The sun is shining brightly at the South Coast right now, probably not as bright as it should have been after securing their best0ever league finish last season. Just as Mauricio Pochettino’s departure to Tottenham in 2014 sparked the sale of five players for a combined £88.5m, Ronald Koeman’s move to Everton has also done the same as the Saints lost the services of three of their key players in the form of Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle. However, the Saints recruited Claude Puel to fill in Koeman’s boots and make no mistake about it that Puel has what it takes to start from exactly where Koeman left off and take the South Coast side to the next step.
Since they made their way back to the Premier League in 2012, Southampton never had to look back and the progress they have made is remarkable. It was never easy as their best players were constantly lured away by the big boys of the Premier League and the same was the case for the managers as Southampton will have four different managers in five years. Still, the Saints kept up their good work and now boast Europa League football where they will be looking to leave their mark.
Southampton have repeatedly proved that their model is not dependent on who manages them. They have laid strong foundations with one of the youth academies in England if not the best, a clear identity, a solid infrastructure and a £30m training ground. We have to wait and see if Puel can keep up the progress of the club towards a better future or not.
Nathan Redmond – Norwich, £11m
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg – Bayern Munich, undisclosed
Kieran Freeman – Dundee Utd, compensation
Alex McCarthy – Crystal Palace, £4m
Jeremy Pied – Nice, undisclosed
Sadio Mane – Liverpool, £36m
Victor Wanyama – Tottenham Hotspur, £11m
Juanmi – Real Sociedad, £5m
Paulo Gazzaniga – Rayo Vallecano, loan
Gaston Ramirez – released
Kelvin Davis – retired
Joe Lea – Yeovil, free
Jason McCarthy – Walsall, loan
Graziano Pelle – Shandong Luneng, £12m
Fee courtesy- Sky Sports
Southampton have done decent business this summer but still they are in dire need of a few more additions. Of course, the departures of Mane, Wanyama and Pelle will hurt them but they have acquired the signatures of capable players like Redmond, Højbjerg and Pied. Probably a new striker and an attacking midfielder are needed to complete the team and there is time for the Saints to find the best possible players fitting the bill.
Claude Puel shocked Ligue 1 last season with Nice finishing fourth in the table and the formula for his success has been a 4-4-2 diamond formation. The French manager likes his team to play an attacking game and his style is pretty fluid with each and every player switching positions between themselves and fool the opponents. Puel is likely to deploy the same at Southampton once again and has the right players to achieve success with it.
In the last three seasons, Southampton finished eighth, seventh and sixth and Puel’s task will be to keep up the progress and contend for a top-five finish, although that is probably too much of an ask from a new manager. Realistic expectations will be another top-six finish and a long run in the Europa League.