For the second summer in succession, Southampton have found themselves with several of their stars in demand following another highly productive campaign which left the many doubters stunned. The mass exodus of 2014 has so far not been repeated and is unlikely to be, but two of their biggest assets in right-back Nathaniel Clyne and long-serving midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin have both moved on.
Clyne’s future was shrouded in uncertainty for some time before he joined Liverpool in June, reuniting with several of his former Saints teammates in doing so, while French international Schneiderlin has ended his seven-year stay by adding to Manchester United’s midfield reinforcements, 12 months after being denied the chance to leave.
While it is of course disappointing to lose such a key pair, manager Ronald Koeman and chairman Ralph Krueger know the club is capable of rebuilding again, and finding more than able replacements. The man who will seemingly be taking over Clyne’s position in the team for next term is Cedric Soares, a player who has been gradually enhancing his reputation in recent times by gaining his first four caps for Portugal and helping Sporting Lisbon to a domestic cup.
With Schneiderlin having left as recently as Monday, the South coast club have again acted quickly to fill the gap that has been left behind. Dutch international midfielder Jordy Clasie is a player with significant experience at a high level, playing for the Netherlands in their superb run to third place in the 2014 World Cup. What’s more, he knows Koeman – as well as some of the players – very well, having played under him at Feyenoord, and will offer a solidly creative presence alongside the combative Victor Wanyama.
As they also have the Europa League to contend with in the season ahead, there has been an eye on adding more strength in depth. The forward line looks particularly strong, with rising star Juanmi coming in from Malaga to join the powerful Graziano Pelle, the hardworking Shane Long and the livewire that is Sadio Mane. Meanwhile, Jay Rodriguez will almost feel like a new signing after missing well over a year due to a serious knee injury.
In defence there is little room for improvement, given their fine record throughout the whole of last season. Soares must prove that he can adapt in the Premier League and be as stubborn as Clyne, and after failing to bring back Toby Alderweireld on a permanent basis the responsibility will again be on the shoulders of their outstanding captain Jose Fonte. Another new signing from the Eredivisie, Cuco Martina, is among the candidates to play alongside him.
All in all the Saints are a very well-run club, and one that simply refuses to panic when those on the outside claim they about to plummet into a downward spiral. They will relish the chance to make light of the extra burden provided by regular Thursday evening football, and with the forward-thinking Koeman in charge, there is no reason to suggest that the club cannot emulate the achievements of last season and sustain a place in the upper reaches of the Premier League
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