Morgain than loss
It is 11pm on Monday September 1st 2014 and South coast relief can be heard all over England. A transfer window that started with a mass exodus had left Southampton managerless, short on players and in many peoples eyes, a Boat ready to capsize. Surely, on the horizon a silver lining must appear and, eventually, it did. After months of will he stay or will he go, finally, the window closed and Saints fans rejoiced as Morgan Schneiderlin was staying.
Ronald Koeman took on the task of salvaging what was starting to look like a wreck and after a tough opening few months has rightfully come out and said how important keeping the French midfielder was. Not just to stop the break up of last years impressive team, not just because he is blossoming into a truly great player, it was important because to this current Southampton side he is irreplaceable.
These losses, whilst seemingly catastrophic to a team still finding its feet back in the Premier league, have all been replaced by players of similar quality and in some cases more experience. Tadic looks like he has all the skills to replace Lallana, Pelle is big and, like Lambert, has goals in him. Few would disagree Calum Chambers has looked great at Arsenal but the acquisition of Toby Alderweireld gives the Saints back line a more experienced look and Ryan Bertrand is as attack minded as Luke Shaw. His career may have stagnated a bit, but he does have a Champions League final under his belt. Getting these new signings playing well together is going to be vital for Koeman, but it was Schneiderlin who was the fulcrum of last years team and allowed their system to work.
A modern day midfielder, who runs for 90 minutes, tackles anything that moves and as we saw against West Ham last weekend has goals in his game too. It is this that made Saints tough to beat last year. When playing alongside Victor Wanyama Southampton where almost deploying a back 6 which was incredibly tough to break down, this allowed the fullbacks to join the attack with the knowledge the centre backs had protection, this in turn allowed the wing forwards to move inside and join the striker, giving them numbers in the box, forcing the opposition back and allowing the Saints to defend high up the pitch. Similarly, his defensive qualities alone allowed for a more attacking midfield at times and gave Southampton the chance to play a more controlled and dominant game, still with the defence kept strong in numbers.
This only tickles the surface of what Morgan Schneiderlin adds to this team but already you can see he is indispensable. In their ranks Southampton have many promising midfielders that could do a good job in that role now, but none who are of his ability. For this reason, he was the one player Saints could not replace, the one whose loss would have gutted the team the most and the one they had to keep to maintain last season’s impressive football. Sadly for these fans, whilst keeping Schneiderlin may prove their best bit of business in this window, when January comes they’ll have to go through it all again.