Ronald Koeman has had something of a baptism of fire at Southampton so far, as several key players he inherited from Mauricio Pochettino this summer have headed for the exit door, while he is only just getting his feet under the table in his new office.
However the Dutch legend has experienced this before during his career and still managed to impressively produce the goods, despite that challenge, in which Saints fans will be hoping he can replicate at St Mary’s.
In Koeman’s first summer as Feyenoord boss in 2011, star talents Leroy Fer, Georginio Wijnaldum and Luc Castaignos all departed, yet he was still able to buy well in their absence, and guide the club to three strong seasons afterwards that never saw them drop out of the Eredivisie top three.
And in a similar fashion at Southampton, three prime players have again instantly left his disposal after arriving at his new club, with both Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana joining Liverpool, while Luke Shaw has moved to Manchester United.
But in what has been a summer of upheaval since Southampton’s memorable 2013/14 season ended, things are starting to look a bit rosier for them as their recruitment process is currently off-and-running, with FC Twente’s Dušan Tadić becoming Koeman’s first new signing on Tuesday.
Twente have recently had to live with many high-profile sales themselves, with the likes of Luuk de Jong, Ola John, Fer, Nikolay Mihaylov, Nacer Chadli and Douglas all leaving De Grolsch Veste over the last two years – with Tadić now a fresh name to add to that star-studded list.
Tadić has easily been one of the best players in the Eredivisie during that two-year period, arguably the finest in 2013/14, and he has all the attributes to bring a lot of joy to Southampton supporters this coming season.
Style of Play: What Type of Player is Tadić?
Tadić is widely regarded across Holland as a phenomenal playmaker, who – after four years in the Eredivisie with both Groningen and Twente respectively – more than warrants a move to a bigger league due to his tremendous ability.
The 25-year-old boasts fantastic flair and his best qualities lie with his appreciation for space, close control, vision and magnificent creativity which sees him open up opposition defences effortlessly at times.
Tadić also comes with much-coveted versatility across the final third, with the Serbian equally as dangerous whether deployed on the right, left or just behind a lone striker, and his attacking prowess will suit both the principles Southampton and Koeman preach excellently.
Creativity: Replacing Lallana
After Lallana’s move to Liverpool was confirmed last week, Southampton were quick off the mark to identify Tadić as their ideal replacement for him on the south coast.
Like Lallana, Tadić isn’t the most rapid player in terms of blistering pace but is very similar to the former Saints captain through his versatility, ability to unlock doors with perfectly weighted passes and not holding onto possession for too long.
Tadić has been brought in by Southampton to fill the void that Lallana has left in the creativity department, and his figures in this area are outstanding. In 13/14, Tadić conjured up 14 assists from his 133 chances created in total – the most in the Eredivisie – with one being produced every 22.3 minutes on average.
He also averaged four key passes a game last season and the campaign previous in 2012/13, he produced 15 assists for his Twente team-mates – in which then PSV winger Dries Mertens only made more with 17 before jetting off to Napoli that summer.
Compared to Tadić, Lallana registered five assists from his 71 total chances created for Southampton last season, however it is important to note that the England international was playing in a harder league in 13/14 – as Tadić will soon find out.
Tadić possesses a magic wand of a left-foot and while he’s always looking to roam inside from the flanks to get on the ball and cause havoc with it, he has firmly been Twente’s creative magician over the last two years and most of their goalscoring opportunities go through him.
As the above image from Twente’s 3-0 win away at Heracles Almelo last season shows, as soon as Tadić (circled) received the ball he had runners off him. His team-mates at Twente knew he holds the quality to pick them out through his pinpoint passing, in which he opted for Castaignos with a well-timed through ball although no goal came of it.
This through ball displayed was just one of many Tadić produced last term, creating the most in the Eredivisie with 16, as well as the most clear-cut chances with 31.
In the next image below, Tadić – who likes to play on the right as an inverted winger because it allows him to drive inwards on his stronger left-foot — featured there in Twente’s 4-2-3-1 system used against Go Ahead Eagles last season, in which he grabbed the third in a 3-1 home win with a sumptuous free-kick effort.
Tadić (circled above) picked out the marauding Roberto Rosales from right-back with a marvellous reverse pass which was eventually bundled into the net by Castaignos, with the help of Youness Mokhtar at the back post.
