The winner of the September Player of the Month competition is Graziano Pelle, well deserved after superb showings against Manchester United and Swansea!
Thanks to everyone who voted!
Victories over Swansea City and MK Dons and a draw with West Brom made September a decent month, with only a narrow and frustrating defeat to Manchester United spoiling it! There were some stand-out individual performances but who was the Player of the Month? Vote below.
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.
Amongst the many previews out on offer as we approach the (official) start of a new season, none bring together many as many of the voices of those who give up their time to talk about their club. I gathered together the Saints blogging fraternity to see what they expect from the new season.
Which new signing are you most excited about?
Me ‘Cedric has looked impressive in pre-season so far, and looks like he will offer even more going forward than Clyne did. We shall see if he can recreate that level of form in the Premier League.’
Glen de la Cour (from League One Minus Ten) ‘Cedric Soares looks an exciting addition especially as it fits our ethos of selling big and replacing with better quality for less money. The most important though is Jordy Clasie because of the boots he has to fill.’
Connor Armstrong (from All of the websites) ‘For me it’s probably Cédric, so far. It looks like he’ll give us great balance when Bertrand is back too, as well as another genuine attacking threat.’
George Galpin (from St. Mary’s Musings) ‘I’m really excited about Jordy Clasie. Morgan Schneiderlin was a fantastic player for Saints, and will be remembered as an icon of the club’s recent rise. But people move on, and the Utd move is something that not many would be able to say no to.’
Ben Stanfield (from Teamtalk Fanzone) ‘Cedric Soares. I think he looks like a really bright young talent who, in glimpses against Vitesse, showed he will thrive in getting forward to create opportunities for Saints. He looks physically strong, is quick and seems to have an experienced head on young shoulders. The acid test, which hasn’t really been seen yet, is his defending – particularly against Premier League attackers..’
Ben (from Go Marching In) ‘Cédric Soares – Has looked very assured already despite only playing a few games in a Saints shirt. I like his positivity going forward and have a feeling he could bag a couple of goals in his first season.’
Ben McQuaide (from McQuaide’s Musings and SportsPulse) ‘Without a doubt, Jordy Clasie. I’ve wanted him at Southampton for quite a while now and after watching him a fair bit in the Eredivisie I’m convinced he’ll be a hit in the Premier League.’
Which Saints player do you think will have the biggest impact (secure move to United/Liverpool/Spurs) on the Premier League this season?
Me ‘Sadio Mane. He is such an exciting player and already making a name for himself. Still only 23 I think he is destined for the top sooner rather than later.’
GdlC ‘Sadio Mane- he will hopefully be better equipped in his 2nd season to keep a high level of performance right through.’
CA ‘It’s going to be Sadio Mané. He’s gonna tear it up. Big Vic will keep being Big Vic too, so he’s another who will have a big impact. Let’s hope that Jay Rodriguez makes his mark too.’
SD ‘Sadio Mane. He will win us games single-handedly .’
GG ‘I really think this is Sadio Mané’s year. He’s settled into the team well, but it was noticeable how much physically he had grown and looks frighteningly quick. He could become a real superstar this season.’
BS ‘Sadio Mane. I’m really looking forward to seeing Sadio have a full season with Saints. He was one of the more consistent performers across last year and has already shown in pre-season that he is ready to go. I think he should, and will, be targeting 20 goals for Saints this season. He could well be the key to us winning a few close games.’
B ‘Sadio Mane – One the most fouled players in the Premier League last season. Feel that if he has another impressive season we’ll be fighting off some big offers for him next summer.’
BM ‘Sadio Mane, if he can maintain or better his form from the second half of last season for a whole season he’s gonna tear teams apart and I think he could score 15+ goals this season.’
How do you rate our transfer business out of 10?
Me ‘So far I would say it is a 7-8, add another centre half, and in my opinion an out and out striker and then it would be higher.’
