My Prediction at the beginning of season: 10th/11th
Final table position: 8th
To say Southampton exceeded expectations would be an understatement. Many predicted them to be fighting the relegation battle but the Saints found themselves in a top six fight for part of the season. Mauricio Pochettino’s team played attractive football and gained fans along the way. By the end of the season, four of their players had been called up to England’s National Team for the first time ever – Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez, and Luke Shaw. Three of them will be on the plane to Brazil, the fourth is out through a long term injury.
Southampton started the season off very strong but it was a 0-1 victory at Anfield in week 5 that put them on the map. After that, they beat Crystal Palace and Swansea, tied Manchester United, and beat Fulham. It was around that time that they found themselves in the top four, making experts wonder if they can keep up the good work. The truth is, they had a very good stretch as a club where everything had gone right. Opponents didn’t really know what to expect from Pochettino as a fairly new manager, they had a healthy squad with almost no injuries, and they believed they could beat anyone. As the season progressed, some teams figured Pochettino out and a few injuries here and there slowed down the train. A season ending injury to Jay Rodriguez was the biggest blow but the Saints admirably survived and continued winning games. Pochettino must be given upmost credit for the success this year and his effect will be missed next season.
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Relevant Players Released: Guly do Prado
Possible Departures: Mauricio Pochettino(already finalized), Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert
Needs: Striker, Goalkeeper, replacements for players leaving
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The biggest loss of the summer already occurred for the Saints – Mauricio Pochettino went to Tottenham. The Argentinian was appointed a season and a half ago and completely changed the direction of the club. All the players praised him and everyone kept raving about the positive atmosphere he instilled in the dressing room. It takes a special talent to transform a locker room and Pochettino has it. Without him, the Saints will have to start at ground level. Saints management came out and claimed that some of the best coaches in Europe have inquired about their empty position. Despite that, fans ought to be worried. Rumors keep coming up about the sale of almost every good player on the squad. Their only clear striker, Rickie Lambert, is reportedly on his way to Liverpool in what seems to be a finalized deal. Liverpool are also making bids on Adam Lallana. Chelsea and Manchester United are fighting over Luke Shaw and Premier League teams are inquiring about Morgan Schneiderlin and Dejan Lovren. There are two directions the Saints can head in.
First, if Southampton want to continue finishing in the top 10, they’ll have to appoint a respected manager and refuse to sell their star players. Rumor has it they might be after David Moyes. Despite Moyes’ failure at Manchester United, he has shown over the years he can manage a team of Southampton’s caliber. It would be wise to sign him. Moyes is respected enough to be able to bring a few big names to Southampton as well. They’ll need to go shopping for a striker and keep at least three of Lallana, Shaw, Lovren, Wanyama, and Schneiderlin. Without Lambert and with Jay Rodriguez sidelined through a lengthy injury, they’ll need to find goals on the open market. There will be players available, they just need to find them.
The second direction Southampton can go in is down – and this one is way easier. If they end up appointing an unproven or below average manager and sell Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, and Luke Shaw, it won’t be long before they are fighting the relegation battle. What can make things even worse is if they cheap out on a striker. Without solid management that’s willing to spend money, we see this option happen way too often in the Premier League - the owners cash in and move on.
It’s a tricky summer for Southampton and they can go either way. Where do you think they’re headed?