Southampton’s feline knack to continue despite familiar exodus
When Ronald Koeman performed a dramatic U-turn straight out of the Fabian Delph handbook earlier this summer, even the most unflappable Southampton types would have been excused a moment of internal despair.
However, those same fans probably dusted themselves down a fair bit quicker than the average supporter faced with the same scenario. No other top-flight club seems as adept at bouncing back from high-profile departures, either managerial or playing staff, as the Saints in recent times.
Koeman – poached by Everton in June with a year remaining on his St Mary’s contract – may be Southampton’s most successful manager in terms of Premier League points and finishes after last season (63 and sixth), but history has shown these wily south-coast cats keep landing on their feet.
Before their Dutchman was snaffled, Tottenham played the Everton role by pinching Maurio Pochettino. The Argentine had spent just a season-and-a-half whipping Saints into unprecedentedly good Premier League shape, before Spurs swooped.
Pochettino was credited with changing the mentality of the Hampshire outfit and installing a work ethic that Koeman greatly benefitted from. Through a mixture of shrewd signings, tactical tweaks and promoting from within the club’s academy, Southampton have become a top-eight fixture in the last three seasons.
It seems something of a given that new man at the helm Claude Puel, not widely known outside of France, will pick up the slack from Koeman after guiding Nice to a very commendable fourth position in Ligue 1 last term.
Like Koeman on his arrival in 2014, Puel is already paying for his predecessor’s success in terms of players leaving beyond his powers. Like the man he replaces though, the signings to begin filling that void are already looking promising.
When Koeman took the reins he had to contend with skipper Adam Lallana, top scorer Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren all disappearing to Liverpool, while highly-rated youngsters Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers left for Manchester United and Arsenal respectively.
The consequential slump never materialised though, as a new spine arrived with the likes of Dusan Tadic, Ryan Bertrand, Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle, Shane Long and Fraser Forster signing. Saints even went onto improve their finishing position yet again in 2014/15.
Now that notables Pelle, Mane and Victor Wanyama have moved on there’s a sense of deja vu around St. Mary’s two summers later .
However, talented Norwich winger Nathan Redmond has already signed up to Puel’s new project, swiftly followed by Bayern Munich holding midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
More good news has emerged with England left-back Bertrand committing to a new five-year deal too and it would be no surprise to see Saints bothering the European spots once again in 2016/17, albeit, ironically a run in the Europa League could be their greatest hindrance.
<strong>All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.</strong>