The great Southampton exodus continues. Why is this happening?

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10 players have left Southampton this summer. Only two have arrived. The most damaging fire sale in the history of the Premier League continues. One of the most confusing things about it all is that the club isn’t broke, yet players keep leaving.

Rickie Lambert. Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren have all joined Liverpool. 18-year-old Luke Shaw has joined Manchester United and now teenager Calum Chambers has signed for Arsenal. While Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin may soon be on the way to either Liverpool or Tottenham Hostpur.

[RELATED: Which players will leave?]

Those five players already sold have left for a combined fee of around $170 million in transfer fees. Three of them (Lallana, Shaw, Chambers) were academy products who cost Saints nothing, while Lambert was sold for five times the amount Saints paid for him in 2009 and Lovren was sold at a profit of $20 million after one season with Saints.

Financially all of these moves make sense but what is going on to the team who finished eighth in the Premier League last season, excited neutrals with their impressive attacking soccer but are now being dismantled easier than a giant Jenga tower?

Let’s break this thing down as Southampton’s brightest talent continues to be ruthlessly plucked away by the PL’s top teams. Will the show go on or was their best ever season in the PL last term just the beginning of the end for Saints?

Changes at the top, financial balance

When Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese left Saints in January, alarm bells rang around the South Coast city as to the future of the club. In 2009 they were in the third-tier, bottom of the league with a 10 point deduction after going into administration. Swiss Billionaire Markus Liebherr then arrived at the last minute to save them, as Cortese brokered the deal and ran the club for his wealthy friend. Liebherr sadly passed away in 2010 and Cortese has run the club for the Liebherr family ever since. Until January, anyway. Then Libeherr’s daughter Katharina wanted more of a say, Cortese walked out and now a former NHL manager, Ralph Krueger, is in charge at St. Mary’s as Chairman with Katharina overseeing things. New board members from Austria have since spoken been appointed and have spoken about “balancing the books” and not repeating previous frivolous spending from the past regime.

[RELATED: Rodriguez, Schneiderlin leaving next?]

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Shaw, 19, became the most expensive teenager in history when he left Saints for Man United this summer.

The incredible new training facility in a national park near Southampton has finally been finished at a cost upwards of $50 million, with some feeling these players were sold to fund the stunning facility that homes Southampton’s world-renowned academy. The cost of balancing the books could see Saints turn from top six contenders to relegation battlers this season, but repeatedly their Head of Football Development, Les Reed, has stated players don’t need to be sold… but it keeps happening.

New manager, new faces

Mauricio Pochettino walked out on Saints at the end of last season to join Tottenham Hotspur. He had come in and turned Saints into a team who were punching well above their weight and challenging for a top six spot for most of the 2013-14 season. Last year was just their second campaign back in the Premier League after winning back-to-back promotions from League One. Pochettino saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship to Spurs, with Dutchman Ronald Koeman coming in to steer Saints in the right direction. The worst part is, the exodus may not be over as Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin could both be heading out this summer for another $60 million combined.

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Saints’ owner Katharina Liebherr, left, has appointed Canadian Ralph Krueger as the man to take the ambitious PL club forward.

The deals for Lambert, Lallana and Shaw were done without Koeman having any input, while Lovren and Chambers have since departed. The former Ajax and Barcelona star has a huge job on his hands to keep churning out top talent from the academy to replace the players he has lost, but he has signed Italian striker Graziano Pelle and Serbian playmaker Dusan Tadic to help stop the bleeding. For now. When Saints line up against Liverpool on the opening weekend of the season on August 17, expect to recognize more of their old players starting for Liverpool than for the South Coast club.

The ceiling for Saints

Southampton, despite the rumblings about funding being cut back from their Billionaire owners, didn’t actually need to sell any players this summer. Why have they then? Simply put, the players want to leave. With Pochettino’s project over and changes at boardroom level, the likes of Lallana and Lambert saw the window of opportunity to depart. Let’s face facts here. Southampton massively overachieved last season as they regularly fielded at least six players under the ages of 24 in their starting lineup. They finished in eighth spot and realistically they can finish no higher. The seven teams above them have huge budgets and can splash the cash whenever they want. Saints, in theory, have that money to spend via their owners but are going for a sustainable model which will see them become a solid PL team that banks the cash from the massive TV deals, sponsorship and other financial benefits every season. In truth whether they finish 15th or 8th in the PL each season, it makes no difference. They are a feeder club and are accepting their status. That will disappoint fans but it is the truth.

