Just a month ago, I found myself (over) analysing a run of terrible form here. Since that victory at Watford, Saints have made it to an unbeaten run of five games, dropping just two points at Arsenal and haven’t conceded a single goal.
So what have we re-learned during Koeman’s resurgence?
The Transfer Policy is ok
During that run of five unbeaten games Summer signings Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu have both been standout players. Consider their impact alongside that of Virgil van Dijk and to a lesser extent Cedric, and Saints look to have a decent squad, better than the poor run they had been on suggested. Add to that the instant impact of Charlie Austin and Saints fans have good reason to be looking up again rather than down.
2. Ronald knows Tactics
Many people winced when they saw the return of three at the back, especially with Ryan Bertrand taking a place in the centre, but Ronald has got his tactics spot on recently. With the exception of the West Ham game, he has recreated the dominant home performances we had gotten used to, and defensively the team have been superb on the road.
3. Player Power won’t always beat us
Despite his sending off against West Ham, Victor Wanyama has seemingly (if temporarily) shaken off his desire to head to North London and been a key player during this run. Wanyama is one of Saints’ best players on his day, only a fool argues that point, but his position is more difficult with the emergence of Clasie and Romeu. Arguably, Saints could afford to lose him, but chose not to. A nice change.
It was refreshing to see that no key players left the bus on deadline day, and whether or not you believe the likes of Wanyama and Mane are biding their time, perhaps Saints have decided they won’t be held to ransom anymore.
Many of us felt vindicated when Charlie Austin came off the bench at Old Trafford to put away his first chance in a Saints shirt. It’s what we had been saying for some time. We miss too many good chances.
A three pronged competition for places of Austin, Graziano Pelle and Shane Long is a pretty ideal situation for a manager as they all differ in style, and all must take their opportunities to stay in the team.
The natural, the unorthodox and the hassler? Have Saints ever been so striker rich?
5. We still have decent Academy products
During this run, amongst many of the pleasing aspects, it has been great to see the performances of James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett.
JWP finally got the free kick monkey off his back and has looked more tenacious than ever in midfield and Targett was in scintillating form in a more advanced role.
It was especially pleasing to see Matt Targett show that he isn’t the write off some people had decided he was, and who knew he had that cross on him? A justified player of the month and bright future ahead!
6. We missed ‘The Wall’
There is very little more to be said about Fraser Forster’s miraculous return to the team. Literally no sign of rustiness, despite being out for nine months, his return has coincided with this run of form.
For many of the games he has little to do, but I wonder just how much more confident his presence makes the back four (or three/five). His display against Arsenal was pure heroics and with due respect to our other keepers would we have conceded no goals in the last five games had any of them been playing. I seriously doubt it. The confidence of Jose Fonte in a behind the scenes video after the West Ham game tells a story of faith. No one is scoring past us mate.
7. Mark Clattenburg still hates us
Yes I am bitter, but allowing the West Ham players to talk him into changing his yellow card to red for Wanyama and then allowing Sam Byram to get away with a clear red card tackle means his record of terrible decisions against us continues. He’s either a cheat or incompetent. You decide.
Someone once said that football was a ‘funny old game’ and it most certainly is. A month ago we were talking about a possible relegation battle, today a win against Swansea would see us reach 40 points with 12 games to go and people are talking about Europe again.
Clubs that were perceived to be having amazing seasons while we struggled (Stoke and Palace in particular) are now below us in the table, and even the Klopp revolution finds itself behind. No need to even mention Chelsea.
Everyone is disappointed with the start to the Premier League campaign. Two largely lacklustre performances have left Saints fans baffled, but the reaction from some has been staggering.
Less knee jerk, than complete body convulsion.
I found myself embroiled in a twitter debate last night and was constantly amazed at the incredulous statements being made by some. Jordy Clasie, having played just one competitive game, was written off as ‘shit’ while Cedric, Juanmi and Stekelenburg were also given a going over by some so called ‘fans’.
