Could Southampton Cope Without Koeman?

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Recent news has flaunted rumours about Ronald Koeman leaving Southampton in favour of a managerial position at Everton. The mere thought of seeing such an instrumental body behind the scenes of St. Mary’s then assuming a role at Goodison Park just seems plain wrong. The Dutchman has brought wonderful things to the south coast, so how would they cope without him?

Could Southampton Cope Without Koeman?

2014 was an unsettling time for Southampton. They parted ways with their manager, Mauricio Pochettino (whom has since done stellar work with Tottenham Hotspur), as well as a clutch of critical players. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers had some incredible offers and relinquished their duties within the Saints squad. This left dreams of making it big in the Premier League in red-and-white tatters. That was, of course, until Ronald Koeman signed on the dotted line.

Fans haven’t witnessed flourishing football on Southampton soil since the James Beattie era; back then, hopes weren’t readily dashed, and goals were flying in. Pochettino had made waves in this department, with Lambert and Lallana major talents within the starting eleven, but Koeman trumped the Argentine on many levels. At the final whistle of the 2014/15 campaign, the team had secured a seventh-placed ranking on the league table, and just this previous season upped themselves with a sixth-placed spot. One can already hear cogs whirring; could Saints finish fifth next time around? What about properly and realistically challenging for the top four? It sounds a little overreaching, and almost out of a team like Southampton’s grasp, but would it actually be so outlandish? Look how far they’ve come.

It is certainly fair to apportion a good degree of credit to Ronald Koeman. However, not just for being in charge; his signings have been excellent choices, and his techniques regarding the gelling of players are clearly second-to-none. Many fresher faces had been cherry-picked from the Eredivisie, or had connections to Koeman from previous tenures. To name just a handful, Dušan Tadić and Graziano Pellè, the masterful upfront duo, were both Dutch-linked, and can be so easily attributed to some of Saints’ classiest moments, including some killer strikes. Virgil van Dijk, Dutch international, is another. His defending has been vital, whilst his aerial ability has awarded the team a few extra chances and goals on a string of occasions. Even Maarten Stekelenburg, a loanee, is from the Netherlands.

Other extremely noteworthy additions include Sadio Mané, the Senegalese force to be reckoned with, and Fraser Forster, a goalkeeper I can’t recommend enough. (Side note: why pick any other ‘keeper to stand in front of the posts for England during Euro 2016?). Mané has scored, he’s countlessly engaged in duals with opposing players, he’s made some phenomenal runs, he has extraordinary pace, and he’ll gladly play alongside any other midfielder or attacker. He’s really quite the hotshot among the team. As for Forster, he has blips, of course, but he’s steady, he’s tall, he’s willing to give everything he’s got to defend the ball at the last hurdle, he shares the tenacity of the rest of the squad, and he’s wholly capable.

Ronald Koeman has made some fantastic decisions at the head of Southampton, which is why it would be terrible if he left. It begs the question of how Southampton would survive in his absence. It also evokes speculation as to who would take over.

The current Sevilla manager, Unai Emery, is rumoured to be keen. The former Spanish player has been with the club since 2013, so he certainly comes experienced, and has nurtured his team to seventh place this season. This is in-line with how Saints would want to end up once a campaign terminates.

Interestingly enough, there has also been talk of Bournemouth boss, Eddie Howe, fancying a go in the manager’s seat at Saints. It would be very intriguing to place another south coaster in charge, but, despite his similarly humble nature, Howe has not accomplished anything paralleling to either Koeman or Emery. He might not be a good fit just yet.

So, at this stage, the future of Southampton is up in the air. It remains to be seen how proceedings will unfold, but, two years ago, they encountered an identical situation; two years ago, things got even better.

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