Will Southampton’s summer of discontent ever end?

Originally posted on Metro:

Morgan Schneiderlin wants to join Tottenham (Picture: Getty Images)

Another couple of dramatic days in the life of the Southampton fan. It must suck to support other clubs. Right guys?

A famous Irish philosopher once said ‘life is a roller coaster, just got to ride it.’ Right now the monumental ups and downs of Saints’ summer would rival anything Alton Park or Thorpe Towers has to offer!

With rumours spreading that Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin were the latest to be out of the door, heading to Spurs and a sickening love-in with Mauricio Pochettino, Saints fans were once again feeling low. What could raise them back up? Chairman Ralph Krueger going live on national radio to proclaim that neither player would be sold and that there were incoming transfers on the brink of completion.

All was well with the world again, and despite members of the board reassuring us (wrongly)…

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Ryan, Like a Lion, In Bayern: Bertrand Signs for Saints!

While Liverpool are busy signing Johnstone Paint Trophy winners, Saints sprung the surprise of the summer with one the papers didn’t get hold of, bringing Champion’s League winner Ryan Bertrand to the club from Chelsea on a season long loan with the option of a permanent move. Interestingly the Merseyside club had been trying to secure a deal for the defender but couldn’t agree a fee.

With Luke Shaw gone to Man United, left back was clearly somewhere the club lacked depth and Bertrand who started for the Blues in their triumph over Bayern Munich in 2012 looks a solid signing.

As always, through the heady mixture of ignorance and laziness I have got two experts to give us the lowdown on the new man.

I caught up with Chelsea fan David Dickson and given that Bertand has spent most of his Stamford Bridge career on loan, Aston Villa fan, freelance football writer and Club Metro colleague Andrew Raeburn.

Bertrand started in Chelsea’s Champion’s League final win, but has never made it as a regular at Stamford Bridge. What did you make of him?

DD ‘Firstly, Bertrand will always, always receive a hero’s welcome back at Stamford Bridge, especially now he hasn’t been shipped off to Liverpool and had to perform the ‘biggest club in the world’ PR initiative in his first interview. I remember the slightly baffled/borderline stunned reaction to hearing his name in the starting line-up that night in Munich from all involved, and his outstanding performance against Bayern in his first ever European appearance for anybody is testament to the balls the guy has. He always struck me as a try-hard; far from a player likely to dislodge Ashley Cole from his throne but enough about him to carry on regardless, taking his opportunities when they arose.’

Bertrand spent some time at Villa last season. What did you make of him?

AR ‘Left-back had been a massive problem for us in the first half of the season, so when Bertrand came in we were all chuffed, considering his background and pedigree (starting in the CL final, etc). He was excellent on his debut in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool, and had several other good games early in his loan spell. But after having to sit out our 1-0 win over his parent club in March (when Joe Bennett came in and was excellent at left-back), Bertrand really struggled. Partly this was down to our own defensive naivety, which appeared to infect him too at times and partly it was down to being shunted between left-back, left midfield and left wing-back. But there were occasions when he was our weakest link. I’d say overall he was solid without ever being spectacular, but disappointed because he was never as good as his Chelsea background suggested he should be.’

What would you say are his significant strengths and weaknesses?

DD ‘As stated previously, Ryan seems to enjoy a complete lack of fear on the big occasion. Following Munich, he was thrown into some of the bigger games towards the end of the (sigh) Rafa Benitez era and performed with similar aplomb. He is quick, with the ability to go forward at pace, whilst also reading the game relatively well, but his defensive ability seems to suffer as a result. He never seemed particularly strong and, as a result, his ability to simply make a tackle never really stood out. He would, on occasion, be caught out of position too, but when pushing up in a good, attacking side, this may be expected and can be forgiven.’

AR ‘One of the real plusses of his loan spell was how well he got forward and linked up with Fabian Delph on the left hand side of Villa’s central three in midfield. His crossing can be hit and miss but he knows which passes to pick out. Defensively, he struggled when isolated one-on-one. Whereas on his debut at Liverpool he was excellent against Raheem Sterling, who runs straight at people, he was given a real examination a couple of weeks later by Everton’s Aiden McGeady, had problems with Ashley Young and got into all sorts of bother against Stewart Downing. Unlike Sterling, all three of those dared to cut inside and go outside to try and beat him. It may be he just needs more support defensively.’

