You have to fear for #Southampton this coming season. During the current transfer window, they have already lost the five key players who helped guide them to eighth position in last year’s Barclays Premiership.This represented their highest ever points tally and their best season since 2002/3.  Their performances included an away win at Anfield as well as draws against Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United (both home and away).  

The Saints were highly praised for their refreshing blend of attacking #Football which provided a real threat to the established top four. They eventually finished only eight points behind Manchester United and their on-field success also led to England call-ups for their stars. 

Had Jay Rodriguez not sustained an injury prior to the finals, there was a real possibility that the club could boast four players in Roy Hodgson’s squad.

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Ricky Lambert, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw all made the plane to Rio, with the latter being preferred to the vastly more experienced Ashley Cole at left back. Of the #Premier League teams represented in England’s squad, only Liverpool (5) and Manchester United (4) had more players and Southampton were on a par with Everton.

Southampton fielded more English squad players than three of last season’s top four- with Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea providing two players each.   All three players who featured in the World Cup have now moved on to so-called “bigger clubs”: Shaw to Manchester United, whilst both Lallana and Lambert have moved to Liverpool.

For Lambert, this represents a remarkable transformation in fortune as he moves on to play for the club he supported as a boy.

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It is much documented how he was dropped by the Anfield club as a youngster before playing in each of the lower leagues. He finally achieved success in the Premiership with Southampton and won his first cap for England in 2013 at the age of 31 when he scored on his debut against Scotland.  

The exodus has however continued with first, Dejan Lovren and then Callum Chambers leaving for Liverpool and Arsenal respectively in the space of 24 hours. In the two months since the end of the season, Southampton have lost two full backs, a centre back, an attacking midfielder and a striker – in other words, the heart of their team.  

The exit of so many players has undoubtedly been hastened by the instability caused by former manager Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to leave Southampton at the end of the season to take up the vacant post at Tottenham.

Indeed, Pochettino has also been reportedly interested in taking a further two of his former players – Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez – to join him at his new club.

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This led to incoming Saints boss, Ronald Koeman, tweeting a tongue-in-cheek photo of an empty pitch with the caption “Ready for training.”   Today, Southampton chairman, Ralph Krueger, has insisted that the pair would not be going to Tottenham and were not for sale. He stated that they were, “part of our core group of players” and that the players who have moved were, “wanting to have it all immediately.”

Southampton can already point to the signing of two new players, Serbian international midfielder Dusan Tadic and Italian striker Graziano Pelle, to fill the void left by the departed players. This year’s player sales have already exceeded £92million, far in excess of their outlays, so they have funds to invest heavily in the last month of the transfer window, if they so wish.  

Building a team is about more than just buying in players; it is about getting them to gel together and form understandings in defence, midfield and attack. With Koeman’s first match only three weeks away on Sunday 17th August, ironically against Liverpool to whom they have already sold three of their main assets, the new manager needs time to work with his team and establish his philosophy.  

One factor in his favour is the tremendous academy for which Southampton has been commended in recent times. The sale of young Callum Chambers to Arsenal is a testament to their continued success in finding and developing young talent, and the sale may yet prove to be good business for them. His is not the first success story to come from the academy with Theo Walcott and then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both taking the same route in recent times. They both joined Arsene Wenger’s team before going on to become England internationals. It would be interesting to know how influential were their collective successes in persuading the young teenager to make the move.   Koeman has only been in place for a month and he deserves time to get his team settled. He also needs the current squad to stand by him and work with him. The turnaround of players must be unsettling for him; he needs to shut the gates now and stop the rot.

His challenge will be to lead the recovery of Southampton FC but it may not happen overnight. Hopefully, Southampton will continue to produce an exciting brand of football that brought them so many plaudits from neutral fans last season.   Fans will want to see one or two “marquee signings” from their huge transfer surplus to improve their team, but it will be equally important to keep the rest of the current squad intact. It would be a shame if the board were to sell off all of its assets, leaving a new manager with a healthy bank balance but with no time to spend it and no players left.

Southampton needs to lose this aura of being a “selling club” and develop from within. If the academy continues to develop its conveyor belt of exciting new English talent, then Southampton can turn it around. In the end, it may prove to be beneficial to the future of English football. I wonder how many Southampton players will make the England squad for the next World Cup.