You have to fear for Southampton this coming season. Duringthe current transfer window, they have already lost the five key players whohelped guide them to eighth position in last year’s Barclays Premiership.This represented their highest ever points tally and their best season since2002/3.  Their performances included anaway win at Anfield as well as draws against Arsenal, Manchester City andManchester United (both home and away).  

The Saints were highly praised for their refreshingblend of attacking Football which provided a real threat to the establishedtop four.

They eventually finished only eight points behind Manchester Unitedand their on-field success also led to England call-ups for their stars. 

Had Jay Rodriguez not sustained an injuryprior to the finals, there was a real possibility that the club could boast fourplayers in Roy Hodgson’s squad. Ricky Lambert, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw allmade the plane to Rio, with the latter being preferred to the vastly moreexperienced Ashley Cole at left back. Of the Premier League teams representedin England’s squad, only Liverpool (5) and Manchester United (4) had moreplayers and Southampton were on a par with Everton.

Southampton fielded more Englishsquad 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 nowmoved on to so-called “bigger clubs”: Shaw to Manchester United, whilst both Lallanaand Lambert have moved to Liverpool.

For Lambert, this represents a remarkabletransformation in fortune as he moves on to play for the club he supported as aboy. It is much documented how he was dropped by the Anfield club as a youngsterbefore playing in each of the lower leagues. He finally achieved success in thePremiership with Southampton and won his first cap for England in 2013 at theage of 31 when he scored on his debut against Scotland. 

The exodus has however continued with first, Dejan Lovren andthen Callum Chambers leaving for Liverpool and Arsenal respectively in thespace of 24 hours.

In the two months since the end of the season, Southamptonhave 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 bythe instability caused by former manager Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to leaveSouthampton 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 twoof his former players – Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez – to join him athis new club. This led to incoming Saints boss, Ronald Koeman, tweeting atongue-in-cheek photo of an empty pitch with the caption “Ready for training.”  Today, Southampton chairman, Ralph Krueger, has insistedthat the pair would not be going to Tottenham and were not for sale. He statedthat they were, “part of our core group of players” and that the players whohave moved were, “wanting to have it all immediately.”

Southampton can alreadypoint to the signing of two new players, Serbian international midfielder DusanTadic and Italian striker GrazianoPelle, to fill the void left by the departed players.

This year’s player saleshave already exceeded £92million, far in excess of their outlays, so they havefunds to invest heavily in the last month of the transfer window, if they sowish. 

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 Sunday17th August, ironically against Liverpool to whom they have alreadysold three of their main assets, the new manager needs time to work with histeam and establish his philosophy.  

One factor in his favour is the tremendous academy for whichSouthampton has been commended in recent times. The sale of young CallumChambers to Arsenal is a testament to their continued success in finding anddeveloping young talent, and the sale may yet prove to be good business forthem.

His is not the first success story to come from the academy with TheoWalcott and then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both taking the same route in recenttimes. They both joined Arsene Wenger’s team before going on to become Englandinternationals. It would be interesting to know how influential were theircollective successes in persuading the young teenager to make the move.  Koeman has only been in place for a month and he deservestime to get his team settled. He also needs the current squad to stand by himand work with him. The turnaround of players must be unsettling for him; heneeds to shut the gates now and stop the rot.

His challenge will be to lead therecovery of Southampton FC but it may not happen overnight.

Hopefully, Southampton will continue to produce an exciting brand of football that broughtthem so many plaudits from neutral fans last season.  Fans will want to see one or two “marquee signings” fromtheir huge transfer surplus to improve their team, but it will be equallyimportant to keep the rest of the current squad intact. It would be a shame ifthe board were to sell off all of its assets, leaving a new manager with ahealthy bank balance but with no time to spend it and no players left.

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