As Claude Puel prepares to face his former boss in Arsene Wenger this weekend I wonder if he will cast his eye across his countryman’s squad and ponder on what might have been ?
For there will be three names on the list that are yet to live up to their potential after swapping St. Mary’s for North London.
As a man famed for nurturing and developing young talent in France, he must be bemused at the lack of progress made my Messrs. Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chambers.
Three players who all looked like they had the world at their feet when breaking on to the scene on the South Coast and now nothing more than bit part players and squad fodder at the Premier League’s champion also rans.
Theo Walcott is perhaps the best example. He has completed 10 years as an Arsenal player and despite his only being 27 years old, looks jaded and much older having only played on average 16 complete games for the Gunners for the last seven seasons. Is this the return we as Saints fans expected when we saw this exciting young forward burst into the limelight in 2005?
For me Walcott has always been a striker, and it seems (I’m sure statistically this isn’t necessarily the case) whenever he is given the chance in that role for Arsenal or England he scores. Yet, perhaps a victim of the modern tactics and formations, he has been pigeon holed as a winger-cum-forward often pushed out wide. My point is, Walcott should have been a key striker for England, and Arsenal’s misuse of him has made him something of a joke.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain we still hold out hope for. A dynamic attacking midfielder and still only 23, Chamberlain is another whose abilities should have seen him as a key player in the international setup by now. Enter Arsene Wenger. The Ox scored more goals in his solitary season for Saints than he has so far in an Arsenal shirt (he is embarking on his sixth season at the Emirates), and would appear to be little more than a backup player.
Both AOC and Walcott have had their injury problems admittedly, but then who at Arsenal doesn’t? Perhaps there is something in their training regime there or are the medical/recovery facilities not up to Saints standard?
Last but not least, the one that is most recent in it’s frustration is Calum Chambers. A local Hampshire boy who shone at right back in the Premier League under Mauricio Pochettino at Saints, yet finds himself as fourth/fifth choice centre half under Wenger. So far down the pecking order that he has been loaned out to Middlesbrough, and to be honest that is the best thing for him. It was bamboozling to most Saints fans that given we struggle at times in the right full back position we didn’t make this move ourselves.
Now, I’m not telling Monsieur Wenger how to pick his team, far from it, though I think he might be confused at times about what his own policy is. Famed for annoying his own fans by not spending their wealth, you would think pushing the young players on would be his priority but apparently not.
It’s reasonably sad to see him invest in a centre half that didn’t make the grade at Everton (Mustafi) in the Premier League, while sending out a young English defender who did at Saints out on loan.
The Southampton Academy puts a lot of hard work into developing the best English young players, perhaps if you aren’t prepared to continue that development, don’t buy them?
7th July 2012. Saints sign David McGoldrick from Nottingham Forest for £775k
9th July 2012 .David Connolly and Radhi Jaidi are released.
18th July 2012. Ryan Dickson is sold to Swindon Town for £375k
Saints open their first campaign back in the Championship with a trip to title favourites Cardiff City, they lose 1-0, but put in an impressive performance. They lineup:- Davis, Butterfield, Seaborne, Martin, Shaw, Ward-Prowse, Hammond (c), Ritchie, Chaplow, Barnett, McGoldrick.
Youngsters Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse make their league débuts and suitably impress.
The team take confidence from their decent start and go on a six game unbeaten run, ending September in 6th place and prompting talk of successive promotions.
A couple of injuries to key players take their toll and Saints form dips, culminating in a dreadful run of 12 games without a win, leaving them 18th as the end of the January transfer window neared. Saints fans were hoping that the board would strengthen the squad so as to prevent a relegation battle.
21st January 2013. Luke Shaw is sold to Arsenal for £4 million.
Saints form is erratic for the rest of the season as they struggle to cope with the rigours of the Championship with a young inexperienced squad. They find themselves in the relegation zone with three games to go but rally enough to win the first two. They go into the final game of the season knowing that a point will save them, but could go down with a defeat due to their poor goal difference. They draw 2-2 with Barnsley at St. Mary’s and finish 19th.
1st June 2013. Jason Dodd is relieved of his duties as Southampton manager. Assistant Paul Williams also leaves.
18th June 2013. James Ward-Prowse is sold to newly promoted Cardiff City for £1.2 million.
20th June 2013. Kelvin Davis announces his retirement.
30th June 2013. Saints sign Newcastle United goalkeeper Rob Elliot on a season long loan.
14th July 2013. The Saints board make a statement saying that the past seasons have taken a toll on the club financially and it is now up for sale.
16th July 2013. Martin Hunter is promoted from U21’s coach to first team manager.
