Southampton have developed a habit in the last few years of coming from nowhere to finish high up the table. And, based on their recent form, this season looks to be no different, with the South Coast side a point off fifth place Manchester United, and seven adrift of Manchester City in fourth.
If this season has proven anything, it is that the football in the Premier League is very unpredictable. Leicester are title contenders, Chelsea are fighting to avoid relegation – it is all happening this season. This means that Southampton could do what they’ve threatened to do a while now.
After a good run of form, the Saints have pushed themselves in contention and got some good results. A 4-0 win against Arsenal kicked off the streak, but it wasn’t until mid January that the points started coming in regularly.
With a run of six matches seeing no losses, should they continue this there is no reason why they cannot compete for the top four. The January acquisition of Charlie Austin from QPR looks to be a real stroke of genius, as, for a long time, the Saints have struggled with just Shane Long and Graziano Pelle to lead their line. Now Austin, who is Premier League proven, can help fire them up the table.
Their next few games will give everyone a good idea on where the Hampshire outfit can finish this season. They play Chelsea at home next, and should they win that and then go on and get points again Bournemouth and Sunderland, then the table could read nicely for them.
With no FA Cup or European football to distract them, Southampton could have an advantage that Liverpool and Manchester United do not. Saints can focus solely on the league, and, injury permitting, could really challenge for the top four. However, they still have to face a few top teams. Liverpool, Leicester, Manchester City and Tottenham will not be easy to beat – especially Tottenham and Leicester whom are looking to be the shock league title contenders. Between now and the end of the season, the Saints have a lot of ‘cup finals’ ahead of them.
Although they are performing now, when they have faced the big teams this season, Southampton have floundered. Other than against Leicester, they have been beaten by Liverpool, Man City and Spurs, and not by just one goal. In the League Cup quarter final, they got hammered 6-1 by Liverpool. When you consider how inconsistent Liverpool have been this season, it will ring alarm bells for the coastal club.
If league results go their way, there is no reason why Southampton cannot fight for the top four, though you would have to feel that the teams around them will be more likely to fill those spots.