It’s safe to say Dušan Tadić enjoyed an up-and-down debut season at Southampton, with the Serbian starting off brightly in the first half of 14/15 before dipping in the latter half.
Coming in as the first signing of the Ronald Koeman era having been purchased for £10.8m, Tadić showed just why the transfer committee picked him to replace former fans favourite Adam Lallana, registering the most assists for the Saints and scored vital goals against Arsenal, Chelsea and most famously Manchester United at Old Trafford.
But with no winter break this time around, something he came accustomed to whilst in both the Serbian Superliga and the Eredivisie, Tadić showed signs of fatigue and injury, with his form suffering a hit too; the team did too, scoring 22 goals, ten less than in the first 19 games.
After missing the final five matches of the season with a groin problem, it was great to see Tadić back to his best on his in a comfortable 3-0 victory over the Eredivisie side FC Groningen, the first match of the Holland tour.
He didn't disappoint against his former employers, either. Playing on the right of the three in what seems to be Koeman’s preferred formation so far in preseason, 4-2-3-1, the Serbian winger notched two assists and combined well with recently arrived right-back, Cédric Soares.
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His first of the two assists was a dangerous corner whipped into the heart of the Groningen box, headed home by Saints captain José Fonte which opened the scoring for the Saints. Tadić's free kicks and corners last season were a rather damp squib, so if he can provide assists like that on a more consistent basis, Saints will be a much more dangerous threat from dead ball situations.
But his second assist for Saints third goal showed why he was a firm favourite of both Southampton fans and the ‘Green- White Army’ at the Euroborg stadium. Whilst under the close attention of two Groningen players, Tadić rouletted past them both and left them in his wake, before putting an inch perfect pass to Graziano Pellè to see the Italian notch his first goal of preseason.
But his understanding with Pellè is very important, as the pair seemed to hit it off straight away last season. The former FC Twente man had a big say in how well his fellow Eredivisie import started off in their first season at St Mary’s, and when Tadić suffered with his aforementioned fatigue problems, Pellè suffered too, and Saints looked much more blunt going forward during their lean spell.
Now with the return of Jay Rodriguez after injury, plus the new signing of Juanmi and Sadio Mané showing why the club was so eager to bring him in on deadline day last September, the pressure on Pellè and Tadić to succeed is less because of the added options going forward.
Hopefully, that will mean that the Serbian is not run into the ground before Christmas, and with clever management of arguably the team’s most creative player, Ronald Koeman should be able to reap the benefits of a fresher Tadić all season long and should help the Serbian find a higher level of consistency. It may be only have been his third game of preseason, but the signs are positive so far.