Southampton boss, Ronald Koeman, has suggested that his side are good enough to win a fourth place finish this season at the expense of Liverpool and Arsenal according to reports.
The Saints have been undoubtedly impressive this season under the dutchman’s charge since the beginning of the summer after coming in for Mauricio Pochettino. The departure of the core of the team which were quite a force last season had seen pundits predicting a season of doom at the St. Mary’s. On the contrary, Koeman has gained himself many admirers by carrying out a shrewd recruitment and replacement plan which has even set the top clubs gearing up for another mass attack at the end of the season.
Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane have settled in so quickly that there are any fans who remember Lallana or Lambert. They were unfortunate to lose to Liverpool on the opening day of the season, and may have deserved a bit more at Whit Heart Lane, but they sit comfortbaly at 2nd place, behind Chelsea on points but level on goal difference.
Arsenal have even been on the receiving end of the Saints brilliance this season, having been ousted from the League Cup at home by Koeman’s side. It appears the manager has good reason to think he will complete the victory over us by May, which will dump us out of the Champions League places for the first time in 18 years.
As good as his team has been, any talk of 4th place at the moment is as premature as saying that Chelsea will win the League, never mind being Invincible all season long.
It must be worth remembering that the Saints also made a similar start to the League last season, spending a considerable stretch of the early weeks within the top four positions. Between September and November, they stayed unbeaten, conceeding just 5 goals in the process. 6 wins from 11 games meant they were comfortable in third position. By Christmas, they had slumped to 9th place following four losses in 6 games, which included trips to the Emirates and Stamford Bridge. They are in an even better position on the log this season but also have tough fixture lined up ahead.
Koeman believed the Champions League would pose a distraction for us and Liverpool, but how that hasn’t happened for 16 seasons may be an interest of his to find out. There are no indices that state that we have struggled due to involvements in Europe, and our recent back-to-back victory gives allusion to the contrary.
Our season has been quite bumpy untill now but there are signs of improvement as we expect the return of some key players, especially Theo Walcott. He may not be ready to recieve challenges for the Burnley game but the Saints will surely get a taste of him when they come visiting in November.
Even Rodgers Liverpool will soon come good, good enough to finish above the Saints. The Reds couldn’t get a win over Southampton last season but were only a Gerrard slip away from winning the League. That is not to mask their difficulties this season, with Balotelli misfiring. They have struggled in front of goal without Suarez but the new signings wouldn’t take too to get together under Rodger’s philosophy.
If competitions are to prove a weakness for us, the League Cup would also present challenges to them, as it did to Swansea. Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama may have to be excused between January and February for the African Cup of Nations, while Arsenal could ripple their water with a sensational bid for hitman Morgan Schneiderlin.
At best, it could be another 8th place finish for them, perhaps an Europa League place.
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