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.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham

La Liga: Las Palmas stuns nine-man Valencia, Atleti settles for draw

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Las Palmas 2-1 Valencia

It’s never ideal when you finish a match with nine men, and that was the case on the day for third-place Valencia. Things were going according to plan for the visitors early on at the Gran Canaria when Santi Mina scored five minutes into the match.

However, goals from Jonathan Viera (22nd minute) and Jonathan Calleri (53rd minute) brought Las Palmas in front, and they wouldn’t relinquish the advantage.

Gabriel Paulista‘s second yellow card, which set up Las Palmas’ penalty kick in the second half was the first sending off for Valencia, while Ruben Vezo joined his teammate in the locker room with three minutes remaining in regulation.

The victory moves Las Palmas into 19th place in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Girona

Barcelona’s lead at the top of La Liga will likely grow courtesy of Atletico’s inability to apply pressure on the Blaugrana. Antoine Griezmann’s first-half strike wasn’t enough to cushion the Atleti lead, and in turn, Girona equalized with 17 minutes left in regulation when Portu scored off of a great take out of the air.

Espanyol 0-3 Sevilla

Franco Vasquez got things started for the visiting side after just 15 minutes, and before halftime Sevilla managed to double their lead through Pablo Sarabia. For good measure, the sixth-place side added a third goal in the 90th minute as Luis Muriel finished off a pass from Sarabia.


Elsewhere in La Liga

Villareal 2-1 Levante


Sunday’s La Liga matches

Alaves vs. Leganes — 6 a.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Deportivo La Coruna — 10:15 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad vs. Celta Vigo — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET

Blockbuster trade sends Kamara to Galaxy, Zardes to Columbus

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The MLS offseason has been in full force for some time now, and the blockbuster moves continue to take shape.

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew finalized a deal with the LA Galaxy to send striker Ola Kamara to the Western Conference side.

[ MORE: All of the picks from Friday’s MLS SuperDraft first & second rounds ]

In exchange for Kamara, the Galaxy have sent U.S. Men’s National Team attacker Gyasi Zardes and $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to the Crew. The amount of TAM could increase to $500,000 if Kamara scores 12 or more goals in 2018.

Since arriving on the MLS scene in 2016, the Norwegian had scored 34 regular season goals for the Crew, while adding five assists.

Meanwhile, Zardes has spent his entire professional career with the Galaxy up until this point, after having signed a Homegrown contract with the club over five years ago.

The USMNT winger has scored 34 goals in 131 regular season appearances since making his senior team debut for the Galaxy.