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.’