Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Southampton … time to believe the hype

Southampton FC are currently third in the Premier League ... what can this season hold for The Saints.

On Sky Sports Gillette Soccer Saturday yesterday they were doing some analysis of the Crystal Palace game against Fulham on the Monday previous, and were highly critical of the team’s inability, and indeed apparent indifference to pressing their London opposition.

But Paul Merson came in and defended them slightly, he said that not all teams can play a world-class pressing game like Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich or … Southampton.

Whether he said it as a form of flattery for his co-host and chair neighbour Matt Le Tissier it is hard to tell, but it certainly seems as if the former Arsenal star was fairly serious in his assessment of the Southampton team right now.

And you know what, he is right - at least when it comes to that counter-pressing aspect of their game.

We saw how Dortmund used it to great affect against Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday night, but as Southampton it was Fulham who had the pleasure of facing the in-form Saints on Saturday evening.

And it must have come as a massive shock to The Cottagers after the amount of time and space they were afforded by Palace on Monday night - just how suffocating the Saints team is.

They hunt in packs, with Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana, James Ward-Prowse and Morgan Schneiderlin haranguing and chasing their opponents into submission. For Southampton the second ball is sacred, and they often win possession back almost immediately after they lose it.

With a deadly link-up and goalscoring frontman in Rickie Lambert up top they also have the end product - while Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw bombard down the flanks like Cafu and Carlos of old.

With Victor Wanyama cutting out anything that does become released from that stranglehold, the plaudit worthy defence of Artur Boruc, Jose Fonte and Dejan Lovren just do what they need when called upon - which is why Southampton have conceded just three goals this season, the second best tally in Europe.

And if all else fails, the pressure in the opposing third often sees Saints awarded corner-kicks - and I genuinely don’t think I have seen a young player come through with a better dead-ball delivery then James Ward-Prowse since David Beckham - it is that proficient.

Southampton are now third, and although results today could see that come to an end there is no doubt that they deserve to be there for the time being.

Mauricio Pochettino and his Southampton side deserve all the credit they are currently getting for their performances, and with an attacking front four of Englishmen backed up by two young English full-backs this is not a team built around foreign investment.

The rise of Southampton from a team bottom of League One with minus points cannot be underestimated, and now Pochettino has the reins he is intent on taking them to limitless possibilities - and Dortmund and Bayern comparisons could be just the beginning.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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