[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ollowing the departure of Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham last summer, a number of high-profile Southampton players followed suit by jumping from the St Mary’s ship.
With Calum Chambers, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert all leaving the South coast club, Saints fans could be understandably concerned ahead of this season.
However, Ronald Koeman has done a stellar job in replacing the outgoing stars, with Southampton progressing this term under the Dutch manager’s stewardship.
While the Saints flourish and overachieve, some of the players to leave the club will surely now be questioning their decision as their careers stagnate in new surrounds.
There is no doubting that Shaw is a supreme talent who has the ability and potential to be a real star for Manchester United and England for years to come.
However, the teenage left-back’s move to Old Trafford has not exactly gone to plan, with injuries blighting the defender’s first season with the Red Devils and limiting him to only 12 Premier League starts.
With Louis van Gaal seemingly finally settling on a four-man defence and a consistent team selection, Shaw will have a task on his hands to return to the starting XI when fit.
As United’s midfield looks much improved, Daley Blind has been impressing at left-back and could be seen as a long-term option in this position.
Meanwhile, the Saints have wrapped up a permanent deal for Ryan Bertrand; netting a tidy profit overall and getting a player that has really impressed this season.
Croatian centre-half Lovren was a stalwart of a miserly Southampton rearguard under Pochettino and one of the most impressive performers for the Saints last season.
A move to Liverpool was expected to take the no-nonsense defender to the next level, but in reality it has exposed his weaknesses and limited his chances of regular football.
Despite Brendan Rodgers playing three centre-halves, Lovren is seemingly fifth choice and has made some glaring errors when afforded the chance to play at Anfield.
With Lovren only starting three Premier League games in 2015, he has been reduced to something of a liability rather than a leader.
Southampton captain José Fonte continues to be the Saints’ defensive talisman, while loan star Toby Alderweireld has been mightily impressive while on loan from Atlético Madrid.
The versatile young Englishman was snapped up early in the summer by Arsenal, with initial signs that the defender was set to play an important role for the Gunners.
The Saints youth product was deployed at right-back, centre-half and in midfield by Arsène Wenger in the campaign’s early days, with an England call-up also coming as a result.
However, the emergence of Héctor Bellerín at right-back and January acquisition of Gabriel Paulista now mean that Chambers is a squad player that will have to rely on fleeting opportunities in North London.
Only four starts since the turn of the year mark a dramatic decrease in playing time, while whether Chambers would get into the current Southampton defence remains to be seen.
The England international playmaker has arguably thrived the most of the five players since leaving Southampton, with glimpses of the skill and vision at Anfield that made him a fans’ favourite on the south coast.
When available, Rodgers has used Lallana alongside Philippe Coutinho in Liverpool’s bespoke 3-4-2-1 formation, with the ex-Saint showing that he has the attributes to be an important player on Merseyside.
However, injuries have restricted Lallana’s time on the pitch, while competition for places means that he is not a guaranteed starter for the Reds when everyone is fit.
Dušan Tadić’s selfless play and Sadio Mané’s directness have made up for Lallana’s exit, but the 26-year-old is perhaps the one star Southampton wish they still had on their books.
After netting 28 goals in the space of two Premier League campaigns at St Mary’s, Rickie Lambert was allowed to join childhood favourites Liverpool in the summer.
Replacing Luis Suárez was always going to be a difficult feat for Liverpool, with it appearing that the ageing England international was more of a back-up option than viable choice.
A mere five Premier League starts for Lambert this term at Anfield will have the ageing striker questioning the logic of a move to Merseyside, where he clearly does not fit into Rodgers’ dynamic and pace-focussed style of attack.
Graziano Pellè has been the 33-year-old’s replacement at Southampton and appears to have all the attributes to fire Koeman’s men towards the top six.
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