GdlC ‘Hard to tell until they’ve adapted (or not)…. on the face of it, it looks like an 8 or 9 out of 10. A top quality centre back in addition to Caulker will make it even better.’
SD ‘6 or 7. Difficult to argue that we won’t be worse off without Clyne and Schneiderlin, but the players that have replaced them aren’t THAT much worse, so we should still be competitive.’
GG ‘If Saints can get the CB to replace Alderweireld, 10 for me. The players who had left all had understandable reasons for going, but once again the transfer committee seem to have brought in the right replacements.’
BS ‘I’d say a 7. We seemed well prepared for any departures but, unlike last year, we didn’t need wholesale changes this summer anyway. If we can get a top-class CB in, like Van Dijk for example, then that 7 can become an 8/9 and I think we’re ready to go!’
BM ‘Probably a 6, the replacements look pretty solid for those that departed but I think we may be slightly weaker than last season, starting XI wise. ‘
Morgan Schneiderlin. Impossible to truly replace?
Me ‘Not impossible but incredibly difficult. I hope the Wanyama/Clasie partnership hits the ground running, if it does then we are going to be fine.’
GdlC ‘Maybe hard to immediately replace but you have to give time for a player to grow into the role. Once Clasie gets used to English football, he may well be that man. He has roughly the same number of caps for Holland as Morgan has for France – all he doesn’t have is the English football experience.’
CA ‘Probably, but we’ve given it a very good go.’
SD ‘He will definitely be missed, but we’re still pretty strong in that area of the pitch. Victor Wanyama is one of the best midfielders around and if Jordy Clasie doesn’t cut it, Harrison Reed will be ready to step up.’
GG ‘In all honesty, he is not impossible to replace, because no one is for a club the size of Southampton. He was an incredible player, but like I said earlier; people move on. Le Tissier retired, Channon left, Nick Holmes, Terry Paine, Rickie Lambert.. They all stopped playing for Saints, but the club is still there.’
BS ‘No player is ever truly irreplaceable. Morgan was a class act, no doubt about that, but I really feel Wanyama can step up to the same level Morgan was playing at each week and become the star of our Midfield. I wish Morgan well but we will survive without him.’
B ‘I think so. The ability to win the ball back, control the game with his distribution and an engine to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. A lot of players only specialise in one of those areas but Morgan was capable of them all. In Jordy Clasie we have a player who can certainly tick a lot of those boxes, but I think he’ll need time to find his feet in the Premier League. But at 24 there’s plenty of time for him to become as integral to Southampton as Morgan was.‘
BM ‘Wouldn’t say irreplaceable, top class player but I think Clasie will replace him well.’
Who will win the Premier League?
Me ‘Chelsea, but not as easily as they did last season.’
GdlC ‘Vitesse Arnhem’s feeder club.’
CA ‘Chelsea. Manchester United will push them but the Blues have got the knack.’
SD ‘Man United.’
GG ‘In my opinion, it’ll take a lot to stop Utd if they can add another attacker. ‘
BS ‘If United ‘click’ then I think they could go close – which they should do after the ridiculous amounts of money they’ve spent over the last two years – but I think it’ll be Chelsea’s to lose again. They are generally the epitome of consistency.’
BM ‘Chelsea, again. Despite concerns over Diego Costa’s hamstring.’
Who will go down?
Me ‘Bournemouth, Sunderland & Norwich.’
GdlC ‘Tottenham, Liverpool and I don’t really care who else.’
CA ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Sunderland.’
SD ‘Aston Villa, Leicester and Bournemouth.’
GG ‘Bournemouth, Leicester and Norwich’
BS ‘Watford, Leicester and Norwich.’
B ‘Leicester, Norwich and Watford.’
BM ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Leicester.’
Who do you most want to beat this season?
Me ‘Whoever we get in the cup final.’
CA ‘Liverpool. For obvious reasons. Chelsea and Tottenham are others, but only because I have mates who support them.’
SD ‘Tottenham, we must be due a win against them by now.’
