As a man born and raised in Portsmouth and current season ticket holder, this could be the hardest article I have ever had to write . However, you have to sometimes hold your hands up in football and just applaud what you are seeing. That is the case when it comes to Southampton. As a club, what they continue to do, year and year out is nothing short of outstanding and it’s time I put my pride to one side and acknowledge that fact.
Year after year, Southampton enter the new season as many experts pick to be one of the teams to lose their Premier League status. They frequently lose their top players and sometimes fail to keep hold of their manager as well ; this was the case with Koeman over the summer. However, despite all the uncertainty, each year they seem to go from strength to strength. Take this year for example. They lost their manager and key players in Mané, Wanyama and Pellè for hefty fee’s they could simply not ignore. Yet here we are 9 games into the new Premier League campaign and the Saints sit 8th in the league, only a point behind United in 7th.
So how do they do it ? Well the answer is simple, recruitment. The Saints are arguably the best team in the country when it comes to bringing in players who they know can do a job in their team. A key example is the summer signing of Nathan Redmond. Brought in to replace Sadio Mané, who left for Liverpool for £34 million over the summer, seemed like a huge task for a player still finding his way in the game. Yet after only 9 games he looks like being one of the league’s stand out players. Already half way to matching his goal tally for Norwich last season, it’s clear that Redmond is maturing game by game and has been helped significantly by the faith that the new manager has vested in him. You know when a player is playing well when there is an end product to their game and there certainly is with this lad at the moment. Yes against City he was gifted the ball by the cumbersome Stones but he showed great composure to round Bravo and slot it into the empty net. Of course I’m sure the worry already among Saint’s fans is how long they can keep hold of him but at the ripe old age of 22, they need not worry just yet.
Redmond (right) celebrates putting his team ahead at the Etihad
Whilst Redmond’s performances have been the a bonus for the Saints this year, it’s the goals scored by their number 10 which have been welcomed with open arms. After only 1 goal under Koeman following his move from QPR last January, there were growing concerns that he might not produce the goals expected of him. Thankfully, he seems to now be back to his clinical best. With 7 goals in 9 games already it promises to be a highly productive campaign for the striker and he and his team are reeking the awards.
Huge credit must also go to the manager. Some would say he has just carried on from Koeman left off but if you look closely you will see he has done much more than that. He has given players renewed confidence who sometimes struggled under Koeman and has also give them the freedom to express themselves. Players like Tadic have stepped it up a gear and Romeu has been a revelation in midfield this season putting in consistent performances week in week out. No one really knew Puel before he arrived on the South-Coast but if his team continue in the way they are, they soon will.
Though it pains me to admit it, there is no way that the Saints will be in any trouble at all this season. There are far worse teams than them in this league and ones with far less confidence as well. It is astonishing what they manage to achieve each year and they deserve enormous amounts of credit, they really do. I actually mean that, believe me