02/09/2014: Transfer Round-Up: Schneiderlin stays, Ramirez to Hull and much more
If you had said at the end of last season that Saints would end up losing six first team players in the summer, most would have found it unfathomable. You could hardly blame fans for being alarmed at the number of departures that took place between May and July. Since Calum Chambers' sale to Arsenal the club have steadied the ship somewhat. There was a widespread belief that the exodus would continue when the 19 year old made the move to North London, but thankfully the board put their foot down. Subsequent recruitment has been fairly good, and while there are some unresolved issues that are likely crop up again in the future, Saints go into this season with quality and depth in most areas of the pitch.
Saints' decision to stand firm on Morgan Schneiderlin was perhaps the most important move of the window. I like many others expected the board to go back on their word when they initially said he wasn't for sale, but they didn't, so full credit to them for that. It makes a mockery of the idea that Saints were powerless to stop the other want-away players, though.
While Saints do have plenty of other quality options in midfield, nobody quite offers you the total package that Schneiderlin does. Despite agitating for a move, he has started the campaign in better form than he did last season. He is hugely influential, capable of making an average team look good and a good team look great. Unless things change dramatically, it's likely that he'll still want out next summer (or even in January). After seven years of great service, you could hardly begrudge him a move at that point, but you can't blame Saints for clinging on for as long as possible either. No doubt the presence of Mauricio Pochettino was a big pull for Schneiderlin, but the Frenchman is capable of bigger and better than Tottenham. He wouldnt look out of place anywhere.
Of all the crazy decisions the new board at Southampton have made this summer, moving Gaston Ramirez out may be the most brainless of them all. Saints are woefully short of creative players already. Dusan Tadic has looked promising thus far, but aside from him Ronald Koeman's options between midfield and centre forward look scarce. Lloyd Isgrove has played just a handful of senior games for the club and doesn't look like he'll ever get near to approaching the level Ramirez is at. Steven Davis did a fairly good job in the advanced role last season, but hasn't really shone in that position under Koeman thus far. Shane Long has played out wide a couple of times already, but doesn't really possess the unique attributes that Ramirez does. New addition Sadio Mane sounds promising, but Saints are still light in that area.
Ramirez's Southampton tenure has been far from perfect, but he hasn't been the complete flop that some like to depict him as either. His injury record was a source of frustration (although not quite as bad as some think), and you could make a good case that he should have done more for the price Saints paid for him. When he was on the pitch he quite often made a difference, however. Even when Adam Lallana was at the peak of his game last season, Ramirez gave the team something nobody else could. He was most effective as an impact sub. The Uruguayan had the guile and ingenuity to unlock a defence within an instant. His pin-point pass to Lallana in January sealed a 1-0 win against West Brom. Prior to his introduction that day, Saints looked just as clueless in front of goal as they did against the same opponents this season. Ramirez single-handedly altered the game. He made a similar impact in matches against Everton, West Ham and Norwich among others. Some consider his first season at the club underwhelming, and while it's true he did go through a rough patch of form, he sparkled at other times. The idea that he never adapted to English football is a huge misconception.
Ramirez made a late loan move to Hull on deadline day. You could make a better case for Saints cashing in at a higher price, but it's difficult to see what the club gain from such a measly deal. No doubt Saints will save a couple of million on wages, but in the grand scheme of things it's not really that much. After investing so much time, money and effort to get him to the club, it's disappointing to see him being given away. He could have thrived under Koeman given the chance.
On a more positive note, Saints still look strong in other areas of the pitch. Artur Boruc remains at the club for now, despite making his feelings clear about losing his spot in the starting line-up. It's difficult not to have some sympathy for the Polish stopper, but Saints have almost certainly upgraded in that department. Fraser Forster already looks a lot more commanding and assured between the sticks.
Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida have already proven to be a more than capable centre-back partnership, but that doesn't mean the addition of Toby Alderweireld isn't a welcome one. The Belgian brings a wealth of top level experience, and also provides much needed cover at right-back. If Florin Gardos hits it off too, Saints will have four genuinely quality Premier League centre-backs.