GG ‘Everybody… ;-). For me, I’d like Saints to beat Tottenham, purely because they’re the only team in the top six clubs that I haven’t seen Saints claim all three points from since promotion.’
BS ‘Liverpool and Tottenham. Both for obvious reasons of course!’
B ‘Probably Liverpool. Tottenham was a close second but the scousers win because they have more ex Saints players in their team. It’s got a lot to do with showing that we’re not weaker without them.’
BM ‘Liverpool, without a doubt. You know the reasons. ‘
Chips. Mayonnaise or No Mayonnaise?
Me ‘No. Total Dutch nonsense I’m afraid. HP Sauce (now made in Holland) is your standard chip affair.’
GdlC ‘I am determined to try the mayonnaise option soon! Will get back to you.’
CA ‘Mayonnaise, and lots of it. ‘
SD ‘No Mayonnaise. Sorry Ronald.’
GG ‘I tried chips with mayonnaise in Rotterdam for the Feyenoord friendly, and can see why they love it there. But for me, salt, pepper and vinegar is a winner. So is Reggae Reggae sauce.’
BS ‘I’m afraid this is (probably) the only thing in life that Ronald and I don’t agree on. Chips for me can only ever have one condiment on them – tomato ketchup!! So no mayonnaise for me. Sorry Ron!’
B ‘Mayonnaise. Lots of it.’
BM ‘Mayonnaise, obviously.’
You wake up suddenly and find yourself in Fratton Park for a Pompey home game. How do you escape unnoticed?
Me ‘There is a scene in the US zombie drama ‘The Walking Dead’ where the heroes smother themselves in zombie blood and guts and then act brain-dead to blend in and walk freely amongst the zombies. Like that. But using fish guts.’
GdlC ‘Grow an extra finger on each hand, an extra toe on each foot and an eye in the middle of my forehead, sing ‘Amarillo’ and shout ‘I HATE FACKING SCUMMAHS’and then (most importantly) blame the owners for everything. Now that I’m fully blended in… I can leave.’
CA ‘Fratton Park? Isn’t that where the big Tesco’s is now?’
SD ‘Reckon it’ll be pretty easy for me to navigate my way through rows of empty seats.’
GG ‘Stick on a thick coat, and casually walk towards the exit. If they say I can’t get back in, I’ll say I’ve left my car unlocked. Simple!’
BS ‘I’d turn to the only other guy in attendance and advise that I think I’ve left my car unlocked and will be right back….’
B ‘Scary thought. I would probably go for some sort of diversion tactic, saying loudly, “Isn’t that guy over there from HMRC?” and then walk briskly in the other direction.’
BM ‘I think you mean the Portsmouth Dockland Stadium (See below). ‘
Cheers to all those who took the time to answer questions. We’ll all meet back here in May and see how right (or wrong) we got it!
Keep the faith!
Well, it wasn’t quite as draw out a transfer saga as the ‘Victor Wanyama Episode’ last summer, but with Celtic’s Champion’s League reprieve it began to feel like it would never happen, but he is here and I think everyone involved is relieved!
Welcome to St. Mary’s Fraser Forster!
Linking up again with Goalkeeping coach Dave Watson from the England setup, Forster has built a formidable record as Celtic goalkeeper, breaking records along the way and now the stopper ranks at Saints look to have far more depth.
As is now tradition I spoke to those who know more about him than me and caught up with Celtic blogger Stephen Taylor from Drop of the Shoulder and Norwich City fan and Club Metro colleague Gary Gowers from My Football Writer to get the not so low (he’s 6’7″) down.
In the league Forster kept a Scottish record 13 clean sheets in a row, culminating in 1256 minutes, just 55 short of Edwin van der Saar’s all-time UK record. I know people may think it is easy to keep clean sheets playing for Celtic, especially since Rangers demise has left the SPL a one team league, but if you have seen us play over recent years you will have noted how ropey our defending is at times, and on numerous occasions it has been left to Forster to bail them out.’
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.’