Southampton and Koeman Have the Steel to Make It Through a Tough Summer

24/06/2015 17:36 BST | Updated 24/06/2016 10:59 BST

Southampton had a pretty rough time last summer, losing a big handful of their best players. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers all moved on to 'big name' clubs, leaving the Saints facing doom, obscurity and even possible relegation, depending on who you listened to.

Instead, they actually managed to improve, finishing seventh - their highest ever Premier League place - and qualified for the Europa League under the steady guidance of Ronald Koeman.

What most sides need after a summer of massive upheaval is a quiet couple of years where everyone gets to settle back down again and return to some sort of rhythm. That's not going to happen at St Mary's.

Instead, it's going to be another summer of chaos and frantically trying to keep hold of at least a couple of the players who pulled the team up the table last season. Fun fun fun!

Nathaniel Clyne seems set for a switch to red - either at Old Trafford or Anfield - and there's interest from Italy in Graziano Pelle. Morgan Schneiderlin is going to... well, he's going somewhere, that much seems sure and Victor Wanyama is reported to have told Kenyan TV that he'd be interested if Arsenal came knocking to follow up on their rumoured interest.

Toby Alderweireld isn't actually a Saints player, but he spent last season on loan at St Mary's, and the club are said to have a deal with Atletico to take him on-board permanently. Except now there are a few spanners in the works there - the club are searching around for a better deal, with Spurs and Manchester United both interested. Alderweireld himself is said to be interested in a move that sees his future away from the south coast.

And yet, things aren't all doom and gloom. They really should be, with that many of their top performers getting ready to abandon ship, but there's a sense of "we've done this once, and we can do it again" around the club and the fans.

You'd expect that to a certain extent - admitting defeat and panicking wouldn't exactly be the best 'look' for them to be projecting - but they're right to be fairly confident. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that Southampton could actually finish next season in a better position than they did at the end of 2014/15, such is their steel on the pitch and behind the scenes.

Last season's success was built on an outstanding defensive record and while there are certainly some impending changes, there's a succession plan in place.

Cedric Soares has already been parachuted in from Sporting to replace Clyne at right-back and,while he's a relative unknown in the Premier League, he's got some very impressive performances behind him which show that Clyne may not be such a big loss.

Alderweireld not re-joining will be a blow, but Jose Fonte still has at least one more top-class season in him and the ever-improving Maya Yoshida has shown that he's at least good enough to merit a chance as a first-choice centre-back alongside Fonte.

If the club bring in any other centre-backs - they're linked with Celtic's Virgil van Dijk, among others - then their fearsome defensive record can absolutely continue. But personnel is only half the battle, if that. Even if you have some brilliantly talented players, as a few of the Saints' top-four challenging contemporaries know full well, you still have to get them to perform.

Fortunately, Ronald Koeman holds the reins at St Mary's.

A lot of coaches get undue credit for being good man-managers - just look at Brendan "got the most out of Luis Suarez for one good season but drove out Steven Gerrard and probably Raheem Sterling" Rodgers - but Koeman is a hell of a man-manager.

He joined the club last summer at a time of borderline crisis, with half-a-dozen new first teamers to integrate and at least as many departures to cover for, and managed to get everyone singing from the same hymn-sheet in just weeks.

The tributes to his excellence have been flooding in from his own players, Morgan Schneiderlin calling him "a calm person and good with human beings," and former international team-mate Ronald de Boer praising his understanding of people.

It's all-change at St Mary's again this summer, for sure. But with Koeman at the helm, the only way is up.

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