By Jim Mackney @JimMackney @TLE_Sport
At the starting line of a long summer there is a prevailing feeling of excitement. It has always been this way. Whether you’re a child anticipating the school hiatus or a 40 something city slogger envisaging weekends in pub gardens and the week break away from your desk. It is a palpable feeling.
However, if you’re a football fan and your beloved is a club outside of the Top Four, then it is a summer cut short. Your summer longings no longer include July and August. The transfer window is a cancerous, repugnant idea that doesn’t work. At least not in its current form for any team outside of the Top Four.
If you have successfully finished in the Top Four, you can afford to throw £30-40m at whomever you please, aside from anyone who plays for Real Madrid or Barcelona (the acquisition of those players is another article in itself). If you’ve finished in either the interchangeable Spurs and Liverpool positions you can throw £20m, with the caveat that anyone actually wants to sign for you. Everyone else? £10m and at an absolute push £15m. That’s it. This will be the way forever more until the Premier League/UEFA decide to change the parameters of the transfer window (again, another article in itself).
As a Southampton fan it is a very dispiriting time. You see your best players leave for around £20-£30m and in Schneiderlin’s case, £10m too few with a transfer fee of £25m. He who we have cherished, is not as cherished by the wider game.
All things point to Virgil Van Dijk, who is St Mary’s bound for a reported £11.5m from Celtic, and this will bolster Southampton’s back line with Yoshida able to move to Right Back like he did last season when Cedric is seemingly dropped at will by Ronald Koeman. Although it must be said that I’d have anyone other than Martina in that position, who plays football like a foal finding its footing in the dark. Martina may well end up with the unfortunate reputation as the worst signing of the Reed/Koeman/Kruger reign.
Bertrand will regain fitness and give Saints’ left side some attacking nous, although Matt Targett performed very well against Norwich with Dusan Tadic in front of him and operating in a more suitable alternating 4-4-1-1/4-5-1 formation.
Any other business? Highly unlikely. If Koeman has snapped Wanyama out of his sulk then hopefully no departures will take place. Koeman’s admission that ‘the player is neither physically or mentally prepared to play’ spoke volumes. Wanyama is loved by many fans and unfairly derided by others but no one at St Mary’s before kick off against Norwich would have sympathy for him after that candid point from the manager.
Sadio Mane appears to know when he’s on to a good thing and is not off to stagnate at a toothless Manchester United. Mane is a very good player but is still in his Nani phase of overthinking every move; when he acts more intelligently and instinctively he will be a great player.
Graziano Pellé needs a proper strike partner and Koeman is seemingly resting these hopes on Jay Rodriguez, a shrewd move if he can find his match sharpness of 19 months ago – he looked much brighter against Norwich.
As soon as it opens, the transfer window is wished to a close for clubs like Southampton as the £20-40m vultures are circling, as bullys are want to do. The vultures show little faith in their own nurtured talents e.g. Wilson/Loftus-Cheek/Gnabry but seemingly love to snap up others’. Maybe they should invest £40m into their youth system? Alas in the age of the unending Jim White driven narrative and quick fix schemes, this isn’t viewed as worthwhile.
There is a cruel irony that Southampton’s academy is heralded as one of the best in Europe and yet other teams do not look to copy Southampton’s method of success and merely choose to buy Southampton’s academy graduates when they reach peak-‘Future International Star’ ability.
Southampton will not capitulate this season but will not finish 7th again – I’ll happily admit I was wrong if they do. 9th/10th and hopefully a decent Cup Run (I wish to see us properly try to win the League Cup or FA Cup) would be a pleasing season. Koeman will say he has higher expectations but he’s not a fool. With the potential of losing Wanyama and Mane next summer or earlier if they have great starts to the season and possibly Dusan Tadic if he can maintain his form he showed against Norwich and stay fit, this will leave Saints with another uphill battle.
Alongside all of this, exiting the Europa League with an embarrassing whimper is not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination. However, just maybe, having to play four qualifying games and four league games admist all of the tabloid and Sky Sports News driven speculation of the Premier League’s self-inflicted cancerous month really hasn’t helped.