2013/14 The Championship
Saints open the season with defeat at Nottingham Forest, lining up Elliot, Chambers, Seaborne, Martin, Targett, Chaplow, Hammond (c), Ritchie, McQueen, Barnett, McGoldrick. Despite the poor feeling around the club and the coming season, Saints start well and are 9th by the start of October.
A run of defeats sees them drop to 15th and with strong rumours that the board are looking to cash in on the performances of youngsters Calum Chambers and Sam McQueen, relegation seems a very real possibility.
As the club hit January they sit in 13th and the board reiterate their stance that the club is for sale.
4th January 2014. Calum Chambers is sold to Liverpool for £2.8 million.
16th January 2014. Saints announce that the club has been sold to an American investor.
28th January 2014. Saints sign Danny Ings from Burnley as the first player under the new regime for £1.8 million.
Saints see out the remainder of the season in indifferent form that quickly turns to poor form culminating in a 10 game streak without a win, but with the goals from Ings and a unified more confident squad under the new owners, they find themselves safe from relegation with two games to play and would spend the summer preparing for a third season in the Championship.
It’s worth remembering that in reality the last four seasons have been pretty good…
I’m not sure I ever expected it to go this quick, but we really have reached the end of the ‘Five Year Plan’. It hardly seems fathomable that the club that lined up on the 8th August 2009 to play out a 1-1 draw with Millwall in League One, would mark the end of the ‘plan’ with a 1-1 draw with Champions of England Manchester United in the same stadium.
What a five years it’s been. Considering the original plan was to get Southampton into the Premier League, the fact that that has clearly been achieved (a year early), a trophy has been won along the way and the final season saw us break into the top eight, I would say we can consider it a complete success.
Three managers, Two promotions, One trophy and Seventy Seven Players! Can the next five years really live up to it?
So that is the end of another fantastic season following Saints! No season would be officially over though without a spate of reviews and awards.
This site is no different and yet again the response to this years Ali awards has been fantastic, and this is what is up for grabs:-
So without further ado, here are YOUR winners….
Player of the Year
This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.
Scored points:- Rickie Lambert (< 1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Jose Fonte (<1%), Artur Boruc (<1%), Nathaniel Clyne (<1%), Morgan Schneiderlin (2%), Jack Cork (5%), Steven Davis (6%), Luke Shaw (7%).
3rd Place:- Dejan Lovren (13%)
2nd Place:- Jay Rodriguez (18%)
And the winner, making it a clean sweep in all Player of the Season awards, and about to find out for certain that he is off to Brazil! With a whopping 46% of the points……Adam Lallana!
Most Improved Player
The beauty of this award is that everyone interprets it differently. Some went for an overall improvement on last season, while others voted for those who improved over the course of the campaign.
Received Votes:- Whole Squad, Victor Wanyama. Sam Gallagher, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Jack Cork, Dejan Lovren, Steven Davis, Luke Shaw.
3rd Place:- Calum Chambers (11%)
2nd Place:- Jose Fonte (31%)
And the winner, retaining the same award that he one last season, after a fantastic season in which he finished top scorer. With 37% of the votes…..Jay Rodriguez!
Young Player of the Year
A new award this season, though why, considering how good this club’s youth system is, I haven’t done it before is beyond me!
Received Votes:- Harrison Reed
3rd Place:- James Ward-Prowse & Sam Gallagher (2% each)
2nd Place:- Calum Chambers (15%)
And the winner, having broken into the England squad in time for the World Cup and turning the heads of the big clubs, it could only be. With 80% of the votes….Luke Shaw!
Received Votes:- Mauricio Pochettino, Guly, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Morhan Schniederlin, Victor Wanyama.
3rd Place:- Jose Fonte (7%)
2nd Place:- Jack Cork (17%)
And the winner is, after a season in which he has proved crucial to the way Saints play. With 60% of the votes…..Steven Davis!
Signing of the Season
2nd Place:- Victor Wanyama (8%)
And the winner with a ridiculous 92% of the votes is the ever dependable centre half and absolute bargain ant £8.5 million….Dejan Lovren!
Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)
Received Votes:- Team v Everton (h), Team v Man City (h), Team v Arsenal (h), Team v Fulham (a), Team v Hull (h), Pochettino’s season, Wanyama v WBA (a), Lovren v Liverpool (a), Back Four all season, Clyne v Everton (h), Schneiderlin v Arsenal (h), Team v Man Utd (a), Lallana v Newcastle (h), Team v Palace (a), Team v Fulham (h), Guly v Yeovil, The Groundsmen, Chambers v Man City (h).
3rd Place:- Lallana v Hull (h) (9%)
2nd Place:- Team v Newcastle (h) (22%)
And the winner is, a memorable day early in the season in which a team that hammered plenty this season were made to look very ordinary. With 29% of the votes……Team v Liverpool at Anfield!
