At the time, Southampton crashing out of the Europa League playoff round was a disaster. This was supposed to be our year. Our European tour. Heck, there was even a song written about Southampton in Europa. But we lost to FC Midtjylland 2-1 on aggregate. The dream came crashing down and it had seemed that Southampton's 2014-2015 season went for naught. But was missing out on the group stage and a few more games better for the club?
In hindsight, it was a great thing.
It's fairly simple to me, truthfully. This team wasn't going to be ready to face some of the Europe's better teams. Fresh off of a Summer where Saints lost their best midfield player in Morgan Schneiderlin, and a quality right back in Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton were going to be replacing players again. That bad start to the 2015-2016 season? It would've been worse.
Adding six extra games itself would've been a tough task. Factor in a smaller, less talented squad and it would've been nearly impossible. Take that game in Denmark for example. Maya Yoshida, Steven Caulker and Cuco Martina were called in to the side. A new man in Oriol Romeu started in place of Victor Wanyama and an out of form Matt Targett was playing in place of an injured Ryan Bertrand.
Now sure, Yoshida and Martina are decent squad players, occasionally filling a role when needed, but starting in game which would send us into the Europa League? No, thank you. Unfortunately, that would've been reality for our games. Having to make do with players who weren't ready for first team action during weeks with a Europa League match two days before a Premier League match. In my honest opinion, we could be watching a relegation battle had Southampton gone through to the group stage.
I would argue that Southampton is in perfect shape right now only competing in one competition: the Premier League. Sure, there is a lot of competition in the squad for just the Premier League whether that be at forward or in the midfield, but that's what you want. If Southampton stayed in the Europa League, there could've been added injuries, more fatigue, and the chemistry and morale of the squad wouldn't be where it is now.
Currently, Southampton sit in 8th place, three points out of 6th place and four points out of 5th. I would tell you as well that Southampton would be more equipped right now to be in the Europa League with all of the new faces seemingly settled in, Fraser Forster back and the addition of Charlie Austin. But, that's all figuratively speaking for now.
This season was always going to be tough. After all, last season was truly a miracle in the way all those new faces quickly gelled together. All is right now though, players are settling in and buying in to the philosophy and tactics, and believe me when I say that if Southampton makes it back to the Europa League competition, they'll be there to stay. The club now knows what to expect, what types of players they need and the size of a squad needed to go into a tournament like that one.
For now though, Saints fans, enjoy the rest of the season and don't look back. Southampton is in good hands and you'll be on another European tour before you know it.