Just when it looked like Southampton were going to be the story of the Premier League season, the Saints have faltered by losing three-straight games and have dropped out of the top four.
However, all is not lost for Ronald Koeman’s men, as Southampton can recover and still have their best-ever season in the PL.
In their 2-1 defeat to Manchester United on Monday, Saints outplayed the Red Devils but just missed that cutting edge and mistakes were punished by a ruthless Robin van Persie. They may have now lost three on the spin, but those defeats came against Manchester City (who played extremely well and Saints just didn’t show up), Arsenal (where a last-gasp Alexis Sanchez strike was the difference) and then the loss to United. Doom and gloom merchants will not be having a field day around St Mary’s because there’s still plenty to be positive about.
“We lost against Manchester City because they were the better team. But we didn’t lose against Arsenal and Manchester United because they are better than us,” Koeman said. “I do not believe that. We lost because they handled mistakes in a better way than we did.”
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Throw in the fact that this string of defeats came when uncharacteristic mistakes cropped up, their most influential midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin was out injured and the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Jack Cork were also out, and you get the sense that plenty of factors combined to see Saints go down to narrow losses against the so-called ‘big boys’ of the PL.
Perspective is needed. Many tipped Saints for relegation before this season began but almost midway through the campaign they are in fifth place on 26 points. They have Chelsea, Everton, Arsenal and Manchester United coming up between now and mid-January as their schedule gets a lot tougher. But as long as they keep ripping apart the teams below them, the Saints can sustain a top six finish. In their next three games they have trips to struggling Crystal Palace and Burnley, plus a home game against Everton. They also have a League Cup quarterfinal against League One side Sheffield United to look forward to, as their season is far from falling apart.
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With four young academy products on the bench against United — Teenagers Jake Hesketh, Matt Targett, Harrison Reed and 21-year-old Lloyd Isgrove — the strength of Saints’ squad was shown up. Koeman may well be given some cash to spend in January if Saints are serious about bettering their best-ever PL finish of eighth from last season. They also have Jay Rodriguez (England international and last seasons top scorer) to come back from injury and James Ward-Prowse will return soon too.
Saints will lose Sadio Mane and Emmanuel Mayuka to the African Cup of Nations in January to February and many of their new additions like Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic will have to adjust to not having a winter break. Overall, there are plenty of issues for Saints to overcome, but if they can do all that and carry on their good work despite recent defeats to clubs expected to challenge for the top four, Koeman and his staff will be all smiles come the end of the season.
Losing three on the spin is never ideal, but let’s put things into perspective: the future is bright for Southampton, as the Saints continue to march on and try to challenge the PL’s elite. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but they are a very good team play attractive soccer and the club is progressing just as fast off the pitch too. Take a deep breath Saints fans, it is going to be okay.