This further highlights the type of positions Tadić likes to take up on the pitch in order to create chances, and another bonus for Southampton and Koeman is that he is already experienced at playing under an attacking, possession-based system from his time working with Michel Jansen at Twente.
A move to the top-flight of England is likely to mean Tadić will find it harder to locate free spaces in the final third, but as the above image against Roda JC last season shows, he is also superb in tight spaces – with his clever pass to Kyle Ebecilio resulting in the latter hitting the post with a powerful drive.
As well as his flawless creativity, Tadić can also bring goals to Southampton – which has been another feature of his game that has wonderfully blossomed over the last few years with Twente in the Eredivisie.
As well as filling his boots in terms of creativity, Southampton will also be looking for Tadić to replace the goals that Lallana brought during his spell with the club – with the latter scoring nine in the Premier League last season.
And like his creative statistics, Tadić’s goalscoring figures have also soared since his move from Groningen to Twente in 2012 – with the winger scoring 29 goals in the last two Eredivisie seasons for the Enschede club.
Previously at Groningen, Tadić was accused slightly of not scoring enough goals – with just 14 netted in 72 appearances – but his switch to a bigger club in Twente has since put that right and thus stands him in good stead to produce further ruthlessness in front goal for Southampton.
Tadić, to put it simply, is a set-piece specialist as his crossing ability over the last four years has been as crisp as anybody in Europe, while a large number of his goals come from his free-kicks and also penalty opportunities – with seven of his total 16 goals last season coming from the spot.
A popular question Southampton fans may be asking is how does Tadić score his goals from open play? As the above image shows, Twente gave him the license to roam into central zones and drive into the box as much as possible, with Tadić actually being further up the pitch than lone striker Castaignos in this particular instance against NAC Breda at home last season.
Being the chief conductor of Twente’s attacking play meant he got himself into great positions further up the pitch, boasting an incredible knack of working his way in-behind opposition defences. Tadić is a difficult player to track as he’s always on the move, looking to find bundles of space in order to construct penetrating attacks.
As the next image above from Twente’s 2-0 home win over Vitesse Arnhem last season shows, Tadić drove from the centre of the pitch and played a lovely one-two with Castaignos before finishing expertly with a beautiful chip over Piet Velthuizen. This came after he picked the ball up in the middle of the pitch and from then on, Vitesse’s defenders couldn’t get close to him.
Southampton boast a sturdy midfield duo in Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin and their defensive security would only help give Tadić further licence to prosper forwards and produce moments of genius on English soil.
His free-kick and penalty excellence will also help fill the hole left by Lambert in those areas, but a major importance that helps Tadić score his goals is down to how well he gels with the man upfront, with Southampton needing to sort out a replacement in this position, too.
Feyenoord’s Graziano Pellè, who has worked under Koeman for the last two years at De Kuip, seems to be the preferred choice and with the Italian creating 57 chances in the Eredivisie last season – the joint-most for the Rotterdam club with midfielder Lex Immers – he could prove to be a shrewd acquisition who could strike up a fruitful partnership with Tadić.
Pellè would be a brilliant like-for-like replacement for Lambert for his hold-up play, bringing team-mates into the game and also in terms of masterly burying penalties like they’re going out of fashion.
Last season Tadić scored four goals against those who finished in the top five in 2012/13, including two against Koeman’s Feyenoord away in 13/14 and thus his new manager knows precisely that goals will be something he can bring to the table at Southampton.
Tadić is somebody who doesn’t have too many weaknesses in his game, although his defensive contribution is the best place to start if holes are needing to be picked.
Last season, Lallana made 21 more tackles (57) than Tadić (36) did, while also intercepting (37) the ball 23 times more than him (14). The image above is taken from Twente’s 5-2 home win over NAC Breda, in which Tadić kept Jordy Buijs onside while the rest of his team pushed out, leading to a goal being conceded.
He isn’t somebody who will work tirelessly defensively, however Southampton are signing him for his attacking capabilities and not what he does when running back towards his own goal.
Now that the contract has been inked and everything has been concluded, Southampton are replacing Lallana with a classy and skilful footballer in Tadić who could prove to be an absolute steal for the price they’ve paid for him.
Arguably the only thing Lallana has in his locker that Tadić currently lacks is the ability to do virtually the same things, but on both feet. Tadić is very left-foot dominant but what matters most is that when in good positions on the pitch, he delivers.