Bertrand the winner.

Bertrand the winner.

Do you see him as a player that has yet to reach his full potential, having been backup at Chelsea for some time?

DD ‘Sad as it is to say, but I feel his potential may not extend beyond his exploits for Chelsea. He still has a decent ten years left in him, obviously, but Ryan seems to be caught between not being technically good enough for a top side, but not able to defend well enough for a less-than-top side. He was exceptionally popular at Norwich, Reading and Forest by the sounds of things, and has long outgrown being a Championship player, but it is hard to see him doing anything but bouncing between mid-table clubs unless someone devotes the time to getting the best out of him. In a Chelsea side with Ashley Cole and the resources to bring in more experienced and better overseas players after Cole’s departure, that role was never going to be taken up by Mourinho, Benitez, Di Matteo…etc. (I’m sure this article has a word limit, so I won’t list them all).’

AR ‘Very much so. Until his loan spell at Villa, he had never really been given a proper run of starts at Premier League level, which is what you need to develop. Obviously he’s had his path blocked by one of the best left-backs England has ever seen, so he’s been unlucky in that regard. Until Cesar Azpilicueta became Ashley Cole’s main backup, Bertrand could never be sent on loan so he had to bide his time. He started 14 PL games in 2012-13 but all in blocks of three or four, never enough to make a mark or develop your game. I actually saw his only Chelsea start last season as well, by sheer coincidence. I was covering the Chelsea-Cardiff game for West London Sport and in the player ratings described Bertrand’s display as: “Always keen, got up and down and provided solid support for Eden Hazard but lacks the self-assurance and attacking penetration of Ashley Cole.” Trouble is, after a half-season of regular games at Villa, I’ve seen no improvement on that. However, I do think he just needs to settle down somewhere, as a trusted, starting left-back and get a full season of regular games under his belt. The only time he’s done that was for Reading in the Championship five years ago.’

Bertrand the Saint.

Bertrand the Saint.

What do you make of the goings on at Saints this summer?

DD ‘I find it all relatively extraordinary. Yes, players from unexpectedly successful sides are regularly burgled (arf) by sides with larger budgets the following season, but the sheer extent to which Liverpool (and seemingly, Spurs) have pilfered every player with ability you have is far beyond anything I’ve seen since the great Leeds exodus of the early 2000s. Ronald Koeman has moved in, and shortly after someone has nicked his fridge, shed, boiler and roof. I am sure there are financial nuances (zzz) to this masterplan, but it is hard to see how any replacements could fill the gaps that have been left and this season could be a real struggle for you chaps, unfortunately. You’re quite nice when you’re not moaning about little smoke bombs…’

AR ‘It’s inevitable really, once the bigger clubs started circling. We got the same treatment after coming 6th three years in a row under Martin O’Neill (you were trifling with the likes of Exeter and Stockport at the time, how things change!). We couldn’t keep Gareth Barry (£12m) and James Milner (£26m) away from Man City, nor Ashley Young (£17m) from Man Utd, nor Stewart Downing (£20m) from Liverpool. The only difference was it didn’t happen all in the same summer. Sometimes that can be worse, as it appears to the fans the club won’t ever keep hold of their best players. But that’s the way football is these days – even Everton, who contend for the Champions League spots, wouldn’t be able to prevent their top talent leaving if the title challengers came knocking. The important thing is reinvesting the money you earn, otherwise you end up like us. I can see why some Saints fans may be angry – it seems, from the outside, that the club isn’t doing much to stop the top players moving on. But when players sense the grass is greener (or their agent convinces them it might be) then you can’t stop them. Speaking of which…’

 
Can we have some other Chelsea players? Please.

DD ‘Rickie Lambert’s gone. You need to replace him with another reliable goal-machine. We have this lad, Fernando… And I’ll bloody drive Ramires to you.’

