THE BLOG

Team Focus: What Next For Southampton?

01/08/2014 16:56 BST | Updated 01/10/2014 10:59 BST

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Once we all get past the pity that comes with seeing a successful team picked apart by the financial super powers of football, it is time to turn attentions to the season ahead. Jokes are abound that Southampton will not even have enough players to field a team come the start of the 2014/15 campaign in just two and a half weeks' time, but the hierarchy at the club now need to sit down and work on deals to bring in replacements for the significant numbers headed out of the exit at St Mary's.

You probably don't need any reminding. Five first-team regulars - including two young academy graduates and potential future stars - have moved to Premier League heavyweights. There is hope for the club in that the departures of Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez to Tottenham seem to have been blocked by the chairman, thereby avoiding what many thought was the final nail in the coffin for a Southampton side who over the course of the summer have gone from a team harbouring hopes of achieving European qualification to one that is genuinely worried about avoiding the drop.

Many have blamed the board for a lack of knowledge of the game - Katharina Liebherr inherited the club with no previous experience in the world of football - for selling almost all of the club's prized assets, but in reality she, and the rest of the board, had little choice but to accept the gargantuan offers that came in. Saints simply are not in a position to compete financially with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool and also cannot offer their players the chance to play in Europe. Had they dug their heels in to keep their best players for another year, they would have had to fork out on huge, potentially perilous new contracts while also bringing in new players that would convince their current crop of growing ambitions.

Whether or not Schneiderlin and Rodriguez do indeed depart this week, the rebuilding process will be a great one for Ronald Koeman and the Saints board. The Dutchman replaced Mauricio Pochettino at the helm, but he has had ample time to settle in and make decisions; his first two signings - Dusan Tadic from FC Twente and Graziano Pellè from Feyenoord - might be relative unknowns in this country but both show real signs of ambition. They were the two highest-rated players in the Eredivise last season (Pellè 7.96 and Tadic 7.80) with a combined 59 goals and assists in their 61 appearances, and Koeman knows them better than most so, one would hope, will be able to get the best out of them.

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There has been some talk linking the club with a move for World Cup star Memphis Depay during the off-season, too, though that may hinge on Rodriguez's Tottenham move. Depay would complete a perfect hat-trick of signings for Koeman, as the player with the third-highest rating in the Eredivisie last season (7.72), registering 19 goals and assists, whilst also leading the league for both successful dribbles (101) and shots (162), and ranking second for chances created (87).

20-year-old Depay showed in Brazil just how much confidence he exudes with a series of fine performances for Netherlands, particularly in the group stage games against Australia and Chile. His stock sky-rocketed at the tournament, and Koeman would do well to snap Depay up while the likes of Manchester United reportedly explore other, higher profile and more proven, options.

Dani Osvaldo is still at the club and though he may still be leaving there is also the chance that he could indeed come good on the south coast. It was a training ground bust-up with Jose Fonte that saw him forced out of the club, but Koeman, a well-respected disciplinarian, may be able to reconcile two players that he might well need this term. Osvaldo showed hints of brilliance in his 6 months at St Mary's - most notably in scoring a wonderful goal against Manchester City - and an uninspiring stint at Juventus is unlikely to convince other teams to pay out for him. It may thus be worth Koeman working on the relationship between the Italian and Fonte, now his most important defender at the club.

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With Dejan Lovren gone, Fonte will need a new partner at the back. Jos Hooiveld and Maya Yoshida are calamitous options, the former having scored 4 own goals in just 28 Premier League appearances and the latter having committed 3 errors that have led to a goal in his 40 games in the top flight of English football. Meanwhile, links with a move for Ron Vlaar make perfect sense. Said to be available for £10 million, Vlaar has proven his importance to Aston Villa during his time in England and a move to St Mary's probably represents his level, even if the response to his World Cup showings have seen calls for United to sign him.

This may be the key for Southampton and Koeman. There are plenty of clubs from which they can poach players in the same ruthless manner that others have done to them this summer. Leroy Fer from Norwich makes sense and would improve the team; Nathan Redmond has bags of potential and would likely improve in a better side with a better tutelage; coughing up for Wilfried Bony may even be worth it given the riches they now have; Gary Medel is unlikely to be happy remaining at Cardiff in the Championship; Curtis Davies may not be openly available but Southampton now have relative financial power; Lewis Holtby and Michael Dawson are both said to be out of sorts at Spurs. There is genuine value to be found in proven Premier League quality and Saints now have the money to go for this type of player rather than solely look to their youth system and abroad.

In Sam Gallagher and James Ward-Prowse Saints have two fantastically talented youngsters who will play yet more prominent roles next season, and although their fate is depressingly likely to see them move elsewhere if they are to succeed at St Mary's, for now they have a great chance to develop with regular Premier League football. Nathaniel Clyne remains, as do midfield trio Victor Wanyama, Steven Davis and Jack Cork, while Gastón Ramírez will hope to improve this season. Koeman will do well not to buy too many players this summer and completely revolutionise things at Southampton, while he also needs to be granted the necessary time to rebuild.

There are still good reasons for Southampton fans to be optimistic that their club has the ingredients in place to remain a force in the Premier League. Rebuffing the advances of Tottenham shows intent although player power may force their chairman's hand somewhat, but whatever eventually comes of those players, Saints should rest safe in the knowledge that they have recovered from worse situations previously and will do so this time around, too. Money breeds power football and Saints now have the chance to sit on the other side of the table in their summer business. The Premier League's other clubs should beware.

Do you think Southampton can recover from selling so many of their first team players? Let us know in the comments below

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com where you fid yet more stats and player ratings.