There has been much made of whether or not Saints have had a ‘successful’ Summer transfer window or not, and on the face of it, losing Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne was always going to make it difficult to convince a lot of the fanbase that it could be anything other than a failure.
Lots of people have raised concerns recently about the clubs policy of replacing the outgoing players with cheaper alternatives, and this coinciding with a poor start on the pitch meant people’s worries were seriously heightened. I don’t pretend to be completely comfortable with it myself but talk of relegation and impending doom is way too early. With the confirmation on deadline day that Saints had ended the window as the Premier League’s ‘net spend’ winners you have to say that if Ronald Koeman can get his team back to form and have another decent showing come the end of the campaign, then we perhaps have the shrewdest owners in football.
It is still too early to tell just how good or bad the incoming players are, but for me these three signings give Saints fans good reason to be optimistic.
I was a little put out by the lack of fuss the English media made of this signing, and in my opinion it was somewhat of a coup. Let’s be honest, if Koeman wasn’t in charge, Saints are never signing this player. You can’t take too much notice of supporter born superlatives, but the ‘Dutch Xavi’ is highly regarded in Holland and was long the subject of interest from Manchester United. Many people have said that they don’t see him as an adequate replacement for Schneiderlin, well let me put it to you that he isn’t here to be that. I think he is seen as a replacement for Steven Davis, sitting in front of the defensive midfield two and dictating play. Davis has done little wrong in a Saints shirt, but I see Clasie as a step up and it was gutting to see him pick up an injury so early into the campaign.
2. Oriol Romeu
If we are talking about Schneiderlin replacements, Spaniard Romeu is the man with that huge task on his hands in my opinion. The former Barcelona youth/B teammate of Messi, Fabregas et al looked to have made his breakthrough at Chelsea under Andre Villas-Boas but proved less popular with subsequent managers in West London and found himself one of the many victims of the Stamford Bridge Footballer borrowing library. Romeu has already proved to be a competent and combatant competitor in defensive midfield and could prove to be a steal at just £5 million. If Victor Wanyama can get over himself and forge a partnership with Romeu it will likely be one of the toughest in the division.
3. Virgil van Dijk
When the fallout of the farce involving Toby Alderweireld was that the Belgian had proved himself to be just another of football’s snakes, Saints fans were rightly worried about the lack of options at centre half. With many still untrusting of Maya Yoshida (though in my opinion he has been outstanding of late) and Florin Gardos both untested and then joining the long term injury list there was a clear gap in the squad. With all due respect to him, the loaning of Steven Caulker did little to appease that feeling, so the drawn out abut ultimately successful pursuit of Dutchman van Dijk was a nice way to round off the Summer window. I have high hopes for this transfer.van Dijk is a classy ball playing centre half and although there are no guarantees in football I think he will successfully make the step up. The lure of the Premier League has already improved his international prospects, having been called into the Dutch squad on Thursday and the incentive for him to stay there is to prove a hit in a better league.
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?
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.’
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…
I honestly didn’t think I’d be writing about another new Saints manager this soon, but as the disappointment of Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to enter the Premier League sack race lingered like a bad smell today’s long awaited official announcement that Dutch legend Ronald Koeman has replaced him has brought a feel good factor back to St. Mary’s.
Mr. Koeman dashed my 14 year old dreams back in 1993 when his freekick (he’s going to flip one!) saw England fail to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, but now he is the man that has the responsibility of continuing the progression of my beloved Saints.
As is customary on georgeweahscousin.com, rather than give my uninformed opinions on what we can expect from the former centre half I spoke to those who truly know.
Firstly, Koeman takes over on the back of Saints best ever Premier League season. Do you think he can have an immediate impact? Perhaps even improve on it?
JvK ‘Well, let me be honest on this one. When Koeman arrived at Feyenoord we were really sceptical. His name wasn’t that popular among the supporters. He was pretty much known as someone who was tactically poor, and as someone who would jump on a train to the next club as soon as he got the chance. We couldn’t have been more wrong, Koeman surprised us all.
