Southampton will be hoping to try and improve or at the very least replicate their sensational 2014-15 season this time around.
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Ronald Koeman worked miracles last season to totally revamp Saints’ squad following a mass exodus, while also delivering their highest-ever PL finish to seal European qualification. With a crop of promising youngsters continuing to come through and Koeman spending his transfer kitty wisely after the departures of Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne this summer, Saints fans will be optimistic that they can try to muscle their way into the top six.
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Saints have only one major honor in their 129-year history as a club, upsetting Manchester United to win the FA Cup in 1976.
Their main rivals are Portsmouth but with Pompey now in League Two (English soccer’s fourth tier), Saints will look to PL new boys Bournemouth as their closes rivals as just 30 miles separates the two south coast cities.
Best possible XI:
— Forster —
— Cedric — Fonte — Yoshida — Bertrand —
— Clasie — Wanyama —
Tadic — Mane — Long —
— Pelle —
Transfers In: Juanmi ($9 million, Malaga), Cedric Soares ($7 million, Sporting Lisbon), Jordy Clasie ($17 million, Feyenoord), Cuco Martina (Undisclosed, FC Twente), Maarten Stekelenburg (Season-long loan, Fulham), Steven Caulker (Season-long loan, QPR)
Transfers Out: Nathaniel Clyne ($20 million, Liverpool), Morgan Schneiderlin ($40 million, Manchester United), Dani Osvaldo (Released), Sam Gallagher (Season-long loan, MK Dons), Artur Boruc (Free, Bournemouth), Jos Hooiveld (Free, AIK), Cody Cropper (Free, MK Dons)
Last season: 7th in the Premier League – Saints qualified for the Europa League after recording their best-ever points tally and their highest-ever position in the PL. In Ronald Koeman’s debut season in England, the Dutch boss turned things around as a huge exodus of players (Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert to name a few) threatened to derail Saints’ recent upsurge. Koeman stayed cool and new stars emerged with Pelle, Tadic and Mane stealing the headlines. Southampton could have finished in fifth going into the final day of the season, as the St Mary’s faithful enjoyed the clubs best-ever PL campaign.
Star player: Sadio Mane – You get the sense that the Senegalese winger will kick things up a notch this season. Last year he struggled to get going early on after arriving from Red Bull Salzburg on Deadline Day, but the 23-year-old ended up scoring 10 goals in 31 appearances, including the fastest-ever hat trick in PL history with a treble in two minutes and 56 seconds against Aston Villa. Mane’s pace scares the life out of PL defenders and along with Tadic, Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez, he will feed off the knock downs from Pelle.
Coach’s corner: It’s difficult to put into words the job Koeman has done at Southampton. Along with his brother, Erwin, as his assistant, plus Sammy Lee and Dave Watson, the Dutchman has revitalized Saints into team that is know for not only giving youngsters a chance, but also staying tight at the back and managing to play attractive soccer that has won the hearts of neutrals across the globe. He has a contract through the end of the 2016-17 season with Saints, but surely they will look to extend that as soon as possible. A legendary player during his days with Barcelona and Holland, don’t be surprised if Koeman become one of the top managers in the world in the coming years.
PST predicts: This all depends on how far Southampton go in the Europa League. If they make it to the group stages, their squad could be stretched to its limits and we’ve all seen how other PL teams have struggled to deal with that in the past. But, Koeman has replaced Clyne and Schnedierlin expertly while all addressing the weak areas of his squad. Expect another top 10 finish from Saints, with top six not out of the questions, as they will also aim to cause a splash in Europe and in the domestic cup competitions.