After eight games played so far this season, Southampton sits in third place in the Premier League with five wins, one draw and two loses with their most recent results being an 8-0 win against Sunderland. They have scored 19 goals (second highest in the league), only conceded five goals (lowest in the league), and earned 16 points. With this incredible start, can The Saints continue their good form and finish in the top four this season?
This impressive start is one that no one expected, especially after the amount of key players from last season that had left the Saints over the summer. Italian Graziano Pelle, Serbian Dusan Tadic and Englishman Ryan Bertrand arrived at Southampton during the transfer window, and have been fine replacements for English trio of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw.
All three new arrivals have played in The Saints first eight games of the season, Pelle has scored six goals, Tadic has provided seven assists, and all three have currently have a whoscored.com rating of higher than 7.3. Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin has also played well for The Saints, scoring three goals and earning a pass success percentage of 88.4%, the highest out of all the frequent starters at the club. All of these players under the guidance of manager Ronald Koeman have made the transition from last season to this an easy one.
After eight games last season, Southampton had 15 points and was sitting in sixth. A top four spot was only a point away but despite this position, The Saints ended the season in eighth with 56 points. There was a point last season in November when they climbed up to third and some questioned if they could even win the league but obviously that didn’t happen.
You have to be careful what you say so early into the season. Whilst Southampton are sitting in third, West Ham are in currently sitting in fourth but no one is saying they’re going to finish there or even near there when all is said and done. Southampton is currently 8/1 by the bookies to finish in the top four but they are 7/4 to finish in the top six. Maybe asking can the Saints achieve a European spot and a top six finish is a more realistic target, rather than finishing in fourth or higher. This is a target which everyone can agree on.
Southampton have played against three of the top eight from last season in this campaign, losing to Tottenham and Liverpool, but winning against Arsenal. These are the teams they need to beat to make European qualification more of a reality. They have a good run of games against mid and lower table teams coming up till they face three killer fixtures starting from the end of November. These games are against Manchester City at home, Arsenal away, and Manchester United at home. Keeping momentum high going into these games is paramount if will benefit The Saints, as it will give the side confidence in these tough fixtures. Winning these games will make it more like that Southampton will play European football for the first time since the 2003/04 season.
If Southampton continue their current good form, they will finish the season with around 77 points. That amount of points by a team would have given them a fifth place finish last season, good enough for an automatic spot in the Europa League group stage. It’s surprising to say, but The Saints will need to step up their game if they want a top four finish, but a European spot is certainly a possibility.