Why we should give Southampton their moment in the sun

After two summers of departures, they keep climbing higher in the table

Southampton, Graziano Pelle, Ronald Koeman

Southampton's Graziano Pelle (left) celebrates scoring his side's second goal as manager Ronald Koeman joins in the festivities during the Barclays Premier League match at St Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Picture by: Daniel Hambury / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Remember the summer of 2014 when Southampton were mercilessly raided by some of the Premier League's traditional giants?

After an encouraging campaign which saw them finish eighth in the Premier League in 2013-14, that off-season, the Saints lost captain Adam Lallana, striker Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren to Liverpool.

Calum Chambers departed for Arsenal and Manchester United acquired left-back Luke Shaw.

The fees they received were fair and they still managed to improve on their league position last season by finishing 7th.

Yet the raids from other clubs did not cease. Liverpool, who had pipped them to 6th in 2014-15, were back again but this time for right-back Nathaniel Clyne, while Man United also returned to take key midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.

But while Leicester City have been the fairytale story of 2015-16, it's only in recent weeks that Southampton have become a talking point again.

Liverpool's Adam Lallana celebrates with Dejan Lovren, left, after scoring his sides third goal during the Europa League semifinal, second leg, soccer match between Liverpool and Villarreal at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Thursday May 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Incredibly despite losing seven important players in the space of two summers, they have exceeded expectations again with manager Ronald Koeman remaining an astute presence.

Currently sitting fifth in the table, they will only lose that position if Manchester United draw or defeat Bournemouth in their final rearranged fixture on Tuesday night.

Sixth will still be a major success for the south coast club, but even more remarkably a season which saw them endure a wobble during a winter which saw them claim just one win and lose six times in a run of eight games, has left them just three points off the final top four place occupied by Manchester City.

It just goes to show how well structured they are in terms of their long-term thinking. Losing seven key players is a blow but their spending has been more than adequate.

Up front, they have managed to upgrade from Lambert to have the choice of Graziano Pelle, Shane Long and latterly Charlie Austin.

Dusan Tadic has managed to deliver 12 goals and 21 assists in the past two seasons since joining from Twente in the summer of 2014 as the likes of Lallana left via the revolving door.

Southampton's Shane Long (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with teammate Dusan Tadic during the Barclays Premier League match at St Marys, Southampton. Picture by: Adam Davy / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The likes of Northern Ireland international Steven Davis remains a quite fundamental part of the setup, while Virgil van Dijk can already be considered an upgrade on Liverpool's Lovren after his debut season alongside captain Jose Fonte, who has been with the club as far back as the time they ended up all the way down in League One. 

Ryan Bertrand has established himself as an international level left-back since joining Southampton on loan initially in 2014, in the wake of Shaw's exit.

While, it will be interesting to see how Southampton would replace talent year on year over the period of a decade, they have shown an ability to overcome departures and find value in the market.

Much of that is down to scouting. Indeed speaking to journalist and The Nowhere Men: The Unknown Story of Football's True Talent Spotters author Michael Calvin on Team 33 recently, the club are always in search of a player that fits into the environment they have built at St Mary's.

"It's quite interesting when you look at Southampton. There is a quite definable Southampton player and personality," he said.

"When I was doing my managers book, I spent some time there and it's a very scholastic environment. The training sessions are quiet, they're very unlike the sort of normal British session which are sort of Bantersauruses running around all over the place. This is quiet, they're there to work and they come through almost organically in that system. It's a very good academy, very good talent spotting at lower levels and also there is an ethos that they all work to."

The academy has continued to be a bedrock, even if it's not as noticeable as a couple of years ago. James Ward-Prowse remains a first team cornerstone and left-sided Matt Targett has got regular game-time throughout 2015-16.  

That is under-pinned by their Football Development Centre, which The Telegraph writer Jeremy Wilson gave Off The Ball an insight about in October 2014.

Of course, the vicious circle could begin again this summer with Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane among those who will surely interest other clubs.

But as they have shown in the past two summers, they can move on by finding ideal replacements that fit into their ethos and they have the foundation of an overall structure that even Leicester would envy.

With the topsy-turvy way the Premier League is these days, who's to say that they can't battle for a Top Four place next season?