Who would have thought last summer that Southampton would be 2nd in the Premier League after 9 games this season. I don’t think anybody would have thought that, not even the Saints fans I think ! Yet Southampton have shown an excellent form under new boss Ronald Koeman.
The Saints lost Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Calum Chambers, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren this summer after such a good 2013/14 season under Mauricio Pochettino, who also moved to Spurs. Those are important players, and characters who were really important to their success last season. How can they survive after such a massive summer exodus?
Firstly, having an experienced manager as Pochettino’s replacement was vital. A manager like Koeman would know how to use the funds well, in which areas etc.
I also think that Southampton did really well in keeping hold of their best player Morgan Schneiderlin, who insisted on willing to follow Pochettino’s path to Spurs. He gives his team that balance in the central of the park, where he contributes greatly at both defending and attacking. His work-rate is second to none, which makes him a fantastic box-to-box midfielder.
Koeman didn’t want to invest on players he doesn’t really know, like any other manager would do. He brought Graziano Pellè and Dusan Tadic from dutch football, which worked well. Tadic, the Serbian international, already has 7 assists to his name in 9 games, whereas Graziano Pellè, the new striker for the Italian national team has 6 goals this season so far.
STYLE OF PLAY ?
Pretty similar to what they’ve been used to under Pochettino last season, and I think it is important to keep that stability and continuity.
Average possession 53%
Passing success 82%
Although it is pretty balanced, they seem to prefer to attack via the flanks, rather than exploiting the middle, but they do keep possession a lot in the middle third, where the majority of their action happens.
What differs from Pochettino’s philosophy is the pressing. Under Koeman, they look to press less, whereas their former manager favours a high-pressing game.
I said earlier about the important role of Morgan Schneiderlin for this Saints side:
He averages 70 passes per game for his side, it is more than anyone else in the team, especially compared to his central midfield colleagues (Steven Davis : 49.1 passes/game, and Jack Cork: 31.4 passes/game), he is a sort of interface between the defense and the attack for his team, and always wanting the ball, and does simple, effective distribution.
Defensively, his contribution is second to none:
He averages 4 tackles per game, only Nathaniel Clyne does more tackle than him in a game.
He reads the game so well, as he completes 2.2 interceptions per game, only his captain José Fonte does better (2.8 interceptions per game)
He is the unsung hero for that team, and Southampton did ever so well to keep hold of him.
They’ve had a fantastic start to the season, as they have last season as well. The question is, can they hang in there longer than they did last season?
I think they have a good chance to qualify for Europe. The experience for Ronald Koeman will be priceless to them, as he might know how to manager his players better than the previous manager.
Stats source: http://www.whoscored.com/Teams/18/Show/-Southampton