Completely ignoring the fact that Saints have played four games so far, winning two, drawing one and losing just one, some of the clubs support have already started bemoaning the quality of transfers and decided that the club is more interest in bringing in revenue than maintaining progress.
Saints comprehensive defeat at home to Everton was of course disappointing, but for me it was more about only having one of last seasons back five playing than it was the quality of the new signings. Couple the lack of familiarity at the back with the loss of Morgan Schneiderlin and it is easy to see how goals have been shipped. There needs to be a period of grace.
This time last year the same people were telling me that Pelle was ‘shit’ and that the club had not replaced the outgoing players well enough. Those players proved them wrong, but they’ve seemingly not learned their lesson and are making the same level of ignorant noise about the class of 2015/16.
‘Progress’ for a club of Saints’ stature and pull has to be done at a steady rate, and so far those in control have proven to be very good at doing just that. The model of spending big on superstars is not Saints’ style and is no more a guarantee of success than anything else. The club, with very few exceptions, do their due diligence when it comes to incoming tranfsers, and in my opinion have earned the right to have our confidence.
To write off the likes of Clasie after so little playing time is actually ludicrous, and often I am surprised that those comments are coming from adults.
If the objective of the Saints owners was purely financially motivated, we wouldn’t be signing established Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese internationals, we would be raiding Hull for the likes of Tom Huddlestone. Saints’ pursuit of a sustainable yet progressive club should be admired not chastised because you feel the need for some instant transfer gratification, and two games into the Premier League season is not the time to be doing it.
To attack those at the club who have got a proven track record of gradual improvement is ungrateful at best. Have some trust in them, support the team, and enjoy the ride, it’s been pretty good so far.
Amongst the many previews out on offer as we approach the (official) start of a new season, none bring together many as many of the voices of those who give up their time to talk about their club. I gathered together the Saints blogging fraternity to see what they expect from the new season.
Which new signing are you most excited about?
Me ‘Cedric has looked impressive in pre-season so far, and looks like he will offer even more going forward than Clyne did. We shall see if he can recreate that level of form in the Premier League.’
Glen de la Cour (from League One Minus Ten) ‘Cedric Soares looks an exciting addition especially as it fits our ethos of selling big and replacing with better quality for less money. The most important though is Jordy Clasie because of the boots he has to fill.’
Connor Armstrong (from All of the websites) ‘For me it’s probably Cédric, so far. It looks like he’ll give us great balance when Bertrand is back too, as well as another genuine attacking threat.’
Sam Dobson (from The Saints Hub) ‘Excited is probably the wrong word, but Cedric Soares looks the most impressive so far’
George Galpin (from St. Mary’s Musings) ‘I’m really excited about Jordy Clasie. Morgan Schneiderlin was a fantastic player for Saints, and will be remembered as an icon of the club’s recent rise. But people move on, and the Utd move is something that not many would be able to say no to.’
Ben Stanfield (from Teamtalk Fanzone) ‘Cedric Soares. I think he looks like a really bright young talent who, in glimpses against Vitesse, showed he will thrive in getting forward to create opportunities for Saints. He looks physically strong, is quick and seems to have an experienced head on young shoulders. The acid test, which hasn’t really been seen yet, is his defending – particularly against Premier League attackers..’
Ben (from Go Marching In) ‘Cédric Soares – Has looked very assured already despite only playing a few games in a Saints shirt. I like his positivity going forward and have a feeling he could bag a couple of goals in his first season.’
Ben McQuaide (from McQuaide’s Musings and SportsPulse) ‘Without a doubt, Jordy Clasie. I’ve wanted him at Southampton for quite a while now and after watching him a fair bit in the Eredivisie I’m convinced he’ll be a hit in the Premier League.’
Which Saints player do you think will have the biggest impact (secure move to United/Liverpool/Spurs) on the Premier League this season?
Me ‘Sadio Mane. He is such an exciting player and already making a name for himself. Still only 23 I think he is destined for the top sooner rather than later.’
GdlC ‘Sadio Mane- he will hopefully be better equipped in his 2nd season to keep a high level of performance right through.’
