How Has The Southampton Exodus Happened!?
Roll back a little over two months and Southampton had just deservedly drawn 1-1 with Manchester United and ended the Premier League season in 8th place. It equalled our best ever finish in the Premier League and was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best season in living memory for me as a Saints fan. The world was our oyster and we were undoubtedly going places, right? Wrong, fast forward and we have lost 5 significant members of our team; Shaw, Chambers, Lambert, Lallana, and Lovren, with Schneiderlin making it clear he wants out and the vultures circling over Rodriguez too. How has this happened?
Roy Hodgson helpfully suggested we were victims of our own success, thanks for that statement of the obvious Roy, but then again did Swansea not do the same the season before, and what about Newcastle before that? Personally I think the young English element of the squad has lured many in, as has the exciting style of football, but does this mean we had to sell these players, no. We needed to put our foot down and say to the players that the mission hasn’t just ended because we finished 8th, we needed to convince Pochettino to stay by backing him in the transfer market and convincing him of further ambitions, and we needed to send a positive message to the fans that this was just the beginning. The departure of Pochettino has ultimately led to the mass exodus we have had, with him still in charge I think Chambers and Lovren would have stayed and Lallana and Shaw could have been convinced to carry on, whilst no-one would begrudge or deny Lambert his dream move.
Pochettino was clearly not convinced by the boards ambition and that’s worrying, but perhaps not a surprise as it was Nicola Cortese who talked him into the job and the project; the writing was on the wall for the boss as soon as the Italian chief executive departed, but it does ask the question of why the board fell out with Cortese and wanted more involvement in the club if they were planning on continuing the long term ambitions Cortese had previously stated, or whether Katharina Liebherr feels she has had enough of what was originally her father’s pet. Regardless of that it was important when Pochettino left that we acted quickly to replace him and though Ronald Koeman represents a positive replacement in my eyes, he arrived with Lambert already gone and Lallana and Shaw virtually gone. It is a massive shame that neither of those two gave Koeman the respect of having a chat with him and hearing his ambitions for the club though, and Lallana furthered his separation from the Saints fans by stating how he had already been wishing he could be a Liverpool player whilst still at Saints.
It’s just got worse from there, but rather than rehash all the departures, I want to approach another possible reason for the exodus; Financial Fair Play. Whilst seemingly admirable in its wish Financial Fair Play has just served to further the gap between the top 5 or 6 teams and the rest, with Everton the hugely commendable team competing at the same level on a much smaller budget. The revenue the top teams bring in means they can afford to spend huge amounts and still be comfortably under the FFP’s target (with the exception of Man City who just get a little slap on the wrist). This means that these clubs can offer huge amounts and tempt players into putting the club under pressure to let them go. I am certainly not complaining about the money received but I would much rather keep the core of the squad together than sell the majority of our first team for large bucks and struggle to replace them. The board must take a large portion of the blame for what has been a poorly managed summer and a catastrophic one for the fans who are the biggest losers in this whole affair. Finally the less said about the red side of Merseyside the better; why won’t they just leave us alone!