Can Southampton shrug off all the loss of a host of star players? Here's the lowdown on what's new at St Mary's.
It’s been a summer of upheaval at Southampton having not only lost manager Mauricio Pochettino but also five of their best players, including three of them - Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren - to Liverpool. Despite Morgan Schneiderlin being unsettled, Saints are insistent that the exodus ends here and there have been some promising arrivals. Ronald Koeman is the man being asked to hold things together but can Southampton survive the storm to forge a brighter future?
As well as Lambert, Lallana and Lovren, full-backs Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers have also gone, although Ryan Bertrand is a capable deputy on the left. Koeman has explored the Dutch market to identify two good signings, with Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle among the Eredivisie’s biggest stars last season. Fraser Forster has joined to bolster the goalkeeping ranks but Southampton supporters could still be forgiven for lamenting the loss of their heroes come opening day.
Ward-Prowse seems to be one of the few young players not on his way out at Southampton. The midfielder with the sublime delivery with his right boot could suffer without his colleagues, but Southampton will be hoping he has the character to revel in the increased responsibility. If he can earn the trust of Koeman, a manager with good history of bringing on young players, this could be the season when the 19-year-old really breaks out as a star.
Southampton were the feel-good story of last season but the mood of optimism has been damaged amid concerns about the direction of the club under Katherine Liebherr. Uncertainty regarding plans for the future off the field is one thing but on it the team has lost its architect in Pochettino, the man involved in the most goals in Lambert (23) and the man who created the most chances in Lallana (71). The risks of the strategy if new signings don’t settle are obvious.
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- The Saints averaged 58.7% possession last season in the top division, more than any other side.
- Southampton threw away 20 points from leading positions last season, a joint-high figure along with West Ham.
- New signing Dusan Tadic created more chances than any other player in the Dutch Eredivisie last season (133).
It’s been a horrendous summer for Southampton fans, with one player leaving after another. But I honestly think they’ll be ok. People talk about them going down but I don’t think that will be the case. No way. They’ve got enough good players there. Jay Rodriguez is a brilliant player for them and James Ward-Prowse is going to have a big season for them. Of course they’re going to miss Rickie Lambert. But they got £30m for left-back Luke Shaw. How could you not take that money? Left-backs should never be worth that. Even getting £20m for Dejan Lovren, they’ve done such good business in terms of selling the players on. Now they have to try and find replacements. But if there’s a club that has a great youth system and know how to bring new players through, it’s them. You have to trust Southampton know what they’re doing and have replacements ready. They won’t have as good a season as last year, though.
Possible Saints XI