Premier League Update: Southampton Facelift
Changes are afoot at Southampton. The St. Mary’s-based club is under major revamp following the departure of their humble manager and go-to guy, Ronald Koeman. Star players are exiting, their kit looks notably less fashionable, and now they’ll be taking orders from a new man. Is this really going to instil confidence in the Saints faithful? The team finished sixth in the league back in May, but a Southampton facelift could be set to see the south coast side dip below their newly set bar.
Who is Claude Puel?
Throughout his senior career, Claude Puel spent 17 years with AS Monaco. The 54-year-old stood in a defensive midfield role and has been at the helm of many a French team ever since. Clearly, he has no issue with keeping the opposition at bay, and nor does he seem to have any misguided loyalty. Once he’s in, he’s in. That’s surely a good sign?
His Riviera days are over now, though. Settling along the seafront of an English team, he’s now to pick up the pieces of what the Dutchman left behind. The Euro 2016 campaign has also left some players feeling they could have more; Puel must regroup with his men and get something fresh cooking.
For a start, Koeman. However, the team has suffered other huge blows. With Victor Wanyama seeking a new path with Tottenham Hotspur, others have since joined him in a bid for freedom. Painfully, the quick-footed Senegalese star, Sadio Mané, has accepted an offer to move to Liverpool. Saints alumni haven’t the best track record at Anfield (for instance, remember Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana?), so he could well be in for disappointment. Despite that, tactical genius, Jürgen Klopp, is now navigating, so the former Saints striker should be in safe hands.
More shockingly, especially after his excellent run of form for Italy this summer, Graziano Pellè has decided to totally gut the attacking line-up for Saints and move to China. Interesting. Amid rumours of him moving to Chelsea to join his ex-international manager, Antonio Conte, this was totally flabbergasting. The bright orange jersey of Shandong Luneng will become Pellè’s new uniform as he begins his passage into the Chinese Super League.
Among the list of players remaining, Virgil van Dijk and recently crowned European champion, José Fonte, will be keeping things normal in the south coast. News has also emerged that Ryan Bertrand has just penned a five-year contract with Saints. So, it’s not all trouble ahead.
Better yet, from the clutches of German behemoths, Bayern Munich, Puel has secured Danish young gun, Pierre Højbjerg. The midfielder is only 20, so he’s malleable enough to make a regular performer in red and white. Furthermore, in the wake of so many changes, the Bayern boy should be enough to restore a little hope.
What’s it all going to look like?
The answer to that question, from a purely personal angle, is: a bit rubbish. I really am not keen on the new kit, but Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson can’t be wrong. That’s right: out with Adidas, in with Under Armour.
The figure-of-eight Virgin Media motif will be plastered to the front of a rather retro-looking striped affair. It’s just not as crisp and stylish as the former kit, so I’m still not entirely sold. However, I’m feeling more confident by the day about the upcoming Premier League bid. Southampton’s facelift might be a bit unsettling for now, but there’s no denying the power of the additions.
Southamptons Dusan Tadic, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham United and Southampton at Boleyn Ground stadium in London, Monday, Dec. 28, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)