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Southampton's 2016 in nine images: Best PL finish and another new manager

Southampton's Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring their first goal

After over-achieving again at the end of the 2015/16 season, Southampton will be aiming to hit the heights of the Premier League once more under Claude Puel.

After a disappointing start to 2016, losing 1-0 to struggling Norwich City, Southampton went on an excellent run, winning their next four Premier League fixtures, including a 0-1 against Louis van Gaal's Manchester United, after an 87th goal from Charlie Austin.

Charlie Austin celebrates after scoring for Southampton against Manchester UnitedCharlie Austin celebrates after scoring for Southampton against Manchester United

The winning run continued on after the Manchester United victory, with Southampton going on to win 9 of their last 15 Premier League fixtures, including a final day 4-1 win over Crystal Palace, thanks to goals from Mane, Pelle, Bertrand and Davis. 

Graziano Pelle celebrates after scoring the second goal for SouthamptonGraziano Pelle celebrates after scoring the second goal for Southampton

The win would see Southampton finish 6th in the table, a fantastic feat for Ronald Koeman and his players.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman acknowledges fans at the end of the matchSouthampton manager Ronald Koeman acknowledges fans at the end of the match

However, it would prove to be another summer of chopping and changing at St Mary's, as Koeman departed to manage Everton, and key players such as Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama also leaving for Liverpool, China and Tottenham respectively.

Graziano Pelle celebrates with Kelvin Davis and teammates after scoring the second goal for SouthamptonGraziano Pelle celebrates with Victor Wanyama and Ronald Koeman

Coming in to replace Koeman was OGC Nice boss, Claude Puel. A somewhat unknown quantity in English football, Puel had enjoyed a successful season in France, and brought with him Sofiane Boufal, a multi-million pound signing from Lille.

Southampton manager Claude PuelSouthampton manager Claude Puel

Southampton's start to the season however was shaky, as the Saints drew two and lost two of their first four games. Their first win would come at the hands of Swansea City towards the end of September, thanks to another goal from target man, Charlie Austin.

Southampton's Charlie Austin scores their first goalSouthampton's Charlie Austin scores their first goal

The win would again act as a catalyst for the Saints, who then went on to go unbeaten until the end of October. Their impressive run would see them pick up wins against West Ham, Burnley and Sunderland, the latter thanks to a wonderful goal from new signing, Sofiane Boufal.

Southampton's Sofiane Boufal scores their first goalSouthampton's Sofiane Boufal scores their first goal

November would also bring a huge result in Southampton's history, as the Saints hosted Italian giants Inter Milan at home in the Europa League. After Inter took the lead, Southampton came from behind to win 2-1, thanks to goals from Virgil van Dijk and a Nagatomo own goal. 

The European adventure would end in disappointment as the Saints slipped out in the group stage, but there are the foundations for a similar top six challenge in 2017.

Southampton's Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring their first goalSouthampton's Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring their first goal

As Southampton now head towards the closing stages of 2016, it looks like the Saints will once again over-achieve, as they become arguably the only club in England who manage to improve season after season, despite losing managers and important players along the way.

Southampton fans before the matchSouthampton fans before the match

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