Can we have Ron Vlaar? Please.

AR ‘No. Leave Concrete Ron alone, please. He’s got a phobia of the sea, anyway. Hopefully.’

So there we have it. Thanks to David and Andrew for their contributions. Let’s hope I need some more contributors soon!
Chris

Just what is STILL going on at Southampton?

Originally posted on Metro:

Dejan Lovren followed Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert to Liverpool (Picture: Getty Images)

In a previous blog post I highlighted what I thought were the reasons for the high profile departures from Southampton so far, and why I thought it wasn’t time to panic just yet.

Since then the expected departure of Dejan Lovren looks set to be quickly followed by that of Calum Chambers, and now even I am starting to question the motives and ability of the club’s board to steer us in the right direction.

The Chambers deal makes little sense. Despite the fee being staggeringly high for a teenager with limited Premier League experience, it is the kind of transfer that completely defies the club’s youth policy, and reeks of ‘cashing in.’

Last season Chambers burst on to the scene after surprisingly being selected in for the opening game of the season, and continued sharing the…

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Southampton fans must keep calm and remember who they are

Originally posted on Metro:

England’s Adam Lallana is just one of many Southampton players to be sold this summer (Picture: Getty Images)

I was not expecting Southampton fans to be over the moon about the current transfer business in this summer window, but I wasn’t quite prepared for some of the over the top reactions from some.

It’s like they’ve forgotten who they are. Saints have always lost their top players to those bigger and supposedly better clubs, it’s the way it has always been. Talk of a fire-sale is crazy.

When Saints first team players are leaving for the likes of Stoke City and Aston Villa, then it will be time to worry about the intentions of the board. In reality are best players are being touted by clubs in a position to pay them more money and offer them Champion’s League football. It seems like a disaster because ‘so many’ are leaving…

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Ronald Koeman hits the ground running as Southampton eye Danny Ings and Steven Caulker

Originally posted on Metro:

Steven Caulker (R) has been linked with a move to Southampton (Picture: Getty Images)

Southampton’s new look team have had a fruitful trip to Belgium over the last week or so, seeing off Dutch side EHC Hoensbroek and Belgian side Sporting Hasselt 4-0 and 6-0 respectively.

New boy Graziano Pelle hit the ground running with two goals in his first 45 minutes of Saints football against Hasselt, while fellow newcomer Dusan Tadic and young winger Sam McQueen also stood out.

This was a flying start to life under Ronald Koeman, and although the opposition aren’t exactly world beaters, goals breed confidence and winning is fuelled by winning. This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting pre-seasons in Saints’ history, with more players certain to come in.

The latest names to appear to be getting closer to St Mary’s are that of Burnley forward (and Southampton fan) Danny Ings and Cardiff…

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Does Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers’ obsession with Southampton point to his own failings?

Originally posted on Metro:

Brendan Rodgers is clearly a fan of Southampton (Picture: Getty Images)

Not content with already having taken Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana from Southampton and unsettling Dejan Lovren to the point of mutiny, Brendan Rodgers has seemingly now turned his attention to Jay Rodriguez.

What is going on here Brendan? I know we played the prettiest football in the league last season, I know we shocked plenty of people with our achievements but really? You want all of our players?

There was a delicious irony in Lovren claiming that he wanted to move to Anfield because Saints were no longer showing ambition.

Within days of that statement Liverpool had sold their best player and been snubbed in favour of Arsenal by Alexis Sanchez. I think that would suggest questionable ambition too.

With a hideous amount of money to spend why is Rodgers so obsessed with Southampton players? Did he get a…

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Domino two is down! Graziano Pellè: The Lowdown

Someone said that once Tadic was signed it would be like dominoes in terms of incoming transfers. Well the first has fallen as Feyenoord forward Graziano Pellè has completed his move to the club.

It has hardly been a secret the Italian was on the verge of rejoining the coach who has overseen the two most successful seasons of his career in Holland, but what exactly is it that the club is investing in?

