In a league that so many consider ruined due to borderline untraceable investment, it’s hard to point the finger at Southampton who are building up capital from selling their best players.
But has a focus on finance ultimately left them in a precarious position?
First things first – Virgil van Dijk is not worth £75m; neither in its true pre- or post-Brexit market value. He’s probably not worth 75 million anything.
Freddos, cobwebs – nothing. So, let’s address the elephant in the room by saying that it was not just about good business, it was the only logical option. The footballing world has become obsessed with figures and individual players, but it’s very quickly forgotten that football is a team sport and it takes units to adjust and adopt styles of play.
Southampton are one of the few clubs promoted in recent years to adopt a very distinctive style of play, in so much that you know how they’re going to operate.
Teams learn from this and they adapt season on season to break you down. To combat this, you must get stronger in the areas you’re good in or you have to adjust yourself. The Saints have typically stuck by their philosophy which is admirable, but over time as units begin to change, inconsistency creeps in.
You’re allowed play moneyball to an extent, but when metrics in baseball are used to discuss individuals in terms like ERA, OBP and WHIP – football can’t be dissected accordingly. Southampton still keep the most possession on average outside the top six.
They’re languishing perilously close to the drop, yet they’re sticking by their guns. It may be the rock they perish on.
In the 2014-15 season, they lost Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers. They replaced them with Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle, Shane Long, Sadio Mane and Ryan Bertrand. Not bad.
In 2015-16, they lost Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne. They brought in Virgil van Dijk, Cuco Martina and Oriol Romeu. Mmm.
The following year, Mane, Wanyama, Pelle and Fonte all departed. £30 million of an investment produced Sofiane Boufal and Manolo Gabbiadini.
£50 million on rubbish last summer and then they sold van Dijk in Januray. You don’t always hit – and the proven metrics are the ones you have in-house.
Perhaps the biggest problem Southampton face is the bizarre plaudits they get every week for ‘playing well’ and showing off ‘attractive’ football. They’ve lost 15 times this season.
Time to wake up. Sometimes you can become so involved in the process of turnover and overheads that you can’t see what’s right in front of you. Luck is a part of any Premier League season. Luck is a part of any football season and you can’t control it.
What you can control is the right to replace proven commodities with proven commodities and Southampton didn’t buy into that.
What you can control is a change in style to alter results and predictability. Southampton didn’t buy into that.
They can just about control their destiny. Nobody will have sympathy for them should they plummet, except the Barcelona fanboys who expect every side to try and imitate the 2008 once-in-a-generation tiki-taka merchants.
Viva Sean Dyche.