Much has been made of the 'gutting' of Southampton after a summer exodus that most seem to have suggested will leave the Saints down to the bare bones. What is evident though is the lack of panic in the transfer market as far as incomings are concerned.
While Ronald Koeman was quick to seal deals for the former Eredivisie pairing of Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle, effectively replacing Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert respectively, the doors to St. Mary's have been flung open with decreasing frequency. Only loanees Saphir Taider, Dani Osvaldo (exchanged) and Ryan Bertrand have tread in or out since a flurry of early exits. Meanwhile, the likes of Jay Rodriguez and, in particular, Morgan Schneiderlin are involved in somewhat of a lock-in following the departures of a quintet of first teamers.
Few would argue that Southampton have received good money for the outbound stars of a record breaking 2013/14 season, with the main worry seemingly the state in which it has left the current squad. On reflection of the remaining personnel at the club, the lack of desperation to recruit seems just.
As mentioned, Tadic and Pelle are as like-for-like as they come as far as Lallana and Lambert are concerned, while the aforementioned Bertrand will be tasked with offering the same verve from left-back as Luke Shaw. That much is certainly a stretch if his spell at Aston Villa last season was anything to go by (6.43 rating), not exactly improving matters in a team whose defensive positioning was among the worst in the league. In fact, the Villans actually shipped 2.13 goals per game over his 16 appearances compared to an average of just 1.23 in his absence. Saints fans will hope that regular game time in a more organised system should see the 25-year-old prove to be a dependable if unspectacular acquisition.
On the other flank Calum Chambers' departure was certainly a blow given his potential but Southampton are far better equipped to cope. Mauricio Pochettino seemingly struggled to gauge which of his two right-back options was the better last season. Nathaniel Clyne started the campaign prior to injury but saw his place come under threat following Chambers' assured displays as his deputy - initially at least. Clyne started 20 league games with his junior teammate filling the void for the remaining 18.
It was Clyne, however, who earned the superior rating from WhoScored.com (6.94 to 6.83), with his influence in the attacking third a particular asset. The pair's defensive contribution was similar, with Chambers edging it as far as a combined average of 3.6 tackles and interceptions per game were concerned (Clyne - 3.3). However, the former Palace full-back offers a significantly stronger threat going forward, averaging 1.1 key passes per game to Chambers' 0.5 and picking up 4 assists where the teenager failed to register a single one.
At just 23 Clyne has his best years ahead of him and is more than capable of covering for Chambers' departure, assuming he avoids injury. A feature when the now Arsenal man played last season was Luke Shaw's increasing positivity. The England international would bomb on knowing that Chambers would sit back to ensure the team didn't commit too many men forward on the other side. With Bertrand a more conservative option at left-back, Clyne may now have that license to show just what he can do in the final third and put himself in the popular St. Mary's shop window in turn.
Another player that will hope to profit from this summer's mini exodus is Gaston Ramirez, who has failed to settle on the South Coast for a variety of reasons. Injuries have certainly hampered his progress following what most felt was a real coup for the club in capturing - at the time - one of the brightest young talents in Serie A from Bologna. Never really afforded a prolonged spell in the side, Ramirez has been unable to justify the hype that surrounded his arrival in 2012, but Adam Lallana's departure may allow for that, despite the addition of Tadic.
The Uruguayan really needs to be handed a free role to flourish and while the Saints system was a fluid one under Pochettino, Lallana was given the most license to roam. Ramirez has, nonetheless, shown glimpses of what he is capable of in the Premier League and it should be remembered that the transition from the Italian style of play to England is among the most drastic.
The 23-year-old has been limited to 44 league appearances for Saints and just 23 from kick off. The fact, then, that he has contributed directly to 12 league goals (6 goals, 6 assists) is commendable. When considering the time he has spent on the field over the past two seasons, Ramirez has only made a key pass marginally less often than Lallana (every 49 minutes to 48) but has fired off a shot at goal (every 29 to 44) and completed a dribble (every 50 to 59) more frequently.
The one area in which Southampton will need to strengthen prior to the campaign is at centre-back following the loss of Dejan Lovren, who earned the highest rating from WhoScored at the club last season (7.32). While Jose Fonte was solid in the most part last season and Maya Yoshida is an experienced international at just 25, Jos Hooiveld - who has developed somewhat of a penchant for own goals - is not the most convincing back up and, in truth, no combination of the three are likely to be of the requisite quality to sustain a finish to rival that of the previous campaign. Both Marcos Rojo and Ron Vlaar, who impressed at the World Cup, have been linked and would add quality and that should be the one priority this summer.
Elsewhere in the squad, however, there is little cause for concern. The fans will be hoping to see more of James Ward-Prowse and Victor Wanyama in midfield next season, while the signings of Tadic and Pelle are positive steps. If Koeman can harness the still considerable talents at his disposal another top half finish shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.
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