Premier League 2014-15 preview: Southampton

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Southampton’s summer has been riddled with uncertainty as one of the largest and most shocking fire sale’s in Premier League history has taken place at St. Mary’s. Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers and Rickie Lambert have all left the South Coast club, as they followed manager Mauricio Pochettino out of the exit door. Those incredible sales raised over $175 million and the rebuild is well and truly underway.

A new era is on the horizon for Saints with Dutch legend Ronald Koeman their new manager and the the club will once again look to its famed academy to churn out players for the future. Southampton’s odds to be relegated have been slashed from 40-1 to 4-1 by the bookmakers and there is a real sense of doom and gloom when it comes to how Saints have been ruthlessly broken up. One of the PL’s most attractive teams in 2013-14 may be fighting for survival this season.

[RELATED: Full PL season preview]

Transfers In: Dusan Tadic (FC Twente, $19 million), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, $14 million), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, Loan), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan, Loan)

Transfers Out: Luke Shaw (Manchester United, $55 million), Adam Lallana (Liverpool, $45 million), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool, $9 million), Calum Chambers (Arsenal, $19 million), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool, $35 million), Dani Osvaldo (Inter Milan, Loan)

Full PL schedule | Watch Saints live via Live Extra | BPL on NBC schedule |

Last season: The Saints enjoyed their best-ever finish in the Premier League in eighth place and recorded their best ever points tally. Under former boss Pochettino they played a high-pressure game and talented English youngsters such as Shaw, Lallana and Jay Rodriguez stole the show. The South Coast club were third after the first few months of the season and there was serious talk about a top-six finish however a spate of injuries around the festive period but that to bed. Overall, one of the most successful seasons in club history, hence why so many of their players were cherry picked by England’s top clubs.

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Source: Southampton FC

Star player: Dusan Tadic

Tadic, 25, has been signed from Twente with big boots to fill but the Serbian international is more than capable of doing so. With Lallana off to Liverpool, Tadic is tasked with being Saints’ chief creator from midfield and he’s already has a promising preseason under his belt. He has scored 16 goals in each of his last two seasons in Holland and also led the Eredivisie in assists last year. If Saints deal with the players they’ve lost smoothly, Tadic’s play will be a big reason for that. If Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin remain at Saints, they will also be hugely important.

Coaches’ Corner: Ronald Koeman

Getting Koeman to leave Dutch giants Feyenoord was something of a coup for the ambitious club as the former FC Barcelona star has ushered in “Ronald’s Revolution” with wholesale changes. Koeman led Feyenoord to Champions League qualification last season and turned the Rotterdam club around after their were left in financial ruin. His status as one of the most respected defenders in European soccer during his playing days is undoubted and his high-profile should see plenty more new signings arrive between now and the end of August at St. Mary’s. Plus, his new assistant coach is his brother, Erwin, so there’s that. And he loves to Tweet.

PST predictsIt what has been an offseason of turmoil for the Saints it is very hard to predict how this will go. In many people’s eyes the dramatic exodus sees the club as one of the favorites for relegation but in truth they still have plenty of top class internationals on the books. If players like Schneiderlin and Rodriguez stick around and the $175 million they raised by selling players is spent wisely, they should be midtable at worst. That said, the dreaded “R” word is being whispered at St. Mary’s.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.