Yes I do think he will have an impact. He has guts and isn’t afraid to try something completely new. As far as results go Saints were pretty good this year, and I do think Koeman needs some time to adapt, but I think he will do a good job, and that Saints have chosen a great manager.’
WB ‘With any manager coming into a new league, it is almost impossible to predict and Ronald Koeman has had previous bad experiences in other countries out of comfort zone of the Eredivisie. While managing Benfica and Valencia he failed to make an impact and even placed the latter in relegation trouble. However, Koeman will have more experience on the touchline now and will thrive on this challenge and will give it his all to make it a successful tenure.’
Mauricio Pochettino was a popular figure at St. Mary’s serving up fantastic football and decent results, how will Koeman’s style of play impress us?
JvK ‘Koeman has a lot of guts. He always tries to surprise the opposition. He will know how the opposition plays, and he is very good at picking a team to suit the style of the opposition. He has the help of his brother Erwin, who has also been manager at Feyenoord, with more limited player resources than Ronald. They both like an attractive style of play, and as long as they have the players for that, they will try to satisfy the support.’
WB ‘Koeman likes attacking football, at Feyenoord, the last few seasons, some great young wingers emerged from the youth teams and Koeman played to their strengths. He placed a big Italian striker Graziano Pelle into the middle of the park and let the wingers bang crosses in for him. He likes using pace so look for him to bring through some speed to the Southampton attack.’
Saints pride themselves on their development of youth players and bringing them into the first team and eventually becoming international footballers, it seems in Koeman we may have the right man to continue this. How did he implement this at Feyenoord?
JvK ‘Well, he didn’t had a choice. Feyenoord weren’t able to bring new players in, so he had to take a look at the youth. He immediately put young players on the pitch and they had an incredible impact. Feyenoord have the best youth players in Holland. There were some youngsters who were already pretty close to the first team, and he just let them play. At first some of them had some adjustment problems, but most of them have become international players also. Just check out the dutch national team. Koeman is very good with young players and I certainly think he can continue to bring them into the first team for Southampton.’
WB ‘In the Netherlands, nearly every club brings through the youth which is what makes the Eredivisie one of the most exciting leagues in the world. The hungry attackers versus the inexperienced defenders, which provides lots of chances created. You don’t need me to tell you about the vast of talent that the Saints have brought through and Koeman will be a huge fan of this. The amount of players from Feyenoord over the past 12 months that made their debut for the Oranje national side is immense.
Stefan de Vrij (22), Daryl Janmaat (24), Terence Kongolo (20), Bruno Martins Indi (22) and Jordy Clasie (22) are all currently in the World Cup squad with Jean-Paul Boëtius (20) and Tonny Vilhena (19) just missing out. You can see from that list of the progression of those players under Koeman, so I can see that is one thing the Dutchman will be aspiring to do at Southampton.’
Many of Saints first team (Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Dejan Lovren most prominently) are being linked with moves away from the club. How is Koeman as a leader, could he persuade them to stay?
JvK ‘Well, I don’t think he is going to do that. Koeman isn’t a manager who wants to convince players to stay, if they want to leave they can leave. He will give his opinion about the transfers though, and if I was a player I should listen to that. Koeman knows how to plan your career as a player, but he wont try to keep them at the club, that’s up to the players.’
WB ‘I think he could, he’s a great man manager and motivator and also a well respected figure in the world of football. Not only could keep players at the club, if he had the chance and some funds, he attract some of the world’s best. You have to remember, this guy is a winner. Across Holland as a player, he won domestic honours as well as starring in European Cup winning teams at PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona. On top of that, he was also major part of the Netherlands’ European Championship winning side in 1988. Anyone with those credentials should be enough to build a team.’
Are there any negative aspects of his management style that we should be prepared for?
JvK ‘He can be a bit harsh from time to time. We have seen him talk negative about his own players several times. Also he can get into disagreements with players, especially when those players think they are larger than the club.’
WB ‘The style of possession play and attacking football that he likes to instruct his team to do could leave gaps at the back in the Premier League. Other than that, nothing really springs to mind, I guess time will tell.’
And finally, we are already being linked with the likes of Graziano Pelle, Lex Immers and Virgil van Dijk. Do you see Koeman going back to Feyenoord and who do you see as decent acquisitions for Saints?
