Southampton manager Ronald Koeman made his third signing of the summer last Wednesday by acquiring Ryan Bertrand on a season-long loan from Chelsea. The 24-year-old follows Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle to St Mary’s, with the Saints reportedly given an option to make the deal permanent for £10m at the end of the upcoming campaign:
After completing the move, Bertrand admitted he turned down a number of options to sign up and insists the chance to ply his trade under Koeman was too good an opportunity to ignore:
“For me personally, this is another chance to play and a chance to join a fantastic club that’s moving in the right direction. With the set-up the club’s got, the manager it has coming in and the ethos it has, I thought this was a perfect match. The manager’s name speaks for itself, so to play under somebody like that will be good for me. His ethos and the way he plays matches my game. I had a lot of options and a lot of interest but, having met the people and spoken to the manager and seen what the club is about, in my mind this was the perfect decision. I’m looking to get games and to play regularly in the way and the formation that I like, and I’m sure that will benefit my game. I still think the best is yet to come from me.”
A product of the Gillingham youth system, Bertrand was snapped up by Chelsea as a 15-year-old back in July 2005. With the likes of Ashley Cole and, more recently, Cesar Azpilicueta and summer signing Filipe Luis ahead of him in the pecking order, it’s clear that a move away suits all parties concerned – indeed, this is now the seventh time the Blues have farmed out the defender on loan.
Bertrand’s first spell away from the Bridge came at Bournemouth back in 2006/07, where he made five appearances for the first-team. The following year he was on the move again – first Oldham (21 appearances) then Norwich (18 appearances, two assists) afforded the left-back game time before he spent the next season on loan with the Canaries once again, where he was handed 38 starts.
In 2009/10, Bertrand was off to Reading, where he finished third in the voting for the club’s Player of the Season after 44 Championship outings produced one goal and three assists. The defender then spent the first half of the following campaign farmed out to Nottingham Forest, making 19 appearances and producing a single assist, before returning to Chelsea midway through the season. Managing just two goals and a pair of assists from 58 appearances over nine years for the Blues, Bertrand was also loaned out to Aston Villa midway through last season, where he started 16 league games for Paul Lambert’s side.
The 24-year-old has represented England from Under-17 to Under-21 level a total of 31 times, whilst he has also turned out for the senior international side twice making his debut back in August 2012.
After losing Luke Shaw to Man United earlier this summer, Koeman has been scouring the market for cover as he attempts to rebuild his decimated first-team squad. Youngster Matt Targett had started the three friendlies prior to Bertrand’s arrival but, as the Saints boss explained, he’s reluctant to put too much pressure on the teenager:
“I’m very happy to be able to bring Ryan in. He is a top player who will bring a lot of quality to the team. He has experience at the highest level and is an exciting, attacking player, which is what I like to see in my full-backs. I’ve been very impressed with how Matt Targett is doing in pre-season, but he is still young and developing, which I am sure he will continue to do over the coming seasons. Left-back is an important position in the team because it is quite specialised in terms of the attributes needed to play there, so it is nice to get this signing completed because it gives us some stability.”
Judging by his manager’s comments – and that likely £10m outlay come the end of the season – Bertrand, after years of frustration, looks poised to finally be handed the chance to nail down a regular role. His arrival all but ends Fantasy managers’ hopes for Targett, who, at a price of 4.0 in Fantasy Premier League, had the potential to offer us great value ahead of a very kind run of opening fixtures. Instead, the youngster is poised to remain as back-up for the position, as Bertrand – 5.0 in FPL and 5.1 in the Sky Sports game – gets the nod as Koeman’s first-choice option.
The mass exodus at St Mary’s is a real cause for concern, though. With Dejan Lovren also joining Shaw in departing the club, it remains to be seen whether Koeman can replicate the resilience that delivered 15 clean sheets in the previous campaign under Mauricio Pochettino – as rumours abound of a possible exit for defensive midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, many have their doubts over the Saints’ defensive prospects.
Nonetheless, it’s impossible to overlook Southampton’s kind opening fixtures. Over the first 12 Gameweeks, Koeman’s side face only two of last term’s top eight in a schedule that’s rated above any other club by our Season Ticker. Home games with West Brom, Newcastle, QP, Sunderland, Stoke and Leicester, supplemented by trips to the likes of West Ham, Swansea, Hull and Villa certainly suggest that Bertrand could be quick off the mark as he looks to finally prove himself as a top-level talent.
It’s worth keeping an eye on Koeman’s summer shopping spree, though – if he fails to replace Lovren, the likes of Maya Yoshida (4.5) and Jos Hooiveld (4.0) could offer cheaper alternatives, though whether their presence at the back would translate to clean sheets is another matter altogether.