It’s the time of the season where self-entitled football fans mindlessly tweet their envy at every other club that makes a signing, even if that signing isn’t particularly mind-blowing.
Southampton fans are no different. As with every other club, a number of supporters will continuously tell you how ‘we should have gone for him’, ‘we’re playing catch-up’ and ‘we need to hurry up’. Except, we don’t need to do that.
The latest player to spark such comments on social media has been Xherdan Shaqiri, after the Swiss international completed his move to Stoke City. Now, I can understand the excitement surrounding the transfer, but at the end of the day, this is someone who failed to make the grade at two big-name clubs and has twice been moved on.
Perhaps understandable in the case of Bayern Munich, but Inter Milan are not the force they once were – as shown by their eighth-placed finish – and as such there must be a certain degree of reservation.
Other signings to evoke such envy from Saints fans this summer have included Yohan Cabaye and Angelo Ogbonna. What’s even more surprising is how so many fans seem to rate Ogbonna so highly after a beyond mediocre season in Italy with Juventus. The fact that West Ham United even dared to describe the defender as “one of the best in Europe last season” was enough to draw hysterical laughter from even the most deadpan individuals.
While harping on about Cabaye, many have completely ignored the fact that he’s five years older than summer arrival Jordy Clasie, not to mention earning a vast amount more on a weekly basis, largely due to the fact that he was purchased from Paris St. Germain. As an accomplished a player as Cabaye is, there’s no doubt in my mind as to who has been the shrewdest in the market.
Virgil van Dijk’s arrival will – most likely – be finalised in the next couple of weeks, which will see the same envy spread to other supporters. Most likely, followers of Everton.
Transfers involving forward have also drawn comments from Saints fans, with a clamour for the club to pursue Charlie Austin, of Queens Park Rangers at the time of writing. While this is one I can understand, it does rather seem to miss the point that Graziano Pelle netted 16 times last season, with Saints’ attacking options set to be bolstered further by the summer arrival of Juanmi and the return of Jay Rodriguez, who hit 17 goals in the 2013-14 Premier League season. That’s before you remember that Sadio Mane clocked up 10 goals from behind the main goalscorer.
Many have drawn comparisons between the business done by the likes of Crystal Palace, Stoke City and Swansea City to that of Southampton, regardless of the entirely different demands of the window for each club.
Southampton are a club that is looking to be sustainable, and a consistent top-eight club. The presence of Europa League football has called for signings capable of adding depth to the squad, such as the likes of Cuco Martina, Steven Caulker and Juanmi. They may not be the most high-profile of signings, but there is nothing to say they won’t actually be more beneficial and in-keeping with helping the club to achieve what it is planning to.
Beyond the arrival of Cabaye, the business done at Selhurst Park looks decidedly average. The impending loss of Dwight Gayle will not be balanced out by the signing of Wickham, a lesser player. Alex McCarthy is their only other permanent transfer this summer, with the former QPR man another who would not even make the Southampton starting XI. While Cabaye, reunited with Pardew, could bring an added touch of class and technical ability to the Eagles’ midfield, Saints have nothing to fear.
Stoke have added the considerably unimpressive Ibrahim Afellay – released by Barcelona – after unsuccessful loan spells with Schalke and Olympiakos. Shaqiri arrives for a fee in the region of £12m, having already shown his doubts and reluctance to join the club, knocking them back a few weeks ago. He joins with question marks over his application, attitude and ability to perform at the top level. His record with Switzerland is impressive, but he hasn’t managed to carry that form to club football. Certainly not on a regular basis.
Other arrivals include Joselu – less prolific than Juanmi – and Glen Johnson. Johnson, who turns 31 this month, is undoubtedly on a far bigger pay packet than most of the Saints defence – after enjoying a £100k-per-week deal at Liverpool – without truly putting himself in that top bracket of defenders. Meanwhile, Saints have recruited Steven Caulker on a loan with an option-to-buy if he impresses, brought in Cuco Martina for just £1m and are looking for another defensive addition before the window shuts.
Swansea are managed in a similar vein to Ronald Koeman’s men and have moved smartly in the market. Perhaps they should be seen as Southampton’s biggest threat in pursuit of European football, but even then the only high-profile acquisition has been Andre Ayew – a free transfer.
To date, Saints have spent £18.7m – roughly – in this summer’s transfer market, with another £20m or so to be spent before the closing of the window on September 1.
All too often, it appears that fans take the attitude of a young child with their toys. No sooner have they got the toy that they clamoured for, they want another. The newer model, the one their mate has got, the one that they’ve heard is quite good.
It’s all too easy for Saints fans to forget about the embarrassment of talent already at the club, which undoubtedly evokes similar feelings of envy from clubs who ended up below Saints in last season’s pecking order.
The likes of Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic and Jay Rodriguez should be coveted and appreciated, not cast aside at the sight of a ‘name’ moving to another club. After all, Saints have carved out a reputation based on unearthing gems ahead of the rest of the pack and developing them, with their eventual sales prompting the system to kickstart once more.
Let those other clubs have their moment in the sun, racking up a side with five Champions League winners, yet still fielding the Glenn Whelans and Damien Delaneys of this world. It’s far too easy to be ‘wowed’ by a one-off signing, without thinking how they fit into the existing set-up, and what further changes are actually needed far more urgently.
I would much rather see a club pursue the route taken by Southampton, than take the ‘kid in a sweetshop’ approach of lurching after everything that looks cool and sparkles in the jar. It’s methodical, sensible and a process capable of ensuring long-term and sustainable levels of success.
After all, having an impressive list of former clubs and a glitzy name is no guarantee. Just ask Dani Osvaldo.