Southampton have earned an impressive reputation when it comes to rebuilding squads. They have become accustomed to losing players to bigger clubs, yet they continue to defy the odds when they are forced to rebuild year after year.
The South Coast seems like the first port of call for the Premier League’s biggest clubs when they are in the market to bolster their squads. Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal have all plundered St Mary’s in the last 24 months, spending a combined total of £132.5million on Southampton players – staggeringly, that’s almost as much as Bayern Munich have spent in the five years.
After their enormously impressive season in 2013/14, Southampton could lay claim to having one of the most wanted players in European football. It was the club’s second season back in the top-flight and Morgan Schneiderlin was attracting interest from some of European football’s biggest clubs.
Schneiderlin forced the club’s hand by trying to force a transfer to Tottenham Hotspur after manager Mauricio Pochettino left to join the North London club. The Argentinian manager led the club to a very respectable eighth place, playing a brand of football admired throughout the Premier League and when Spurs sacked Tim Sherwood in 2014, he was their desired target.
With many expecting Southampton to fold, their boardroom quickly identified Ronald Koeman as the perfect coach to take them forward and eclipse the start made by Pochettino at the club. The Dutch manager relished the challenge of rebuilding a team dissected by transfers. He quickly accepted that Southampton could not financially compete with other clubs and that part of his challenge was to reconstruct his squad to compete and improve on the pitch once again.
The departures of Ricky Lambert, Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana – all to Liverpool – greatly concerned Southampton fans, but Koeman’s clever business enabled Saints to improve and not fall behind.
Koeman guided saints to a 7th place finish and another summer exodus soon followed. Toby Alderweireld joined Tottenham and Saints signed Virgil Van Dijk from Celtic. Jordy Clasie replaced the departing Morgan Schneiderlin, whilst Portugal international Cedric Soares replaced Nathaniel Clyne who joined Liverpool. Both players continued to prove their worth with Clasie proving more successful for Southampton than Schneiderlin has done for Manchester United.
Another record was again broken, with Southampton finishing 6th their highest ever Premier League finish. A place in the Europa League group stage for the first time was guaranteed and everything looked perfect on the South Coast before the fear of most Saints fan’s soon became a reality.
And once again, Southampton have had to sell players and rebuild. Losing Sadio Mané to Liverpool and Graziano Pelle to the ever-lasting riches of the Chinese Super League was a big blow, but Ronald Koeman’s departure was perhaps the biggest.
The Dutchman left after two very successful years at Southampton and the club started their rebuilding process for a third time under Claude Puel. Not many were aware of the Frenchman’s existence prior to his appointment, but his core belief in providing youth with a platform to succeed proved a fundamental reason for offering him the job.
The Saints have shown time and time again they are capable of adapting to change and resurfacing from apparently impossible situations. Koeman’s departure along with key players should not be a time for Southampton fans to feat the worst but for them to embrace the fact their club is well-run and stable enough to survive without certain players.
They have spent four years chopping and changing players and management yet to continue to improve every season. The foundations at this wonderful club are as sturdy as could possibly be imagined and like all good houses, they are constructed to survive a storm or two.