Alderweireld's arrival left Jos Hooiveld surplus to requirements. The centre half moves to Norwich on loan for the remainder of his Southampton contract. Hooiveld played a key role in helping to secure promotion in 2011/12, but was often derided for his efforts in the Premier League. It's worth remembering though, that he did actually hold his own at times. His performance against Manchester City in 2012/13 was superb, as were a few others. He was far from perfect of course, but when given a long run of games with a settled back-line he looked capable. More than anything his influence in the changing room and behind the scenes will be missed.
Another centre-half, Jack Stephens linked up with Swindon. The 20 year old moves to the County Ground for the second time, having enjoyed a successful loan spell at the League One club last season. Stephens will line up alongside fellow Saints loanee Jordan Turnbull at the heart of the defence. The former Plymouth man has shown plenty of promise in friendlies and in U21 matches, but you would have thought that if he was going to make it at St Marys, he would have at least come close by now. He should still enjoy a fairly fruitful career, most likely in the Championship.
Jake Sinclair moved on loan to Hibernian. The club had high hopes for him years ago, but he hasn't looked like making the step up for a while. The decision to hand him another year in the summer looks even stranger now.
Jay Rodriguez was another player who was linked with Tottenham throughout the summer. It would have been a strange move to make given his current fitness status. Rodriguez is better off staying at St Marys for the time being at least to build his health back up and ease his way back in. It goes without saying that he will give Saints a huge boost on his return.
The whole Saphir Taider affair was very strange. The Algerian impressed in his cameo against Leverkusen, but has already been sent back to Italy, having apparently failed to live up to the standards demanded by the club. Given that Saints already have so many options in central midfield it seemed a strange signing at the time. Perhaps Koeman and co were anticipating the sale of Schneiderlin and/or Jack Cork, but with both of them staying there was no need to keep Taider around anymore.
Saints ended the window in good shape, but the board would be foolish to rest on their laurels. Jack Cork and Maya Yoshida are out of contract next summer, while several others like Nathaniel Clyne, Jay Rodriguez and Gaston Ramirez will be entering the final year of theirs. With Morgan Schneiderlin's long term future also in doubt, it's hardly scaremongering to suggest Saints could be in danger of losing more stars next year. The club sold players who were on long term deals this window, but will have even less leverage next year when contracts start to wind down. In the meantime, Saints have enough quality this season to push for a place in the top ten. Some have even suggested the squad is stronger than it was this time last season. I don't agree with that assessment, but it's not too much worse than it was. There were some awful moments at the start of the summer, but Saints came through it much better than most could have anticipated at the end of July. Thankfully it's all over for a few months and we can just concentrate on watching some good football for now.
Summer 2014 Transfer Deals
8th July: Dusan Tadic - Twente
12th July: Graziano Pelle Feyenoord
30th July: Ryan Bertrand Chelsea (loan)
6th August: Saphir Taider Inter (loan)
9th August: Fraser Forster Celtic
14th August: Florin Gardos Steaua
14th August: Shane Long Hull
1st September: Toby Alderweireld Atletico Madrid (loan)
1st September: Sadio Mane - Red Bull Salzburg
22nd May: Jonathan Forte - Oldham
22nd May: Guly released
2nd June: Rickie Lambert Liverpool
24th June: Lee Barnard - Southend
27th June: Luke Shaw Man United
1st July: Adam Lallana Liverpool
27th July: Dejan Lovren Liverpool
28th July: Calum Chambers Arsenal
6th August: Dani Osvaldo Inter
8th August: Jordan Turnbull - Swindon (loan)
13th August: Billy Sharp - Leeds
1st September: Saphir Taider loan terminated
1st September: Jos Hooiveld Norwich (loan)
1st September: Gaston Ramirez Hull (loan)
1st September: Jack Stephens Swindon (loan)