

And whilst over the past two years Rodriguez has been a shadow of his 2013/14 self, it’s made me realise that there is far more to football than just results and goals. For all the players that come and go from St Mary’s, here we have a player who was giving his all just to one day wear those red and white stripes again.

Even after all that time on the sidelines waiting, Rodriguez still maintained a focused and determined attitude when both Ronald Koeman and Claude Puel starved him of game time; no running to the press, no moaning and certainly no drama. Jay’s only focus was getting back out onto that pitch, to repay the Southampton fans for their endless support through his recovery.

Over the past 24 months, Rodriguez has tried time and time again to once again make an attacking role his own, but sadly, his efforts came to no avail. Without the physicality to play as a lone number nine, the pace to play as a winger, or the technical ability to play just off the forward, Rodriguez has often been consigned to the bench.

But by no means am I suggesting that he’s no longer capable of being an effective Premier League footballer. For a while now, he’s been missing a number of vital components that help to aid development; a manager that trusts him, a single role in the side and a consistent run of games. At West Bromwich Albion it appears that Tony Pulis has promised him exactly that.

For the wonderful memories, professionalism throughout, and his pride in being a Saint, I would love nothing more than to see Rodriguez back amongst the goals; just not against us, alright Jay?

Player profile: Jan Bednarek

It’s now been confirmed that Southampton Football Club have made their first acquisition of the summer, with the purchase of Lech Poznan’s Jan Bednarek. 

The 21-year-old joins the club on a five-year-deal, for a fee that’s believed to be in the region of €6m, rising to €8M. But rather than sitting here and rambling away as if I know about our latest signing, I spoke to a man who does; Christopher Lash.

First and foremost, what can we look forward to in Bednarek? 

Well, he’s probably the best young defender in his position in Poland.  He’s relatively quick, decent on the ball, pretty good in the air, quite strong, and in general a pretty aware central defender. He only really broke through into the Lech first team this season, and he became a key defensive player as the club rose up the league after a poor start.

Are there any defenders that you would compare him to? 

He’s better on the ball than your average central defender, so in that respects you could compare him more to the John Stones/Rio Ferdinand model. But he’s also good in the air and strong, so he has the kind of capabilities required for more typical central defensive work as well.

What weaknesses has he shown? 

Lots, unfortunately. He’s been a key defender in the Polish league for Lech this season, making a lot of pundits’ team of the year and it’s clear that he has a lot of potential, but there are a lot of areas in which he needs to improve. His anticipation can go missing at key times in games and his positional play is a bit haphazard.  For a big guy, he can sometimes be bullied off the ball by opposing strikers. All of this can be coached out of him and he’s only 21, so Southampton are buying mostly based on what he could turn into, rather than what he is now. But don’t be surprised to see him make quite a large number of mistakes if he’s thrown into the deep end.

How has Bednarek performed at International level? 

He’s not made his debut for the full international side yet, although there have been strong rumours that he will make the Poland squad in the autumn as the Polish team moves inexorably towards the World Cup Finals in Russia.  He has played a lot at youth levels though and was a key member of the u-21 side in the recent European championships hosted in Poland.  He didn’t have a particularly good tournament (but then neither did the rest of Poland’s squad), getting sent off in one match and making a number of mistakes that led to goals (the non-squeamish can look up his mistake which led to Slovakia’s winning goal in Poland’s opening match).  The most important thing is Poland’s NT coach Adam Nawałka firmly has his eye on him and he should have a fine international career.

Has he had to face any challenges or great pressure in his short career so far?

Well I’d say he’s done very well to win a starting place in Lech’s first team after not being considered a key player even last summer, so that’s definitely a challenge he’s overcome.  The recent u-21 championships were a big challenge for him, but one that he didn’t really pass with flying colours. All good experience though.

What do you make of the reported €6M fee rising to €8M?

It’s a massive fee to be honest and will break the transfer record for a player transferred out of the Polish league.  In that respect there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him, especially from the Polish media who will be checking on his progress pretty intensely.  I’d say in some ways the media hype of the move from the Polish side might be just as difficult as the jump in class that he’s going to experience in the English league.  I suppose we’ll see if he has a mature head on his shoulders because he’s going to need to be level-headed to succeed with all the pressure he will be under.

Finally, what do you think of Southampton as a destination for Bednarek’s development?

Hopefully it will be a perfect match.  As you know Southampton are renowned for being a club that brings through young talent and so, in that respect, Bednarek couldn’t be headed to a better club.  The big worry in Poland is that Bednarek will go the way of Kapustka who couldn’t break through whatsoever at Leicester and looked a shadow of his former self at the U-21 championships recently. I wouldn’t expect Bednarek break through straightaway but hopefully Southampton will be able to provide him with the know-how and coaching to advance the level of his play appropriately.

Cedric Soares targeted by Allegri’s Juventus

Coming off the back of Euro’s glory and a fine Premier League campaign, it’s no surprise to Southampton fans that Cedric Soares has already been linked with a number of European giants.

The latest reports have suggested that Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus are interested in the Portuguese International, with Dani Alves’s transfer to Manchester City looking all the more likely.

FC Barcelona were also believed to be monitoring Cedric earlier in the season, as their hunt for an attack-minded and natural full back goes on.

But this fine run of form for Cedric over the past 12 months doesn’t tell the full tale of his time on the south coast, and in my eyes, that is exactly why our board can’t allow such a transfer to formulate this summer.

Not too long ago under the reign of Ronald Koeman, there was a time when Cedric looked unable to adapt to the Premier League’s physical demands, and would find the opposite corner flag more often than Pelle’s head. There was clear talent inside the former Sporting fullback, but he needed to be nurtured and protected inside the team’s system in order to flourish.

So much so was the need for improvement that Koeman finished the 2015/16 season placing more trust in Cuco Martina, often consigning Cedric to the bench.

If we allow a single impressive season to be the benchmark for warranting a move away, then our transfer strategy is beyond flawed. I’m sure that the Southampton board hold the same stance, but it’s something that we shouldn’t even consider entertaining. It would show weakness to not only our fans and current crop of players, but also other teams that may wish to test our resolve with a bid.

Not to mention that at this moment in time, it’s looking increasingly likely that either one of Virgil Van Dijk or Ryan Bertrand will depart this summer. Losing two of our current backline in one single window would be one hell of a task for our recruitment department, and a cruel welcoming for Mauricio Pellegrino.

Don’t go forgetting that we’re still holding out for our Jose Fonte replacement too…

Finally however, there comes the hurdle of the reported fee that would be enough to prise Cedric away from our grips. £15M. Yes, you read that correctly.

£15M is the figure being thrown around by numerous sources, and quite frankly, I don’t believe that our board would pay even the slightest bit of attention to this offer. As many will know, Southampton operate a transfer strategy of buying low and selling high, but to accept such a bid would only complete the first half of the cycle.

When you consider the current rate at which Cedric has been developing and the fact that his contract runs until the summer of 2020, it would simply be mindless to consider a bid any time before the end of next season. 

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.