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Lallana, Shaw, Lambert, Lovren, Chambers… all five left Saints this summer.

The future

Right now it’s up in the air as to how Southampton will lineup under new boss Ronald Koeman next season. The likelihood is two or three new players will be signed by the end of August but a sprinkling of new academy products will also make the step up. Saints fans, don’t despair. Here are a few names to get excited about, as the forward-thinking club continue to churn out top young talent at the envy of clubs across the world.

However with the way things are going at Saints, if these three academy products listed below have good seasons in 2014-15 then they will be on the way to a top four team in the Premier League. The cycle continues. So, fans everywhere, keep an eye on these young studs.

  • Sam Gallagher: started and scored in the PL last season at the age of 18. Towering center forward who represents the England U-19 side alongside plenty of his Saints teammates.
  • Harrison Reed: you don’t get dubbed ‘the new Paul Scholes’ if you haven’t got talent. Reed, 19, signed a new four-year deal this week and the diminutive ginger midfielder is an England youth international who sprays the ball about majestically. Prospect.
  • Matt Targett: so, after selling Luke Shaw it’s not all doom and gloom. Targett is another England youth international who was arguably neck and neck with Shaw for a few years as they progressed through the academy. Expect him to start at left back.

AT HALF: Chelsea strikes twice to build 2-1 lead over Saints

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Gary Cahill‘s stoppage time goal has Chelsea leading Southampton 2-1 after 45 minutes at Stamford Bridge.

Eden Hazard scored the match’s first goal, with Saints’ Oriol Romeu equalizing in the 24th minute.

A win would send Chelsea seven points clear of second place Spurs, which has played one less match than the Blues.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

There were early lively moments for both sides, as Saints’ Manolo Gabbiadini attempted to back up Antonio Conte‘s pre-match praise as one of the best left foots in the world.

Chelsea found the opener through Hazard, as Costa held possession into the right of the box before cutting back to find Belgian. Fraser Forster couldn’t get low quick enough to stop Hazard’s low shot, and it was 1-0.

Romeu, clearly buoyed by JPW’s feature piece earlier this week, bagged an equalized off a corner kick. Gabbiadini sidled up to the ball at the back post, and pushed it off Thibaut Courtois into the path of the former Chelsea man.

Sofiane Boufal was also dangerous for Saints, and won a free for James Ward-Prowse that amounted to a corner kick from the edge of the 16. Courtois flew forward to put the ball free.

N'Golo Kante had his turn to start a threat, and Forster’s block of his cross only queued up a pair of opportunities between Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic.

Cahill made it 2-1 in stoppage time, darting in front of Costa’s scissor kick attempt to nod Marcos Alonso‘s headed pass into the goal.

Ajax’s home stadium to be named after Johan Cruyff

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AMSTERDAM (AP) On the day Johan Cruyff would have turned 70, his home city has agreed to name Ajax’s stadium after the Dutch football great.

Amsterdam Municipality says it has agreed with the stadium and Ajax to change the name of the Amsterdam Arena to the Johan Cruijff Arena – using the Dutch spelling of the Ajax and Barcelona star, who died last year.

[ MORE: JPW’s Midweek Premier League picks ]

Ajax, the stadium’s board and Amsterdam say they “want to pay a worthy tribute to the best footballer Amsterdam and the Netherlands have ever known.”

The agreement announced Tuesday is expected to be finalized within six months.

Born in Amsterdam, Cruyff was the mercurial driving force behind Ajax and Dutch “total football” in the early 1970s. He went on to become a highly successful player and coach at Barcelona.

