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Southampton need to 'Leicester City' their way back to prominence

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Southampton need to 'Leicester City' their way back to prominence

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Siddhant Lazar

10/30/2019

After a humiliating loss, there are really only two ways to get back up. The first is to give up completely and resign to mediocrity eventually fading away and the second is to transform into the 1996/97 Red Devils. Either way, Southampton needs to find a way forward and stop moving backwards.

It wasn’t supposed to start like this. Instead, Southampton was supposed to be the upper mid-table club with a chance of punching above their weight. Their first game under Ralph Hasenhuttl, a 3-2 win against Arsenal, showed that the Saints had so more to them than anyone realised. They weren’t just the Premier League’s “feeder club” but instead someone who could do more and maybe even achieve consistency someday despite being a self-sustained club. But after just ten Premier League games this season Southampton sits in the relegation zone, walk into a second battle against Manchester City on the back of two defeats and then there’s THAT game against Leicester City.

That epitomized their struggles and the sheer lack of planning put in by the club off the field that has changed St Mary’s into a potential relegation zone. It really wasn’t supposed to go this way but if there’s anyone to blame, it’s Southampton. In this day and age, dynasties mean everything but the Saints have struggled to build a proper team around a proper manager with a proper support staff. Arguably their best spell since their promotion in 2011 was under the unholy trifecta of Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and Claude Puel. All three managers, sacked or left in a space of five years, helped the club reach single figure finishes in all but one season.

And that was arguably one of the club’s best spells in their history and it saw them produce a never-ending stream of talent. That’s before it all collapsed and instead, the Saints have hoped and prayed that short-term solutions and a chaotic back-room – five assistant managers since March 2018, no technical director since November 2018, and no replacement for either Ross Wilson, Bill Green or Les Reed, help them – barely, survive. It’s become so bad that a good manager, Ralph Hasenhuttl, cannot seem to get the best out of their club and he doesn’t even have that youth academy to help him anymore.

The famous Southampton academy that has, since 2001, seen more than 20 players go on to flourish and become international stars playing across the world. They had a direct tap to some of England's brightest players and it played a big part in the success that Pochettino, Puel, and Koeman had at the start of the decade. But that well has run dry and a drought has eclipsed St Mary's. Simply put at the moment their U23s sit second from their bottom and the U18s have won just two games. That forced the club to look elsewhere and the Saints started supplementing that with excellent recruitment something that everyone else has since copied.

The originals, at least in England, was Southampton and they did it brilliantly. They brought in players from Austria, Scotland, Portugal, Italy, France and England before selling them for absurd amounts of money. Virgil Van Dijk was sold for five times the initial fee, Sadio Mane for double, Jack Cork for nearly four times more and Morgan Schneiderlin for just above 23 times. It worked brilliantly and paved the way for teams below them, which saw a lot of other clubs pick it up and Leicester City are the prime examples.

What the Foxes did in that 2015/16 season will always be remembered but the way they did should and will play an even bigger part. They took advantage of a league in transition, with the Big Six finding their way back, and won the damn thing. What was shocked a few more than that was the sheer fact that they did it with players no-one had heard of before. The Southampton model some may call it worked in the Foxes favour as they picked up players on the cheap, Christian Fuchs walked in for free, Kante for €9 million, Huth for €4 million, Marc Albrighton for free, Riyad Mahrez for €500 thousand, Jamie Vardy for €1.25 million, and then proceeded to win the league title.

But what’s more important is what happened after that and that’s where Southampton and Leicester City take different roads. The Foxes have somehow managed to keep the players longer than they should have ever stayed at the club. Harry Maguire and Danny Drinkwater stayed one extra year, Riyad Mahrez stayed two extra years and Jamie Vardy has yet to leave. On the other hand, Southampton have lost their way and instead started to follow Tottenham’s 2013 summer model. Spend just over a €100 million on the wrong men and then watch as they’re unceremoniously loaned out by the managers.

For a club on a self-sustaining model, that’s more harmful than funny and the Saints need to snap out of it. That’s before it’s too late and they find themselves opening their eyes and realising that somehow Watford, without a win in thirteen league games, have leapt above them. If anything that humiliating, humbling, atrocious, stunning, sensational loss against Leicester City needs to be used as a wake-up call, which is obvious, but the Saints need it to mean more than that.

Their downfall has been predicted by a few but this is their chance to maybe move ahead of the curve, find a system that works and use Ralph Hasenhuttl’s abilities as a manager before he decides to move on to something better. Or they need to resign themselves to being one-hit wonders and settle but either way, they need to do something.

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