Southampton - the surprise package of the first-half of the season ?
Prediction at the start of the season
HITC pundits had Southampton coming in at ninth in the Premier League this season – exactly where the club sits at the midway point.
A scintillating start to the campaign has given way to a disappointing end to 2013. Southampton won six of their first eleven, losing just once during this stretch. Yet five defeats in eight (only one victory), have seen them drop precipitously down the league table.
7/10 – Mauricio Pochettino has successfully integrated a combination of new signings and youth into the side. The second-half of the season could, however, prove challenging.
Best game Southampton have been involved in
Southampton 1-1 Manchester City. The Saints found themselves down early, after feeling the sting of Serigo Aguero’s clinical touch in front of goal. Yet Southampton fought back to equalise with a stunning strike from Pablo Osvaldo, and largely neutralised the Citizens’ potent attack for the remainder of the match.
Dejan Lovren, unquestionably. Southampton conceded just five times through their first 11 games, in no small part due to the exploits of the 24-year-old Croatian.
Lovren has been the jewel of the summer signings. Victor Wanyama had made a decent start to his Southampton career, and the club have missed him since his early-December injury. Record signing Osvaldo has been hampered by fitness issues and inconsistency. He has hit the net only three times in 13 league appearances.
Most significant win of the season
Liverpool 0-1 Southampton. The victory at Anfield was only the Saints’ second in their first five games and gave the team the momentum to push on. Southampton outplayed the Reds, and would remain unbeaten for over two months following their Merseyside triumph.
The low point so far
Arsenal 2-0 Southampton. Artur Boruc’s terrible error gifted the Gunners the opener on 22 minutes and crushed the Saints’ chances. The defeat proved the turning point in what had been a brilliant season to that point. Southampton have won just once in the Premier League since.
Strengthening in January
Despite having a dip in form from the end of November, the Saints don’t have any glaring personnel needs. They will face bids for Luke Shaw in January, however, and will do well to keep hold of him. Injuries have ravaged the squad at times this season, though, and perhaps another defensive midfielder would be a welcome addition.
The rest of the season
It's difficult to predict how the second-half of the season will pan out for Southampton. Will the club remain in the top 10, or even get dragged into relegation trouble ? Surely the squad has too much quality for that, though, and there are several worst teams in the Premier League than the Saints this season.
image: © joncandy