Southampton have seemingly become the club that, no matter who they sell, always find a way to replace players and managers with undiscovered stars.
The past few years have seen Southampton reach their highest ever points total (63) in the Premier League finishing 6th, to reaching the EFL Cup final and narrowly missing out on the trophy losing to Manchester United in a 3-2 defeat.
This has been possible with the replacement of big players and big coaches, Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino being the most notable in the recent spell. The exodus of players has seemed to not phase the club either, with Rickie Lambert, Graziano Pellè, Adam Lallana, Saido Manè, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne, Luke Shaw and Victor Wanyama all leaving the ranks for pastures new.
Southampton have been able to replace these players with either ready-made academy replacements, or by dipping into the transfer market and unearthing players with unquestionable potential, but who are yet to prove themselves in England. In turn, their transfer value is far lower, and the Saints have often capitalised on this.
The £16m capture of Sofian Boufal from Lille, at the time a club-record, sufficed as evidence to epitomise this model. Boufal’s form has been inconsistent during his spell on the south coast, though glimpses of his mesmeric talent have shone through, such as his solo wonder-goal that gave Southampton a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion earlier in the season. Perhaps Boufal’s price, a relatively modest sum at £16m, factors in the element of inconsistency in his game, though Southampton knew they were buying a player with game-changing ability – Boufal no doubt possesses these sparks of brilliance, but they have not come often enough since his transfer back in August 2016.
Southampton then broke their record transfer fee once more, with the £18.1m purchase of Mario Lemina from Juventus. Lemina has proven to be a shrewd signing for the Saints, with this bullish, fearless performances as a box-to-box midfielder giving Southampton a much needed steel in their central midfield position. Lemina certainly stands out as one of Southampton’s best transfer acquisitions in recent years, however, is the tide of luck beginning to change for Southampton?
With Liverpool securing a convincing 3-0 win at the weekend, with Salah scoring two and Coutinho nabbing the 3rd, is this the beginning of the end with regard to Southampton’s envied transfer policy that has seen them achieve so much success?
This season they have failed to replace players and have a manager, who judging by his interviews, isn’t very concerned about their recent lack of form. They are sitting at 14th with only 13 points from 12 games and are only narrowly hovering above the relegation zone, and with Virgil Van Dijk looking set to leave in the very near future it may only go from bad to worse for the Saints.
With the considerable influx of TV rights money into the Premier League, Southampton may be forced to reconsider their transfer policy – they have the money to spend, and despite being a club who pride themselves on savvy, economical purchases in an immensely inflated market, their low lying league positioning coupled with a squad that in comparative terms is not top-ten material could mean Southampton’s modest £18.1m transfer record could be substantially broken, either in January or July.
It will be interesting to see how the board react to the poor form and unhappy fans in the next transfer windows. A striker would perhaps be on the list as 9 goals in 12 games should be alarm bells for the Saints manager. Is it just down to poor form and not giving the manager enough time?
Only time will tell.
Written by Niall Henry.