Sport Editor Jack Pethick reviews Southampton FC’s fantastic start to the Premier League Campaign
No. Team GP W D L GF GA GD PTS
1 Chelsea 12 10 2 0 30 11 19 32
2 Southampton 11 8 1 2 23 5 18 25
3 Manchester City 12 7 3 2 24 13 11 24
4 Manchester United 12 5 4 3 19 15 4 19
To answer your current thought: Yes, your eyes have not deceived you and this is indeed the current (written on 24th November) Premier League table, and incredibly our city of Southampton sits second in it. Manager Ronald Koeman has proved many doubters wrong and has thus far guided Southampton to their best start in 31 years. Following the summer sales of key players such as Adam Lallana, Ricky Lambert, Luke Shaw and Dejan Lovren, many felt that Southampton would struggle in the league this year. Fans and Pundits alike felt that Koeman had not added enough players with Premier League experience or even players that people had heard of. However, this doubt over Koeman’s transfer policy has been proven wrong, with players such as Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadiç, Sadio Mane and Fraser Forster all starring in Southampton’s blistering start to the season.
So, just why have Southampton been so good?
The Tadiç and Pelle partnership:
The front pairing of Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadiç has been crucial to Southampton’s flying start this season. Between them this season in all competitions they have produced eleven goals and ten assists, a statistic showing that already they are working well as a partnership at such an early stage to the season. When you add to this that Southampton’s midfielders have also contributed six goals and three assists- with a significant mention going to Morgan Schneiderlin who has scored three of those- then yet again, there are signs already that Koeman’s philosophy is already being implemented at such an early stage.
Although the combined stats of Pele and Tadiç are reasonably impressive, they are not that amazing when put in perspective: If the Premier League was based solely on goals scored, then Southampton would sit joint sixth in the table, so clearly goals are not enough alone to make Southampton sit where they are now. Therefore, it has been Southampton’s defensive record that has arguably been the key factor in their success. In a Premier League season that has been crammed with goals galore thus far, Southampton are leading the way in terms of defensive records. They are the only team this season in the Premier League who are yet to go into double figures in terms of goals conceded. Notable stand outs include Fraser Forster who has kept three clean sheets thus far and also Nathaniel Clyne, whose defensive performances have seen him achieve his first England call up earlier this month.
Undoubtedly Koeman had an incredible playing career, playing for great European clubs such as Ajax, PSV and Barcelona, and also being the top-scoring defender of all time, with 193 club goals throughout his illustrious career. At the time of his appointment, many pundits questioned whether Koeman was the right man for the job, a doubt that seemed ridiculous to me, when you examine the statistics of his managerial career. For example, Koeman averages a win ratio of 54% thus far in his 14 years as a manager, when the average win ratio of a Premier League manager is approximately 35-40%- an incredible stat. Koeman has not exactly been managing mediocre sides either, he has been employed by the likes of Valencia, Benfica and Ajax (which he led to two Eredevise titles). Being a player who was part of the Johan Cruff school at Barcelona in the mid 90’s, Koeman was brought up on the importance of pressing as a team, retention of the football and the philosophy of ‘Total Football’. These teachings are reflected in Koeman’s managerial philosophy and such a style is evidently being seen in Southampton’s cracking start to the season.
(Statistics taken from Wikipedia, Opta and whoscored.com)