Sitting in fourth place in the Premier League table after seven games, it looks like it is set to be a good season for Southampton. The South coast side have adapted well to life in the top flight of the English game and this term will be looking to consolidate and build on last season’s excellent debut season, where they finished 14th.
Part of Southampton’s recent success has been down to the way that the club has been run of late. The playing squad has an enviable blend of homegrown stars and foreign imports, with the mix seemingly perfect in Mauricio Pochettino’s contingent.
FA chairman Greg Dyke has been quick to point out the number of foreign players plying their trade in the upper echelons of the English game, and has linked this to an underperforming national team. With Roy Hodgson eager to increase the number of players at his disposal for England, Southampton’s current mix will be of interest.
Yes, Southampton like all other Premier League clubs, have looked abroad to bring talent to St Mary’s to keep them competitive in the division. However, instead of signing mediocre, untried or fringe players from overseas to beef up their squad, they have looked to spend big on established stars. The squad’s depth comes from their enviable youth system, with teenage stars breaking into the first-team as a result.
The summer additions are a case in point. Italy international Pablo Osvaldo was brought to the club in a real coup from Roma – probably the highest profile of the new arrivals. The Argentine-born marksman has the experience needed to allow him to slot straight into the Saints’ side and the pedigree to be a real star.
Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren were also added at considerable cost to bolster the quality of the group as a whole, which appears to be happening. Both players have the qualities necessary to succeed in the Premier League and the international calibre to play in Southampton’s starting XI, not take a youth player’s place on the bench.
Gastón Ramirez is another classic example; signed last summer the Uruguayan was being linked to some top clubs across Europe but was convinced to join a project gathering pace at an exponential rate.
Luke Shaw is the most high profile of the young stars, however the likes of Calum Chambers and James Ward-Prowse have also shown that they are good enough to play Premier League football this term. All three are 18. These three are the latest off a production line accountable for Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The final piece of the puzzle? Solid English professionals to gel it all together. Attacking talisman Rickie Lambert has been rewarded for his endeavour with an international call-up while Adam Lallana is arguably the club’s most-important player. This pair lead by example in their vice-captain and captain responsibilities.
Southampton’s rise shows that to succeed in the Premier League the complete influx of foreign stars is not necessary. Many clubs are seemingly minimising the importance of their youth academies, while the Saints have prospered through their dedication to its growth.