After Ronald Koeman was confirmed as the new manager of Southampton FC earlier this week, what can Saints supporters and soccer fans expect from the new gaffer?
The 51-year-old Dutchman, who recently guided Feyenoord to a second place finish in the Eredivisie, has signed a three-year deal. He will be joined by his brother, Erwin, who will be his assistant, and Jan Kluitenberg, who worked as Koeman’s first team coach at Feyenoord.
The appointment of Koeman is an interesting one in that the Saints weren’t necessarily looking for the most successful or the most experienced manager available.
As a club with very distinctive characteristics and a clear philosophy, Southampton were searching for the manager who would be the best ‘fit’. In this regard, they have made a wise choice.
Koeman, twice a winner of the European Cup as a player, is known for his commitment to developing young players. This approach is tailor-made for Southampton, whose renowned academy system has nurtured such players as Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as current first team players Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse.
The Dutchman also brings the promise of an exciting style of play, which is unsurprising given he was one of the greatest attacking central defenders of all time. He has a preference for intelligent, technical players who are able to pass the ball around quickly. Saints fans, who have become accustomed to Pochettino’s free-flowing football, will appreciate this.
Some may feel uneasy about Koeman’s mixed managerial record. In 2005, he took over at Benfica, but was sacked after just one season, when his third place league finish was deemed unsatisfactory. Then in 2007, he returned to Iberia to take the reins at Valencia. He was fired before the end of his first season, despite a Copa del Rey triumph.
At these clubs, however, he didn’t find strong academies or an emphasis on youth development. When you look at his achievements at clubs with similar structures to that of Southampton, it’s clear why Reed hired him.
He won two Eredivisie titles at Ajax with a host of talented youngsters including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rafael van der Vaart and Maxwell. Frequently dipping into the academy system, he guided the transition of Wesley Sneijder, Thomas Vermaelen and Nigel de Jong from youth team to starting XI.
Despite not winning any silverware at Feyenoord, Koeman was admired by his players and fans for the faith he places in academy graduates. Twenty-two-year-old midfielder Jordy Clasie recently said “He (Koeman) taught me to be a leader and showed me how and when I could put pressure on the ball and the opponent, he explained how I could get the best tactically. He basically raised me.”
Koeman clearly thrives at clubs like Southampton. It won’t be an easy job. His first task will be to convince players like Lallana, Shaw and Jay Rodriguez remain on the South Coast – but this appointment could be a good fit for both manager and club.