Southampton currently sit in 4th place in the Premier League after seven games played and whilst the Saints will be playing down their own chances of staying there, here’s some reasons to play them up…
1) The manager
The Saints have undergone something of a revolution since the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino who replaced Nigel Adkins in January of this year. The Argentine coach has built on the foundations he inherited from Adkins upon his arrival – the fantastic youth academy, the young talented squad, the work ethic of his players – to fantastic effect.
2) The squad
The top quality professionals and future prospects the Saints have within their ranks is mouth-watering – for a team that only returned to the top tier last year to boast the likes of Artur Boruc, Lovren, Luke Shaw – probably the next England left-back – Nathaniel Clyne, Morgan Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Adam Lallana, Gaston Ramirez, Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and youngster James Ward-Prowse, is mind-boggling. Those are some of the best players in the league when they play at their best and as Southampton have shown so far this season, they really can beat anyone on their day.
3) The signings
Pochettino’s signings this summer were nothing short of inspired – he brought in young and very highly rated midfielder Victor Wanyama from Celtic who had been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, one of the most impressive young defenders on the continent and also hotly pursued by Europe’s elite in recent years, Dejan Lovren and Pablo Osvoldo, his young compatriot, a striker from Roma who scored his first goal for the club in their victory over Crystal Palace a fortnight ago.
4) The form
They beat Swansea 2-0 this weekend, following their comprehensive 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, and a sensational 1-0 win over Liverpool away at Anfield – that three-win sequence is currently better than any other team in the league’s recent results.
Rickie Lambert has scored two league goals so far which, whilst that's all well and good, is still far less than we all know he is capable of and he'll likely rev up over the next few weeks and months if he can stay fit, especially as he's probably got one sly eye on the World Cup next summer - he has to perform well for Pochettino if he's going to give himself any hope of getting the nod from Roy Hodgson.
Meanwhile, until Lambert really gets his shooting boots on properly, the Saints have goals all over the team - Lallana has scored one, and defenders Lovren and Jose Fonte have even chipped in with Osvoldo opening his account. But, as the cliche goes, you have to start from the back - scoring goals is no good if you're letting too many in which, crucially, Southampton have not been.
5) The clean sheets
They have kept more clean sheets than any other team in the league – five in seven games – which, in a league as intense and uniformly attacking as the Premier League is something special.
They’ve conceded the fewest goals in the league – just two goals so far, one against Norwich and another against Sunderland – averaging 0.29 goals conceded per game so far.
They’ve lost the fewest amount of games as well as Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea who have all lost just one game – on present form it really is no wonder they sit level on points with Chelsea inside the top four, just two points off the leaders Arsenal and, I hasten to add, if than keep this level of performance up consistently enough (that is the key) there is absolutely no reason why Mauricio Pochettino’s Southampton can’t be in the top four next May.
image: © ingythewingy