What a season Southampton are having. Despite the plethora of players and management staff leaving St. Mary’s for pastures new, new manager Ronald Koeman has turned the South Coast club into a real force.
Currently sitting in a staggering second place in the Premier League table, and seven points behind leaders Chelsea, the high flyers have surprised everyone, considering they were one of the favourites for relegation at the start of the season.
Aswell as new recruits Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle, Fraser Forster and Ryan Bertrand hitting the ground running, other young players like Nathanial Clyne and James Ward-Prowse have shown what they are capable of. For Clyne, his terrific displays in the red and white strips of Southampton have forced him to become England’s first choice right back. Just like last season, Southampton introduced themselves to the big stage, and surprised some of the biggest of teams, resulting in a creditable eighth placed finish.
Many think that despite Southampton’s league position, and the incredible form needed in order to maintain that, the Saints will end up lower down the table. Looking at the squad as a whole, there are a handful of players that can play for any Premier League side at the moment. With the eagerly anticipated return of attacker Jay Rodriquez, Koeman’s side are only going to get stronger. So when we do we actually take Southampton seriously as genuine title contenders?
Many may argue that Southampton have not been tested against the so called ‘big teams’ of the division. With games against Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United fast approaching, the Saints’ character will be hugely tested. Also, their current crop of players are outplaying the ones that left. After playing just 12 games thus far, Clyne has already scored two goals compared to Calum Chambers, who failed to score in the whole of last season and is now at Arsenal.
Striker Graziano Pelle is only seven goals away from equalling Liverpool’s Rickie Lambert’s goal tally for the whole of the last campaign, while Tadic has made just as many assists this season than Adam Lallana did in the whole of the 2013/2014 season. Bertrand has already doubled Luke Shaw’s assists making for Southampton, while Toby Alderweireld is only seven clean sheets away from equalling Dejan Lovren’s total from last season. It seems that the predecessors for last year’s departed stars are making a statement, and ensuring the likes of Lallana, Shaw and Lovren that they may have jumped ship too early.
With a busy December and January schedule in the pipeline, Southampton and Ronald Koeman will be judged whether they have the quality and focus to maintain a push for the title. Although this is highly unlikely, what’s stopping this fantastically run football club achieving a Champions League spot?
When it comes to May, many will not be surprised in the slightest if the Saints bagged fourth spot or better, and it will be fully deserved.
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