Southampton's State of the Club Report: Evaluating the Past 12 Months

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Southampton's State of the Club Report: Evaluating the Past 12 Months
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Nicola Cortese hasn't been afraid to make bold decisions as chairman of Southampton.

In America, the President of the United States is required to give a report to Congress around the beginning of the year assessing the condition of the nation and the President's plans for the upcoming year.

If Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese were to give a "State of Southampton" speech next week, it would certainly be an interesting listen.

There is no doubt that Southampton are in a far better place right now than the club was 12 months ago. At this time last year, the Saints were in second place in the nPower Championship after a 1-1 draw with Cardiff City. Despite their 2-1 setback at Manchester United, Southampton are still in 16th place in the Premier League, three points above the relegation zone.

Last year's starting 11 featured six players that are currently backups or with other clubs altogether. Kelvin Davis, Frazer Richardson, Jos Hooiveld, Danny Fox and Guly Do Prado have all been dropped to the bench. Dean Hammond was loaned back to one of his former clubs, Brighton & Hove Albion.

Replacing those six players were Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Maya Yoshida and Gaston Ramirez, who all came in on transfers or free-agent deals.

Jason Puncheon has finally solidified his place at the club after several loan spells, and Luke Shaw has moved up to the first team and straight into the starting 11 from the academy.

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Luke Shaw (23) is the latest academy product to move into the first team for Southampton.

The academy programs have been a success in the past year. Three academy graduates: Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Ben Reeves have all seen action with the first team in Premier League play this season. The U21 and U18 sides are also have successful seasons, as both squads progressed to the Elite Group of the U21 and U18 Premier Leagues.

Meanwhile, Southampton's training ground Staplewood is undergoing a massive renovation that will make it one of the top facilities in the Premier League. The new facility will include a new academy education center, medical center, gymnasium and indoor practice field and is set for completion by the start of the 2013-14 campaign.

Attendance for Southampton matches has increased by almost 4,000 fans per match on average. Last season, Southampton drew 26,419 fans per match to St. Mary's for their nPower Championship slate of games. This season in the Premier League, average attendance has risen to 30,318, ranking 12th among the 20 clubs.

Things weren't all positive for Southampton in the past 12 months. 

Most noticeably, there was the controversy surrounding the firing of Nigel Adkins while the Saints were on a good run of form, getting a positive result in 10 of his last 12 matches in charge.

Mauricio Pochettino's immediate hiring raised the eyebrows of some who questioned his record at Espanyol and the fact that the Argentinian does not speak English fluently.

While it is way too early to judge his record on the pitch, the first two matches have looked promising. Southampton drew 0-0 to Everton before losing to Manchester United 2-1 in a spirited effort, with Saints controlling play for much of the second half.

"In the second half, Southampton have been the best team to play here this season. We were fortunate to win," Sir Alex Ferguson said after Wednesday's match at Old Trafford.

The transfers Southampton have brought in have been a mixed bag as well. Strangely, the cheaper the price tag, the better the performances have been.

Ian Walton/Getty Images
Gaston Ramirez has been a solid contributor for Southampton since becoming the club's record signing.

Gaston Ramirez has been a solid buy, scoring three goals with three assists in 17 appearances. But with a £13.3 million price tag, you can't fault some Southampton fans for hoping for a little more pow for the pound.

Jay Rodriguez has struggled to find consistent playing time this season, although the former Burnley player has played better since filling in for Adam Lallana. At £7.6 million, Rodriguez has yet to fully justify the cost with three goals and one assist in 21 appearances.

Emmanuel Mayuka has been a bit of a mystery man, as he has only made seven appearances for Southampton since making a £3.5 million move from BSC Young Boys in Switzerland. The Zambian has not yet scored a goal for the club.

Steven Davis has proven to be a decent value signing for Southampton. Coming in from Rangers, the £880,000 signing has played in 20 matches for Saints as a versatile member of the midfield.

The two goalkeepers Southampton signed have yet to take command of the position. Paulo Gazzaniga was signed in the preseason from Gillingham for £2.7 million. The young Argentinian held the first-choice keeper spot for nine games before an injury sidelined him. 

Artur Boruc was brought in as a free agent to provide another option in goal for Southampton in late September. The goalkeeping job is currently his to lose, as the Polish international has started in the Saints' last five Premier League games.

Meanwhile, the pair of signings Southampton made for the back four have proven to be quite wise.

Maya Yoshida has arguably been Saints' best defender since moving from Dutch side VVV Venlo for £2.4 million. Yoshida has been adept at making interceptions and winning aerial duels, and has become a first-choice center back, making 21 appearances.

Nathaniel Clyne has also proven to be a welcome addition. Although signed as a free agent, Crystal Palace were awarded £2.8 million in compensation due to Clyne's age.

The 21-year-old started the season as the starting right back and has played every match in which he was available. His partnership with Jason Puncheon on the right side has caused fits for opposing defenses, and Clyne has one goal and three assists to show from his efforts.

How would you grade Nicola Cortese's handling of Southampton over the past 12 months?

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More importantly given Southampton's history as a selling club, the Saints were able to keep a hold of all of their most important players. Instead of Rickie Lambert or Adam Lallana leaving to join a bigger club, only players that were deemed surplus to requirements were loaned out or sold.

Southampton have proven that the team is capable of playing with the big boys of the Premier League. The Saints have drawn with Swansea, Stoke City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton, and have given the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United tough fights before coming up just short.

Despite some speed bumps along the way, Cortese could finish his "State of Southampton" speech the same way American Presidents traditionally finish theirs.

The state of Southampton Football Club is strong.

 

Transfer figures provided by transfermarkt.co.uk

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