I caught up with what I think we can now consider ‘georgeweahcousin.com‘s Dutch correspondent’  Will Burns from totaldutchfootball.com and Feyenoord fan  Jacco van Keulen from wijzijnfeijenoord.nl (answers to follow) to see what they think Pellè can bring to St. Mary’s.

It’s taken a bit of time, but finally Pellè is a Saint. Is this the man to replace the talisman of the last five years (Rickie Lambert)?

WB ‘Pellè is a player I have admired for the past two seasons and I feel he is a perfect fit for the Premier League. At 6ft 4 inches, even though he is tall and physically strong, he is a delight to watch on the ball.’

There has been some talk of his hot temper. Given our experiences with Osvaldo, can this be tamed?

WB ‘I am unsure of Osvaldo as he is a player I have not followed but Pelle can be a hot head indeed. He has a great winning mentality and he can be explosive when things to do not go his way and has been known to sulk if his side are losing an important games.’

Welcome Graziano!

Welcome Graziano!

What are Pellè’s main strengths and weaknesses?

WB ‘He has a lot of strengths – excellent finishing, fantastic in the air, immense strength holding the ball up, great awareness. For weaknesses, the sulking and his temperament can be his only real downfalls.’

Forwards like Suarez and Bony have moved to the PL from Holland and been fantastic, van Wolfswinkel and Altidore not so much. Can Pellè make the transition?

WB ‘In my opinion, yes. A lot of strikers struggle with the pace and power of the Premier League – well the pace is faster in the Eredivisie and this guy is a massive 6ft 4 and immensely strong. Can he handle it, yes, if someone can get the ball crossed to him, he is beating that defender and the ball is ending up in the back of the net.’

Finally, both Tadic and Pellè have spoken of the ambition at Saints much like Koeman has. Are these players to take us up another level?

WB ‘Unsure about another level, as this is only two players in an eleven man team, and two players in a 20 man squad but they can certainly help out. If Southampton keep the ball on the ground, play football and do not resort to the long ball which many teams do here in England, Tadic will be a success. After watching Rickie Lambert, I know Pelle is a much classier striker and could surpass any successes the Scouser had for Southampton. The thought of Tadic and Pelle linking up is an exciting prospect, especially under Ronald Koeman. I will certainly focus on watching Southampton next year… when I find the time to watch the Premier League that is.’

So there we have it! Thanks to Jacco and Will for helping with this, make sure you check out wijzijnfeijenoord.nl and totaldutchfootball.com! Can’t wait for the next domino to fall…

Chris

Life Saint Easy: A Journey through Football Joy & Despair

A couple of years ago, I started making ‘notes’ on my life as a football supporter, in particularly my time following Saints. It was soon formed into chapters that could make a book, though I was never sure that anyone but me would be interested to read it.

I tentatively sent it to a couple of publishers and actually got some interest, though as writing is not my job I couldn’t commit to any time-scales or deadlines that would need to be met.

I toyed with the idea of self publishing, but again the nagging doubt crept in that actually, this is only a story that is relevant to me, my friends and family and perhaps those of a similar age who support Saints. It also dawned on me that I write this blog because I love talking about Saints. They are my passion and in no way do I feel any need to try and profit from that, I’ve had countless offers from bigger websites and organisations to take this site under their wing and make it into a money making venture, but it has never felt right and therefore I have kept it as it is, losing me money on a yearly basis (It’s a good year since I was sued by a photographer though, so fingers crossed!).

I have decided to take the same approach with this ‘book’ and publish the first chapter on here. If it get’s any interest then I will publish the rest as and when I see fit.

If you are a mid-thirties Saints fan who grew up in the eighties surrounded by people who support teams they have no emotional connection to, can appreciate the despair of watching text updates of a League One game at 4 AM in a Chinese hotel room or trying to get a signal to watch Manchester United v Aston Villa during an Iraqi insurgent rocket strike you might get something out of it….