CA ‘It’s going to be Sadio Mané. He’s gonna tear it up. Big Vic will keep being Big Vic too, so he’s another who will have a big impact. Let’s hope that Jay Rodriguez makes his mark too.’
SD ‘Sadio Mane. He will win us games single-handedly .’
GG ‘I really think this is Sadio Mané’s year. He’s settled into the team well, but it was noticeable how much physically he had grown and looks frighteningly quick. He could become a real superstar this season.’
BS ‘Sadio Mane. I’m really looking forward to seeing Sadio have a full season with Saints. He was one of the more consistent performers across last year and has already shown in pre-season that he is ready to go. I think he should, and will, be targeting 20 goals for Saints this season. He could well be the key to us winning a few close games.’
B ‘Sadio Mane – One the most fouled players in the Premier League last season. Feel that if he has another impressive season we’ll be fighting off some big offers for him next summer.’
BM ‘Sadio Mane, if he can maintain or better his form from the second half of last season for a whole season he’s gonna tear teams apart and I think he could score 15+ goals this season.’
How do you rate our transfer business out of 10?
Me ‘So far I would say it is a 7-8, add another centre half, and in my opinion an out and out striker and then it would be higher.’
GdlC ‘Hard to tell until they’ve adapted (or not)…. on the face of it, it looks like an 8 or 9 out of 10. A top quality centre back in addition to Caulker will make it even better.’
SD ‘6 or 7. Difficult to argue that we won’t be worse off without Clyne and Schneiderlin, but the players that have replaced them aren’t THAT much worse, so we should still be competitive.’
GG ‘If Saints can get the CB to replace Alderweireld, 10 for me. The players who had left all had understandable reasons for going, but once again the transfer committee seem to have brought in the right replacements.’
BS ‘I’d say a 7. We seemed well prepared for any departures but, unlike last year, we didn’t need wholesale changes this summer anyway. If we can get a top-class CB in, like Van Dijk for example, then that 7 can become an 8/9 and I think we’re ready to go!’
BM ‘Probably a 6, the replacements look pretty solid for those that departed but I think we may be slightly weaker than last season, starting XI wise. ‘
Morgan Schneiderlin. Impossible to truly replace?
Me ‘Not impossible but incredibly difficult. I hope the Wanyama/Clasie partnership hits the ground running, if it does then we are going to be fine.’
GdlC ‘Maybe hard to immediately replace but you have to give time for a player to grow into the role. Once Clasie gets used to English football, he may well be that man. He has roughly the same number of caps for Holland as Morgan has for France – all he doesn’t have is the English football experience.’
CA ‘Probably, but we’ve given it a very good go.’
SD ‘He will definitely be missed, but we’re still pretty strong in that area of the pitch. Victor Wanyama is one of the best midfielders around and if Jordy Clasie doesn’t cut it, Harrison Reed will be ready to step up.’
GG ‘In all honesty, he is not impossible to replace, because no one is for a club the size of Southampton. He was an incredible player, but like I said earlier; people move on. Le Tissier retired, Channon left, Nick Holmes, Terry Paine, Rickie Lambert.. They all stopped playing for Saints, but the club is still there.’
BS ‘No player is ever truly irreplaceable. Morgan was a class act, no doubt about that, but I really feel Wanyama can step up to the same level Morgan was playing at each week and become the star of our Midfield. I wish Morgan well but we will survive without him.’
B ‘I think so. The ability to win the ball back, control the game with his distribution and an engine to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. A lot of players only specialise in one of those areas but Morgan was capable of them all. In Jordy Clasie we have a player who can certainly tick a lot of those boxes, but I think he’ll need time to find his feet in the Premier League. But at 24 there’s plenty of time for him to become as integral to Southampton as Morgan was.‘
BM ‘Wouldn’t say irreplaceable, top class player but I think Clasie will replace him well.’
Who will win the Premier League?
Me ‘Chelsea, but not as easily as they did last season.’
GdlC ‘Vitesse Arnhem’s feeder club.’
CA ‘Chelsea. Manchester United will push them but the Blues have got the knack.’