JvK ‘We at Feyenoord have a love/hate relationship with Lex Immers. I personally think he is a great player with amazing stamina, but he is very bad in front of the goal. He needs 100 chances to score a goal. Graziano Pelle has been fantastic for Feyenoord. We didnt expect that, because he was terrible at his previous clubs. As long as the players around him know what to do, he will score. But he also has a bad temper. Further, Feyenoord have several young players who have been linked with several clubs already. But for now I think Lex Immers would be a decent signing.’
WB ‘Pellè has had disciplinary problems through the last 12 months at Feyenoord in which the club actually banned the player from selection for four games. The big Italian booted a window after losing to vital match in the title race earlier this year, then insulted a Fox Sports interviewer the week after. This is a big no-no in the world of Dutch football, where the philosophy over there is all about respect. Koeman will not have liked this, even though the player was slotting in around 25-30 goals per season. I cannot see him coming over to England due to that, even though he’s a big strong guy with good feet, great in the air and would be a perfect fit for replacing Rickie Lambert. Another downside is that he is 29 years old now and not someone that could be progressed at the club.
I personally do not think Lex Immers would be good enough for the Premier League but big Virgil would. He’s never played under Koeman as of yet but I’m sure Ronald would love him there.’
Yesterday, former Saints centre half Ken Monkou set off on a new footballing journey as his new magazine ‘Football Life‘ was launched at Stamford Bridge.
The dutchman made 233 appearances for Southampton after joining from Chelsea in August 1992 for a fee of £750k. He proved a popular figure at the Dell, with his commanding performances at the back essential to several survival battles.
He stayed on the South Coast until the summer of 1999 when he moved to Huddersfield Town before retiring in 2002.
Since his playing days Ken has continued to be in and around football including coaching at Chelsea, managing young players, media work and organising friendly matches/tournaments for clubs including Feyenoord and Liverpool.
His latest venture though seems him enter the world of printed media.
‘Football Life‘ is a stylish, insightful magazine focusing on the untold, human stories surrounding the world of football. Containing candid interviews with the game’s leading players as well as various behind-the-scenes personalities, the magazine provides an exciting glimpse into the world’s most popular sport. From the humble kitman to world famous superstars, FL offers a unique voice within football. Intriguing and offering a new perspective, FL gives an in-depth appraisal of its subject matter whilst remaining true to its core values of honesty, and integrity.
A concept that was started in Monkou’s native Netherlands by former Sheffield Wednesday and Celtic star Regi Blinker, the magazine aims to show the side to football that perhaps we the supporters don’t often see. It will feature guest editorial contributors from the world of football, including Saints legend and former teammate of Monkou, Matt Le Tissier.
KM: “It was a wonderful experience and I met some great people. I had very loyal support from the fans and the people at the club which I will never forget and still means a lot to me.”
What are your best memories of Saints?
KM: “Beating the ‘mighty’ Man Utd 4-2 and of course the famous win over Norwich 5-4 to keep us in the Premiership in a crazy and memorable game. I scored the winning goal from a Matt Le Tissier corner and it was one of the highlights of my time there. I also remember fondly playing under Alan Ball who was a truly inspirational and lovely man and ‘really one of us’.”
What do you make of our current Dutch centre back Jos Hooiveld?
KM: “He has the physical and mental presence needed to deal with the life that is the Premier League and he will make a strong contribution to the Saints in their first season back.”
How do you think Saints will fair back in the Premier League?
KM: “I think they will do themselves proud as they have done really well over the past two seasons and they have built the foundation to have a really successful run in the Premiership.”
How did you feel when you saw the betting scam revelations by ex Saints Claus Lundekvam this week?
KM: “I was shocked and surprised as I always rated him as a good player and that is all I can judge him on. The only time I remember Claus getting into trouble was when he had his regular one way conversation with the referees.”
The first issue of ‘Football Life” goes on sale this Thursday (18th July 2012) and is available from major magazine stockists. The first issue includes a feature on Matt Le Tissier and is a must read for Saints fans!