Life Saint Easy: A Journey through Football Joy & Despair

Chris

Southampton close in on Graziano Pelle as Ronald Koeman’s rebuilding mission begins

Originally posted on Metro:

Feyenoord’s Italian forward Graziano Pelle is set to join Southampton (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronald Koeman gave his first press conference as Southampton boss yesterday and cut an impressive figure.

He spoke of no more planned sales, of there still being ambition at St. Mary’s and how the club had been sold to him on it’s future. He stated quite categorically that he would not have come had their been uncertainty.

In what was a new air of transparency as far as Saints was concerned he also confirmed that a deal was close for Italian striker Graziano Pelle from his old club Feyenoord.

Impressive. Adam Lallana is replaced, and now too will be Rickie Lambert. Just what the fans wanted to hear.

In Pelle Saints look to be getting a striker who is the very definition of prolific having scored 55 goals in 65 games under Koeman in Holland. That is…

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GUEST POST: What would Fraser Forster bring to Southampton?

‘With lot’s of incoming transfer speculation surrounding Saints at the moment (and not a moment too soon) I thought it might be interesting to see what the rumoured new boy could bring to our squad. Thanks to Matthew Harris from Betfair for this guest contribution.’ – Chris

What would Fraser Forster bring to Southampton?

Reports emerging in the last few days suggest that Saints are ready to battle with Benfica for the signature of England goalkeeper Fraser Forster. The 26 year old has been with Celtic since 2010, signing permanently in 2012 after an initial loan period and he came to prominence last season after setting an SPL record for the longest period without conceding a goal.

Any full England international would be a welcome addition to the Southampton squad but does Ronald Koeman stand a chance of landing the player and what would he bring to St Mary’s?

A stable option?

Southampton are priced at 11/1 with Betfair for a top six finish at the end of 2014-15 but if we are to crash the European places, a consistent and injury free custodian is one of Koeman’s main priorities. Artur Boruc may be a controversial figure as far as other clubs are concerned but he quickly becomes a fans’ favourite with his respective employers. The main issue with the Pole is his appearances and a number 1 would preferably play more than 50 league games out of a possible 76 over two seasons.

Contrast that record with the clubs who finished just ahead of Southampton last season. Spurs, Everton and Manchester United all have reliable stoppers in Hugo Lloris, Tim Howard and David de Gea and their near ever-presence is a positive factor for each side.

No-one can guard against a freak injury but the first thing that Fraser Forster should bring to Southampton is a consistent option behind the back four.

Is Fraser Forster heading to St. Mary's?

Is Fraser Forster heading to St. Mary’s?

Quality

Forster’s record breaking exploits last season provide some remarkable statistics. The 26 year old claimed no less than 13 consecutive clean sheets and an incredible 1256 minutes without conceding before Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes finally found a way past him.

Naturally, any detractors will be quick to point out that the Scottish Premier League doesn’t contain quite the same threat that the English version will pose, should Forster make the switch. That may be a valid point but 13 clean sheets is an amazing achievement, no matter where the games are played.

So Fraser Forster would bring consistency and an improvement in technical ability to St Mary’s but what are Koeman’s chances of landing him?

The Contenders

Benfica are thought to have been monitoring Forster for at least a year now and have previously been warned by Celtic against tapping up their player. This summer, the Portuguese giants are expected to make it official with a £6m bid and there are obvious temptations in playing with such a prestigious club in a pleasant climate.

Southampton have at least two advantages here: Firstly, having made in excess of £60m in player sales already, the transfer fee should not be an issue. In fact, if it gets down to a bidding war, Koeman would, in theory, have money to work with.

The second factor may be the most crucial one however as Forster looks to build on his two England caps and potentially replace Joe Hart as Roy Hodgson’s first choice. In Portugal he would, in all probability, escape the manager’s radar but at St Mary’s he would be in front of Hodgson and his managerial team on a weekly basis.

Ironically, Artur Boruc praised Forster when he was named in England’s 2014 World Cup squad.

“I still watch Celtic games on TV so I saw him in the Champions League and I can see he is a good keeper. I’m not surprised he has been selected,” he said.

In a short space of time they could be joining up at St Mary’s and surely that would be good news for all Saints Fans?

Matthew Harris