Weren’t Southampton sitting bottom of League 1 just a mere five seasons ago? Now they occupy the Champions League places, and are perilously close to welcoming the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to the south coast. They may have crashed and burned in the domestic cups, but here’s a recap of how The Saints have kept pace with the big boys so far in the league this season.
Bertrand, Clyne, Forster, Davies: they’re all English and what’s more all know how to put in the odd tackle or defensive clearance when needed. Yoshida is there to ensure their opponents have some chance of penetrating the back line, but considering they have conceded the least amount of goals (17) and no team has kept more clean sheets (12) in the league, it is safe to say that Southampton’s defence isn’t half bad. St Mary’s is surely on the brink of being considered a fortress.
Where the Arsenal and Man Citys of the league are all about throwing players forward and attacking in numbers, Southampton have a much more subdued and mature tactic when it comes to the roles of their midfielders. Schneiderlin and Wanyama’s defensive qualities have undoubtedly contributed towards some vital results this season, and have helped their side secure victories against Arsenal, West Ham, Man United and a draw against Chelsea. Loanee Elia adds pace to the side and Ward-Prowse has proven to be a valuable creative presence in the middle of the park.
The signings of Long, Pelle and Mane have been inspirational this season. With Pelle and Mane bagging 13 goals between them, they have ensured that no regrets linger over the departures of Lallana and Lambert. Shane Long brings a work-rate to the side that is representative of the effort and teamwork shown by the entire squad. Tadic has also been a useful acquisition, producing frequently high quality performances to put Southampton, a side who has no right to be anywhere near challenging for the title, just 13 points off leaders Chelsea.
Despite looking like a retired darts player and his lack of experience in England, Ronald Koeman has proven this season that he is more than capable of managing in the Premier League. Not only can he speak English like an Amsterdam waffle salesman, something that his predecessor cannot boast on his CV, but he seems to get the best out of a group of (let’s be honest) only slightly above average players. He has also shown us all that he is a bit of a ‘Harry Redknapp’ in terms of wheeling and dealing in the transfer market. Southampton definitely have a keeper with Ronald.
Many thought that they could not maintain their good start to the season, but it is now February, and Southampton are still refusing to drop down the table. European football is surely a given for them now, Champions League football though may be too much of a dream. Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs are all coming on strongly and it will be nothing short of miraculous were they to hold third place, but 5th seems just about right for them this time come May.