STREAM LIVE: Leaders Chelsea host Southampton

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Chelsea look to extend their lead atop the Premier League to seven points as they host Southampton on Tuesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Antonio Conte‘s men can momentarily pull further away from second-place Tottenham, who play on Wednesday at Crystal Palace, and following their FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs at Wembley on Saturday it would be another huge psychological boost in the title race for the west London club.

As for Southampton, well, they are pushing hard to finish in eighth place and secure a fourth-straight season in the top eight of the PL. Claude Puel‘s men have the quality to cause a big upset and could be tough to break down.

In team news Chelsea have Gary Cahill back from fitness, while Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas all come back into the starting lineup.

Southampton bring back Oriol Romeu from suspension and he replaces Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, wile Sofiane Boufal comes in for Nathan Redmond out wide.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Fabregas, Hazard, Costa. Subs: Begovic, Ake, Terry, Willian, Pedro, Chalobah, Batshuayi

Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Romeu, Davis; Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Boufal; Gabbiadini. Subs: Hassen, Caceres, Clasie, Hojbjerg, Redmond, Long, Rodriguez

Premier League Playback: Projecting the top four

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You should’ve seen my face when I worked out the points totals for the four teams in the running for the two remaining UEFA Champions League spots…

Mind. Blown.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live ]

Let’s make an outrageous assumption (it’s basically fact at this point) that Chelsea and Tottenham will finish in the top two places in the Premier League and that Everton, who have played up to three more games than their nearest contenders, are out of this battle for the top four.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings | Schedule

So it’s down to Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal for the final two places and it could not be tighter as we enter the final weeks of the season.

Judging by the projection below, it could all go down to the final day of the season and none of the four teams below are playing each other. Say no more.


LIVERPOOL
The Reds are wobbling again. Following the 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace, their first defeat in eight games, Jurgen Klopp‘s men are under intense pressure in their final four games of the season. They’ve played two more than Man City and Man United below them but the gap to United is now just three points. Without Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana, this ridiculously easy run-in is looking arduous. Liverpool have four cup finals to win and hope for the best. All season long they’ve struggled against the smaller teams and that could cost them dear in the final weeks with bitter rivals United in form.

Toughest game remaining: vs. Southampton (May 7)
Predicted final points total: 74 points (5th place finish, on goal difference)

MAN CITY
It’s all about this Thursday for Man City. Pep Guardiola‘s men have to pick themselves up after the disappointment of losing to Arsenal after extra time in the FA Cup semifinal. After the derby against Man United (who sit one point and one place below City) they finish with three home games in their final five and face teams in eighth or below. Should be easy for City but Guardiola’s men have made life more difficult for themselves than it should be. Expect them to win four of their final six games to seal UCL action next season.

Toughest games remaining: vs. Manchester United (Thursday)
Predicted final points total: 77 points (3rd place finish)

MAN UNITED
Ander Herrera is right when he said that the Manchester derby was the “game of the season” on Thursday. It is a match which United have to win and if they do then their destiny is in their own hands. With long-term injuries to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo, plus so many other injury issues as the toll of a run to the Europa League semifinal hits home, Mourinho’s men have surprised everyone to get their top four hopes back on track. If they lose at City then United may just focus on winning the Europa League to get their Champions League spot next season. United have the toughest remaining schedule in the top four battle but it will be close between themselves and Liverpool for the final spot. Having a 23-game unbeaten run in the PL is no mean feat.

Toughest games remaining: at Manchester City (Thursday), at Arsenal (May 6), at Tottenham (May 13)
Predicted final points total: 74 points (4th place finish, on goal difference)

ARSENAL
The Gunners will get plenty of confidence from that FA Cup semifinal win over Man City and it will also give their players plenty to play for in the final weeks of the season as they aim to be in the starting lineup at Wembley. With a trip to Tottenham followed by a home game against Man United in the space of a week, their season will come down to those two games. They have seven matches to play, more than any other team in the PL, and Arsene Wenger may be feeling confident of sneaking into the top four.

Toughest games remaining: at Tottenham (Apr. 29), vs. Manchester United (May 6)
Predicted final points total: 74 points (6th place finish, on goal difference)


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here