SD ‘Man United.’
GG ‘In my opinion, it’ll take a lot to stop Utd if they can add another attacker. ‘
BS ‘If United ‘click’ then I think they could go close – which they should do after the ridiculous amounts of money they’ve spent over the last two years – but I think it’ll be Chelsea’s to lose again. They are generally the epitome of consistency.’
BM ‘Chelsea, again. Despite concerns over Diego Costa’s hamstring.’
Who will go down?
Me ‘Bournemouth, Sunderland & Norwich.’
GdlC ‘Tottenham, Liverpool and I don’t really care who else.’
CA ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Sunderland.’
SD ‘Aston Villa, Leicester and Bournemouth.’
GG ‘Bournemouth, Leicester and Norwich’
BS ‘Watford, Leicester and Norwich.’
B ‘Leicester, Norwich and Watford.’
BM ‘Bournemouth, Norwich and Leicester.’
Who do you most want to beat this season?
Me ‘Whoever we get in the cup final.’
CA ‘Liverpool. For obvious reasons. Chelsea and Tottenham are others, but only because I have mates who support them.’
SD ‘Tottenham, we must be due a win against them by now.’
GG ‘Everybody… ;-). For me, I’d like Saints to beat Tottenham, purely because they’re the only team in the top six clubs that I haven’t seen Saints claim all three points from since promotion.’
BS ‘Liverpool and Tottenham. Both for obvious reasons of course!’
B ‘Probably Liverpool. Tottenham was a close second but the scousers win because they have more ex Saints players in their team. It’s got a lot to do with showing that we’re not weaker without them.’
BM ‘Liverpool, without a doubt. You know the reasons. ‘
Chips. Mayonnaise or No Mayonnaise?
Me ‘No. Total Dutch nonsense I’m afraid. HP Sauce (now made in Holland) is your standard chip affair.’
GdlC ‘I am determined to try the mayonnaise option soon! Will get back to you.’
CA ‘Mayonnaise, and lots of it. ‘
SD ‘No Mayonnaise. Sorry Ronald.’
GG ‘I tried chips with mayonnaise in Rotterdam for the Feyenoord friendly, and can see why they love it there. But for me, salt, pepper and vinegar is a winner. So is Reggae Reggae sauce.’
BS ‘I’m afraid this is (probably) the only thing in life that Ronald and I don’t agree on. Chips for me can only ever have one condiment on them – tomato ketchup!! So no mayonnaise for me. Sorry Ron!’
B ‘Mayonnaise. Lots of it.’
BM ‘Mayonnaise, obviously.’
You wake up suddenly and find yourself in Fratton Park for a Pompey home game. How do you escape unnoticed?
Me ‘There is a scene in the US zombie drama ‘The Walking Dead’ where the heroes smother themselves in zombie blood and guts and then act brain-dead to blend in and walk freely amongst the zombies. Like that. But using fish guts.’
GdlC ‘Grow an extra finger on each hand, an extra toe on each foot and an eye in the middle of my forehead, sing ‘Amarillo’ and shout ‘I HATE FACKING SCUMMAHS’and then (most importantly) blame the owners for everything. Now that I’m fully blended in… I can leave.’
CA ‘Fratton Park? Isn’t that where the big Tesco’s is now?’
SD ‘Reckon it’ll be pretty easy for me to navigate my way through rows of empty seats.’
GG ‘Stick on a thick coat, and casually walk towards the exit. If they say I can’t get back in, I’ll say I’ve left my car unlocked. Simple!’
BS ‘I’d turn to the only other guy in attendance and advise that I think I’ve left my car unlocked and will be right back….’
B ‘Scary thought. I would probably go for some sort of diversion tactic, saying loudly, “Isn’t that guy over there from HMRC?” and then walk briskly in the other direction.’
BM ‘I think you mean the Portsmouth Dockland Stadium (See below). ‘
Cheers to all those who took the time to answer questions. We’ll all meet back here in May and see how right (or wrong) we got it!
Keep the faith!
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