Newly installed Southampton manager Ronald Koeman strode confidently into an apparently stable club fresh from a wonderful 2013/14 campaign and seemingly looking ahead to a bright future just over six weeks ago following his defection from Feyenoord, only to now find himself at the centre of a storm due to the sale of several star names since his much-heralded arrival at St. Mary’s. Will the Dutchman have the necessary strength of character to withstand this troubled period in order to deliver success to the south coast side and see off the doubters in the process?

  • By David Lee Wheatley
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koesoutThe former Barcelona star has enjoyed a fine coaching career in his homeland, while suffering mixed results during spells abroad in charge of Benfica and Valencia. Now, he must prove to every onlooker that he can create a winning team away from his own country under the most trying of circumstances.

He will have been fully aware of the likelihood that Southampton would be unable to hold on to certain prized assets when agreeing to accept the post, but losing five first-teamers and subsequently being forced to staunchly deflect interest in another two will probably not have been the scenario he expected. Furthermore, at least five additional squad members are said to be considering their options in reaction to the controversial decisions of the club’s power-brokers to allow so many important players to move on in such a short space of time.

England striker Rickie Lambert had already departed for hometown team Liverpool prior to Koeman’s appointment, with young left-back Luke Shaw, midfield maestro Adam Lallana, strong central defender Dejan Lovren and the promising Calum Chambers all following him out of the door for a combined total of £92 million. Of course, that amount of money hands the 51-year-old boss plenty of spending power in the transfer market, but how easy will it be to persuade top-class talent to join an outfit currently branded with the unwelcome tag of being a ‘selling club’?

Major signings so far have come from the Eredivisie in the shape of Feyenoord forward Graziano Pelle and Twente’s goalscoring midfielder Dusan Tadic, both of whom are unproven at Premier League level. Additionally, Chelsea full-back Ryan Bertrand joins on loan to replace Shaw on the left-hand side of defence. However, many more incoming transfers will be required to bring Saints’ side up to the required standard which would then offer an opportunity of repeating last term’s eighth-placed finish. However, that highly satisfactory 56-point season looks to be a tough ask for the group left behind to live up to, especially against the backdrop of rumbling discontent amongst the majority of supporters.

Koeman slammed his foot down recently by insisting that Morgan Schneiderlin stay – very much against the Frenchman’s apparent wish to leave for reported suitors Spurs – and in turn dismissed furious media speculation surrounding the same club’s intention to prise Jay Rodriguez away from the south coast soon. He must swiftly set about reinforcing a depleted line-up, while quelling the dissenting voices of Saints fans ready to unleash their fury on the organisation’s owners. Quite frankly, the Holland legend has inherited a complete and utter mess, with a very long road to redemption stretching out in front of the new man at the helm.

Many observers would’ve suggested that Southampton needed at least three high-calibre buys without taking outgoing switches into account prior to the transfer window re-opening; it stands to reason that with four crucial footballers gone alongside the promising Chambers, there is an urgent call for a quadruple of new players to supplement the squad sufficiently. Also, Koeman will be delving into the under-21 development set-up in the hope of unearthing a couple of gems to add to the list of splendid youngsters who’ve progressed through the ranks previously.

Without revealing names, the Dutch principal said today that two new faces are thought imminent, so it remains to be seen whether those prospective additions will go some way to appeasing worried fans. He’s rebuilt a fractured team at Feyenoord in the past by placing his absolute faith in up-and-coming talent produced by the academy there and will endeavour to undertake a similar project on English shores. Should Koeman manage to steady the ship while continuing Southampton’s extraordinary rise, then he will undoubtedly adopt a whole new legion of disciples who currently believe the club to be heading in completely the wrong direction under the apathetic leadership of Katharina Liebherr.

His determination to succeed in the Premier League will guarantee that Koeman puts his heart and soul into the job, of that you can be sure. Also, he encourages an attractive style of play which sits perfectly with the philosophy put in place by previous boss Mauricio Pochettino and has won him many admirers back in the Netherlands. Only time will tell if that approach will be enough to turn the tide in his favour amid the severe turbulence raging around the club at this pivotal moment in its history.

Significant signings are desperately needed, along with a huge amount of patience and understanding from a set of supporters who have become accustomed to watching winning football over the past four years.