The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment
It says everything about the gallows humour of being a Saints fan that this award always comes with most varied answers. Brace yourselves….
Received Votes:- #Scarfgate, Boruc’s headstand against Arsenal, Linesman missing David Silva offside at Man City, Jason Puncheon’s poo break (last season but still funny to someone), Pochettino’s interview after Man City, #lovrenlive tweets, Hooiveld & Fox v Spurs, Boat capsizing in the Thames at HT v Fulham, Pochettino’s interview after Everton game, Newcastle fans video after St. Mary’s mauling, Jack Wilshire bouncing off Wanyama, MELTDOWN, Asimir Begovic Goal at Stoke, Dani Osvaldo, Dani Osvaldo on the touchline at Newcastle, Training nutmeg videos, Ref getting slapped in the face at Newcastle, Lovren’s injured testicles, Rodriguez scoring on his arse at Palace, Boruc and the waterbottle (again last season), Lambert’s goal v Swansea, Paul Lambert claiming Villa deserved their victory at St. Mary’s, Fulham, Mark Clattenburg (take your pick), Lovren’s tweet about Peter Crouch, Americans watching Saints because of Jozy Altidore, Villa fans ‘We pay your benefits’, Toni Jiminez kicking off, Lambert’s miss at Sunderland, Team selection for FA Cup at Sunderland, Masks at Swansea, Schneiderlin dumping Yaya Toure on his arse, Lovren getting spanked.
2nd Place:- Wanyama’s disallowed goal celebration against Swansea & Everton’s double O.G. at St. Mary’s (Both 12%).
And the winner, with 24% of the votes, not so funny at the time but hard not see the amusing die now…..Artur Boruc’s ‘Cruyff turns’ at Arsenal!
Best Opposition Team
Received Votes:- Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton, Sunderland.
3rd Place:- Arsenal (5%)
2nd Place:- Liverpool (31%)
And the winner is, the only team that outplayed Saints twice this season. With 57% of the votes……Chelsea!
Best Opposition Player
Received Votes:- Christian Eriksen (Spurs), Nathan Redmond (Norwich City), Oscar (Chelsea), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Willian (Chelsea), David Elliott (Newcastle United), Officials, Emmanuel Adebayor (Spurs), David Silva (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jussi Jaskeleinan (West Ham United), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Nathan Dyer (Swansea City), Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Fabio Borini (Sunderland), Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham), Yaya Toure (Manchester City).
3rd Place:- Fernando Torres (Chelsea) (6%)
2nd Place:- Eden Hazard (Chelsea) (20%)
And the winner is, the man everybody loves to hate but is simply an unbelievable footballer. With 22% of the votes…Luis Suarez!
Best Opposition Fans
Received Votes:- Newcastle United, Swansea City, Hull City, Manchester City, Portsmouth (?), Fulham, Arsenal, Sunderland, None stood out, Everton, Yeovil Town, Manchester United, Don’t Care, Spurs, Norwich City, Burnley, West Ham.
3rd Place:- Cardiff City & Chelsea (6% each)
2nd Place:- Liverpool (16%)
And the runaway winners and certainly my choice after their constant and varied noise at St. Mary’s. With 42% of the votes…Crystal Palace!
Best Saints related Tweeter
As always this award is just a bit of fun and plenty of people vote for themselves!
Received votes:- crstig, James Price, Sridout92, Jim Lucas, mgnsnddn_, Dejan Lovren, dictateplay, danbsfc, Luke Shaw, Artur Boruc, Max_Sopel, Radhi Jaidi, TalkSaints,Matthew Le Tissier, TractorSaint, jamie_benjamin1, Saints Media Team, BigAdamSport, TacoAli, Kelly Mauger, Saints News&Views, L1minus10, uglyinside, gulydopradonaat, Mike1617, SamDobson1, saintsfc, Not going to blow smoke up your arse, Sirvoodoo, SaintsArg, Me, SaintsRelated, MatthewLeGod, Most are mongs, You’re all miserable, Glasgow_Saints, Victor Wanyama, Rich Robertson, markreeves999, Anyone but Chris Rann.
3rd Place:- Club’s Official Account (7%)
2nd Place:- Simon Peach (8%)
And the winner is with 9% of the votes the Peter Crouch of the Saints micro-blogging fraternity….@ConnorArmstrong!
S0 that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted. A big thank you to Dan Tiller for the Photoshop wizardry! It’s been a great season! Here’s to a great summer watching more Saints boys than ever competing at a major tournament and then it will be time to look forward to another campaign following the South Coast’s top club!