Unexpected highfliers led by new England cap and homegrown hero Lallana
It is hard to believe that three years ago Southampton were languishing in the third tier of English football.
Go back twelve months further and the Saints were in even deeper trouble, starting that first year in League One with minus ten points due to financial irregularities. But if Swansea are the ultimate example of a team that rose and rose from a position of real danger, Southampton are the team to emulate for those that have lost their place in English football's elite, and are struggling to return there.
Successive promotions have led to Premier League football once more, and a series of superb managerial appointments and astute signings look like turning them into a genuine team of quality. Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest, among others, should take note!
But what makes Southampton so special is that they find themselves in the Champions League positions with a core made up of the same players that pulled them out of the third tier. Though most fans love a superstar signing, nothing's better than a player growing into an international class player while remaining with a team, often helping said outfit up several levels in the process, as can be seen with the players below.
(See link for a breakdown of how EA Sports compile their player data)
Top 3 players so far – Southampton
Homegrown icon Adam Lallana is a prime example of the good work Southampton have done with their young players since they were last in the top flight. Though he was a year ahead of fellow graduates Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott, Lallana was the one that stuck around for all his promise. And that he stuck around through thick and thin only makes his ascent to England international and team captain all that more sweet for Saints fans. This year he has excelled in Mauricio Pochettino's possession focused team, and was one of the few bright sparks as he made his debut in England's 2-0 defeat to Chile.
3 Goals, App 11, Mins 879, Average index score 21, Home index score 140, Average home index 23, Away 93, Average away index 19, Overall index score 234
Rickie Lambert is the closest thing we've had to Roy of the Rovers in quite some time in this country. Having graduated from the lower reaches of league football, Lambert really found his feet at Bristol Rovers, before a move to Southampton saw him continue to score truckloads of goals whatever division he was playing in. Finally found himself making his England debut, and a goalscoring debut no less, this season at 31, and remains a key player and impressive performer for the third-placed team in the Premier League.
4 Goals, App 11, Mins 861, Average index score 20, Home index score 167, Average home index 28, Away 56, Average away index 11, Overall index score 223
Snapped up as an 18-year-old from RC Strasbourg in France, Morgan Schneiderlin is surely the next Southampton player due to receive international recognition. A classy central midfielder who attracted interest from Arsenal and Chelsea before moving to the south coast, the Frenchman also stuck with the Saints as they struggled outside of the top flight. Like Lallana and Lambert, Schneiderlin has profited from playing consistently in a successful team as it went up the divisions, and now finds himself being talked of as a possible French international, or an English steal if Pochettino's recent comments are anything to go by.
1 Goal, App 11, Mins 927, Average index score 15, Home index score 114, Average home index 19, Away 55, Average away index 11, Overall index score 168
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