If you cast your mind back to last summer, Southampton had lost their manager to Spurs, sold most of their best players to Liverpool and brought in a new manager in the shape of Ronald Koeman – a relative novice when it comes to Premier League football. And despite all of the above, the Saints managed their best ever Premier League season, leaving those who predicted relegation for the South Coast side with faces redder Fergie’s nose.
Koeman’s men of course achieved this through, in part, good signings like Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle. Koeman’s knowledge of Eredivise was vital as the club bagged two names others had overlooked in the past.
Now to this summer, and the Saints have already sold a couple of their big performers from last season in Nathaniel Clyne to Liverpool (shock) and Morgan Schneiderlin to Man United. Suggestions of a relegation threatened campaign have been mooted for the Saints in some corners. Sound familier?
But as we saw last season, write the Saints off at your peril and Koeman will trust his instincts in the transfer market to challenge, and perhaps improve on, last season’s achievements.
One man the Dutchman will be hoping can fill the boots of departed midfielder Schneiderlin is fellow Oranje, Jordy Clasie, signed from Feyenoord for £8.4m.
Koeman already appears confident of the impact that Clasie will have in Hampshire.
He told Sky Sports: “He’s a perfect replacement for Morgan in that position.
“I know that because I worked for three seasons with Jordy. Of course, he’s still not Schneiderlin – but he’s still young, he has to develop, he has to adapt to the Premier League, the intensity is what you need. It’s a great signing.”
Koeman is evidently confident in his signing, already hailing the Dutch international as “great”, but will he be the man the Saints need? And how will he adjust to the Premier League?
These are key questions, but for just £8.4m it does look like another great bit of business by the Saints manager.
As Clasie is just 24-years-old, like Koeman said, he has time to develop and he will improve as he plays, so in a couple of good seasons it is quite possible that Clasie could easily be worth double what Southampton paid for him.
That is looking far ahead, however, and Saints fans will just be hoping that Clasie can fill the sizeable boots of their former midfielder for now.
When comparing the two there is a big difference in terms of height. Clasie stands at just 5ft 7″, whereas the Schneiderlin is more imposing at 6ft 1″. But both players perform similar roles for their sides – defensive midfielders capable of winning the ball and controlling the midfield. Clasie’s lack of height may be a worry to some, however, it shouldn’t be. He more than makes up for it in his aggressive, tenacious style which allows him to compete in the midfield. And it is this style and intensity in his play that will help the Dutchman to make an easy transition to the Premier League.
Clasie is not exactly the same player as Schneiderlin, but the Netherlands international will be able to offer the Saints something else. He is not a prolific goalscoring midfielder, but Clasie has more creative abilities in his game.
He is arguably a better passer, has better vision on the ball and has the ability to open defences up far more than Schneiderlin.
He won’t perform the exact same role, yet Clasie is a very shrewd signing for the Saints and he is the right man to replace Schneiderlin.