Southampton have been the surprise package this season, and find themselves sitting in 2nd place in the Premier League table after ten games, having only dropped points in three of their games so far.
The Premier League has been crying out for an ‘outside of the top four usual suspects’ team to challenge for the title for a while now and it looks like if it is likely to happen at all, it will most likely be this season.
In recent history we have seen clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea, who’s records pre-billionaire ownership were not as fruitful until major money was invested, only then did they start to win various titles and trophies. However, it has been a while since we have seen just a normal team that have risen to the top on purely their own merit, hard work, and their own financial steam without any significant outside help.
Southampton are a great club who came up to the top tier of English football from League 1 with successive promotions and did a great job in getting to where they are now. Where many clubs would have been content with mere survival and a steady approach to life in the top flight, the Saints decided to take it one step further and aim even higher since their promotion.
They are a club on the rise, one that is always seeking to improve their current position rather than be content with having the same sort of season year in, year out and hope for the odd cup run to bring them potential glory.
Not many would have thought that their intention this season was to be a title challenging team, and by no means are they actually competing to win the Premier League crown, but more so aiming to win as many games as possible and finish as high up the table as their own merit allows them to.
No one would have given them a chance of even surviving this season before August, considering they lost their manager to Tottenham Hotspur after such a good campaign last season and then their best players were poached in what can only be described as a massive fire sale during the summer transfer window.
However, the new manager, the new players and the existing squad all came together, rolled their sleeves up and simply got on with it.
It would be foolhardy to think that at the start of the campaign Ronald Koeman sat his team down and told them to go out there and make sure they were competing for major honours. At the same time it would be pointless assuming that he told his team to make sure they survived the season at all costs and set them a target of anything above 17th place is a bonus.
What Koeman has done in fact is adopt a far simpler philosophy, one that should be in all the textbooks out there in manager training school (if such a thing exists) and in all the sports psychology books; the notion that each team of 11 players on any given match day scenario is a team of human beings who are both competing to win the game of football, and therefore both have an equal chance of being victorious.
You have not seen this Southampton team approach any game with fear, despite the fact they were weakened over the summer with so many key players leaving. They are not looking too far ahead, just one game at the time and they are looking to try their best to win every game they compete in regardless of the opposition.
It is exactly this that has propelled them to the position they are in now, and the correct, winning mentality that they possess will be the key to any success they may have.
Granted that on paper they are no where near being considered for European qualification or should they be given a second thought in terms of the league title, but things that are on paper – well, they are only worth the paper they are written on.
Southampton have got a great togetherness about them presently that has stemmed from the days in the third tier of English football. They have got the right attitude of wanting to improve and they are showing that it does not always take a multi-billionaire to inject instant success to a club.
Are Southampton serious title contenders this season? Yes, why not? They are up there through merit and hard work, fully deserved. There is no reason why they cannot continue to maintain the same levels of performance and results, even if they dip in form from time to time, there is no reason that they shouldn’t be up there come the end of the season, despite what is “on paper” or what logic tells you to think. Watch this space!