Obviously it was only two months ago when some pundits bravely tipped Southampton for the drop after key players such as Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren all left the club, but now the club from the south coast are sitting proudly in second place. It’s far too early to judge any side this season yet, as many sides have started quickly and have faded before the new year, but Ronald Koeman’s men have a superb chance of troubling the top six if things continue. Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton have all stumbled in matches this season, while Southampton keep on picking up points where expected.
The key this summer for Southampton was bringing in the right manager as it was never going to be an easy job building a team to match or even exceed the quality of the side that finished 8th last season. However, the Dutchman Koeman was the man to do that as in Holland fire sales such as the one at Southampton are normal, therefore he has the experience and the knowledge of players to create a quality side at Southampton, especially with the funds available.
Signings such as Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic are inspired and were brought about by the manager’s knowledge of the Eredivisie, a league with a lot of talent asking to be brought to the Premier League. The Italian forward has already scored four goals in only six matches, while he has also had one assist, showing he can contribute in the final third and take the burden left by Rickie Lambert. He is 29, making him a late developer in the major leagues, but as well as an incredible season under Koeman at Feyenoord last season, in which he found the net 23 times, the season before, he also scored 27. The confidence from his recent form has led to him making a quick start in England, which is often imperative for strikers moving to the Premier League.
Although many will point to the signings made by Southampton, the retention of Morgan Schneiderlin was equally as important as his early season form has boosted the Saints. He is the driving force from midfield, with his quality passing, movement and attacking impetus that he provides. His two goal surge at West Ham kick-started the season for Southampton and since then they haven’t looked back. The Frenchman has recently broken into the French squad, which is why he may have wanted a move in the summer to become a regular in the starting eleven internationally, but there is no reason he can’t do that at Southampton if their form is retained.
It’s still far too early to judge Southampton, but they are certainly better than the majority of the sides in the division; furthermore, many pundits were more impressed by the business done at Newcastle, but they find themselves bottom, while Southampton are second. Although the owner on the south coast may continue to sell off the assets when she can, the policy of bringing in continental managers, who want to prove themselves in England is paying dividends as they bring knowledge of lesser known players as well as a forward thinking approach. If Southampton had brought in an English manager, things may have turned out differently, but the move to bring in Koeman has ensured Southampton will remain a Premier League club that challenges in the right half of the league.