Three reasons Southampton can finish in the top six this season

Arsenal v Southampton 2012 Pregame with Schneiderlin

Southampton to finish in the top six of the Premier League… why ever not?

Southampton’s promising start to the Premier League season has understandably got people talking.

Rather quickly, the Saints have gone from pre-season relegation candidates to the division’s high flyers. But where exactly is the line drawn in terms of expectations?

Last season, Mauricio Pochettino’s high-pressing side were considered to have surpassed expectations after a phenomenal campaign. In the middle of it, there was even talk of making the fop four from within the Southampton camp.

Needless to say, that proved premature. But is the same a more realistic aspiration under Ronald Koeman this term?

Experience

The biggest problem the Saints suffered last season was longevity. They could not keep up their stunning form up for the duration of the campaign, perhaps partially down to experience but, mainly, due to a string of injuries.

This term, the club have that experience as a whole and can go into any battle for a top-half finish much the wiser. And, as for the players they sold, their individual talent this season may prove even better than their last crop.

The new Pele

  TeamPosGoalsChances CreatedAerial Duels WonAppsMins
Diego Costa Chelsea FW 8 10 10 6 499
Leonardo Ulloa Leicester FW 5 3 17 6 509
Sergio Agüero Man City FW 4 4 3 6 348
Saido Berahino West Brom FW 4 4 2 6 539
Nacer Chadli Spurs MF 4 5 4 5 370
Graziano Pellè Southampton FW 4 10 30 6 540

Indeed, as Opta stats show, striker Graziano Pelle has taken no time to settle into English football, scoring four times and creating 10 chances. His aerial prowess, meanwhile, is clear for all to see, with Pelle dwarfing top scorer Diego Costa in terms of aerial duels won.

His sensational finish against Queens Park Rangers, too, proved what he can do in the air.

Their most important summer signing...

  TeamPosAccurate PassesTackles WonAppsMins
Cesc Fàbregas Chelsea MF 453 6 6 531
Yaya Touré Man City MF 421 4 5 450
Gareth Barry Everton MF 420 12 6 540
Etienne Capoue Spurs MF 418 11 6 526
Aaron Ramsey Arsenal MF 413 12 6 483
Morgan Schneiderlin Southampton MF 376 19 6 540

In midfield, it appears the ability to keep Morgan Schneiderlin at St Mary’s this summer will prove the Saints’ finest piece of business.

Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw were all sold – but for great prices. Schneiderlin, however, was deemed to important too sell, with many seeing him as Southampton’s most vital player last term.

And he has begun this season in similar fashion, completing the sixth-highest amount of accurate passes in the Premier League so far and winning more tackles than anyone except for Crystal Palace’s Mile Jedinak. The Frenchman has also scored three times – just one less than Pelle – and created five chances.

But Southampton’s ability to build from strength to strength is not simply down to individual talent alone. The Saints’ collective is remarkable – and Koeman has his whole squad performing.

No one is expecting them to still be in second place come the end of the season (who knows, though?) but, looking at the competition, one can’t think of a single reason Southampton can’t challenge for a place in the top six. Can you?

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