As Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers were heading through the St Mary’s exits over the summer, Southampton supporters could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.
They have, however, exceeded all expectations to currently sit second in the Premier League table, four points behind unbeaten leaders Chelsea.
There have been just two blots on the copybook so far – away at Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur – with Ronald Koeman having shaped a side in his own mould.
The Dutchman was a classy but combative defender in his day, with enough about him to spend time at Ajax and PSV Eindhoven, six years at Barcelona and to dash England’s World Cup dreams in 1994.
It should therefore come as no surprise to find that Southampton’s success has been built from the back, with the sturdiest of foundations put down on the South Coast.
The Saints lead the way in a number of key defensive areas, with their 'keeper on course for the Golden Glove, their back four the tightest in the business and their collective unit not afraid to get stuck in when the studs are flying - with crunching tackles relished rather than shied away from.
|Clean Sheets||Goals Conceded||Total Tackles||Games|
Taking the above Opta stats into account, it would appear as though Southampton have found the perfect formula when it comes to shutting out opponents.
In Fraser Forster they have a giant of a goalkeeper who commands his area and demands respect.
In front of him, Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand are your perfect modern day full-backs – equally adept at flying forward as they are going backwards – while Toby Alderweireld offers a touch of class and ball-playing ability alongside the more rugged attributes of skipper Jose Fonte.
Throw into the mix a midfield blend of Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis and Jack Cork and you start to understand why Southampton have been so successful and why they are proving such a tough nut to crack.