Southampton came in for huge criticism in the summer for letting a flux of first team players leave, with some even predicting them for relegation but their transfer strategy has paid dividends as the Saints are currently in second place. Last season many thought that Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert were integral to the side, however Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle have come in, highlighting Ronald Koeman’s knowledge of the Eredivisie. It’s a league that many managers are cautious about buying from, after so many have had their hands burned. However, there was no doubt in the Dutchman’s mind about these two and his faith has been repaid as both have quickly adapted to the Premier League.
Last season, Rickie Lambert led the line well, leading Southampton to a top eight finish, earning himself a move to Liverpool and a place at the World Cup. He scored 13 goals and also got ten assists, showing how he contributes a lot in the final third. His scoring rate of a goal every 216.6 minutes is slightly below par for a forward of a European club and Southampton have ambitions to become a club who challenges for the top six places regularly. The England forward did create a chance every 53.1 minutes last season for the Saints, which shows he is a creative player in the final third, perhaps his link up play made Adam Lallana look better than he was. This could be a reason why Lallana has struggled this season since making the move to Anfield.
Graziano Pelle has had an exceptional impact since making the move from Feyenoord, earning a call up to the Italy squad and scoring on his international debut. It’s amazing how far the striker has come since failing to make the mark in his home nation. He has scored six goals already this campaign, scoring a goal every 163.2 minutes. This is better than Lambert’s goal rate last season, if the Italian keeps it up, Southampton have a great chance of staying near the top of the table. He is fractionally less creative than Lambert, creating a chance every 54.4 minutes. However this is still good for a striker, and the Italian has managed 2 assists so far as well. It looks like Pelle could be an improvement on Lambert, especially when it comes to scoring goals.
Another key part of the Southampton side last season was Adam Lallana, who was captain of the side, and his performances also saw him get a move to Liverpool and a place at the World Cup. He scored 9 goals at a rate of one every 342.7 minutes, which is good for a midfielder, who you don’t rely on for goals. Lallana also managed to chip in with five assists, creating a chance every 45.4 minutes, which is up there with the most creative players in the league. He also kept the ball well with a pass completion rate of 85%, and these stats show why he was wanted by Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool.
His replacement at Southampton was Dusan Tadic, who has been amazing since moving from FC Twente. He has only managed one goal, but his best attribute is his ability to create chances. He has already managed to create 35 chances this season, which is exceptional. That works out at a chance created every 26.2 minutes, which is incredible, considering he has only just come into the league. The likes of David Silva, Juan Mata and Angel di Maria would be pleased with those numbers, he already has six assists to his name, which is more than Lallana managed last season.
It’s clear that Southampton identified players who they thought could improve the side after the departures of so many key players and they deserve a lot of praise for that. The question remains whether they will be able to keep up their good form, especially with a run of tough fixtures coming up, but if they keep themselves up in the top five or six, they have an excellent chance of causing a real shock this season. A lot of the teams that were expected to challenge this season like Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United have all dropped points in matches you wouldn’t expect them to, while Southampton continue to beat the so called lesser teams on a consistent basis.
Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert have both failed to make any impact at Anfield, proving that Southampton were right to cash in on them, as they may have never been offered that amount of money for the two again. Of course both have the talent and application to be a success over the coming months, but they have been forgotten about at St Mary’s, as new heroes in Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle start to make names for themselves in the Premier League. They were both well thought of in the Eredivisie, but question marks remained about their ability to replicate that form in one of Europe’s top leagues. Those doubts have no all but disappeared.