In recent years, Southampton have become one of the Premier League’s best performing clubs. Under Maurico Pochettino and Ronald Koeman, Southampton qualified for European competition and have started to make a name for themselves as one of the league’s toughest opponents. After a series of successful league campaigns, it’s a little surprising that the Saints have yet to win a trophy in the Premier League era and that may be a reason why they’ve failed to keep hold of their biggest stars.
Southampton have been one of the most active clubs in the summer transfer window for the past three seasons and have seen a number of first team players leave the club in total. The majority of these have involved large sums of money and this season was no different. Sadio Mane was one of the biggest transfers of the summer with the former Southampton goal-scorer securing a £34m switch to Anfield to join Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. Other big names to leave the club this summer included Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle, as Southampton made almost £50m in outgoing transfers.
Jose Fonte has been strongly linked with Manchester United, who beat the Saints 2-0 last weekend, but it’s likely the defender will stay for his first spell under the new manager. Right-back Cuco Martina is also a target of former boss, Ronald Koeman and there’s a possible loan departure for Jay Rodriguez. All-in-all, Southampton’s squad will have to undergo another period of transition and new boss, Claude Puel has his hands full.
Summer transfers 2016
In: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Bayern Munich, undisclosed) Alex McCarthy (Crystal Palace, £4m,) Nathan Redmond (Norwich City, £11m)
Out: Kelvin Davis (retired,) Sadio Mane (Liverpool, £34m,) Graziano Pelle (Shandong Luneng, £12m,) Gaston Ramirez (released, Middlesbrough) Victor Wanyama (Tottenham Hotspur, undisclosed)
Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren… the list goes on of players who have left Southampton despite success in recent years. Not only do the Saints struggle to keep hold of their stars, but also their managers. Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino have both moved on to ‘bigger and better things’ but what could’ve happened if they stayed at Southampton would’ve been interesting to see.
The youth set-up at Southampton is one of the best in the world. Their academy is renowned for producing stars including their own Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana. Gareth Bale is the most famous of those names to come from the Southampton academy and young prodigy, Theo Walcott was once hailed as the next superstar. The club have a structured, controlled and well balanced set-up; providing quality and excellence for their youth, a solid platform into the first team and a well-communicated relationship between board, committee and fans. As well as on-field success, it seems Southampton have all the tools available but they’re still unable to keep their stars.
The club lacks three important necessities: status, loyalty and trophies. The only major piece of silverware the club has won was way back in 1976 when they lifted the FA Cup for their first and only time. They’ve had some memorable seasons; finishing runners-up in the league with Peter Shilton in goal and Kevin Keegan running the show out-field; regaining European football for the first time in 12 years under Mauricio Pochettino and securing their highest ever finish in the Premier League under Ronald Koeman. However, though successful performances have littered the last five years, silverware and honours have eluded them and in doing so, it has denied the club a status it may deserve.
Southampton are regarded as many in the Premier League as one of the league’s most consistent teams and can surely be considered a comfortable top ten side now. Though their rise has been rapid, the club has continued to develop and solidify and they’ve found comfort in their position in the Premier League. But as the top ten newcomers, they’ve got a long way to go before building a status as one of England’s top clubs. They have history, and flashes of brilliant memories, but not sustained periods of success and as such, they struggle to compare against the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. They haven’t got the same familiarity of Everton and Tottenham either.
The club can’t change its status overnight. They must continue to grow, develop and overcome transitions but ultimately, for Southampton to excel to new heights they must have loyalty. All it takes is a small nucleus of players and their manager to remain loyal to the club and build upon success through consecutive seasons. If Lallana, Lambert, Shaw and co. had stayed together under Pochettino for another two or three years, Southampton may be contesting for regular European football and may have challenged for silverware. Much like Ranieri’s task at Leicester City, the Saints need to mold a team and hope they can keep it for a sustained period.
Southampton were lucky Koeman’s arrival continued along the path towards success and the Saints came through another transitional period with positivity but will Claude Muel’s reign be one step too far?