Premier League: Southampton set for top-half finish?

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Many would have tipped Southampton to be relegated in their first season back in the Premier League after a seven-year absence. But under the management of both Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino, the Saints are sitting pretty in mid-table.

Controversial club chairman, Nicola Cortese, has led the club in a rather unique way, but for all his critics he has got very few big decisions wrong and his management style gets results.

Some don't get along with Cortese, but you cannot fault the things he has put into the club, be it money or input, as he has been the main reason behind the south coast club's recent success. 

At the start of December, Southampton were in 18th place with just 12 points to their name after 15 games, only Reading and QPR had less. Fast forward a month and they had only picked up six points from six games, which simply put is not good enough.

When Pochettino took over on the 18th of January, Southampton had 22 points from 22 games and were sat in 15th place, three points above the drop zone. Many questioned Cortese's decision to sack Adkins after an eight-game unbeaten run, suffering just two defeats in 12, but with hindsight perhaps Cortese knows best?

10 games later and Pochettino has mustered up 15 points, including wins against Premier League champions Manchester City, five time European champions Liverpool and defending champions of Europe, Chelsea. Pochettino also guided Saints to a crucial win over his predecessor's new club, Reading, all but securing Southampton's Premier League status in the process.

The Saints have spent a total of around £38m on transfers since their return to the top flight, and some of that outlay is paying dividends in the season run-in. The stand-out buy was Gaston Ramirez from Bologna, although many have said that the young Uruguayan has not lived up to his potential. The buy of the season however is Jay Rodriguez, who under Pochettino has thrived at the opportunity of getting regular first-team football, scoring in the games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Reading. 

His form, mixed with the ever-present goals of Rickie Lambert and the flair of Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez, and you have an attack which will always have goals in them. However, it's in defence where Southampton will really need to tighten up if they are going to be successful in years to come.

They have two top-class holding midfielders in Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin, who are in my opinion one of the best central midfield pairings in the country. What they lack in skill they make up for in grit and determination.

They have two of the best up-and-coming full-backs in Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw, but the centre of the defence remains their Achilles heal. Maya Yoshida has had a decent start to his Southampton career, and when playing with Jose Fonte has looked solid in the centre of defence, but when he has been partnered by Jos Hooiveld, he has looked shaky and I don't think he can handle Premier League football.

Having said that, Yoshida and Hooiveld have been the partnership of choice in the past few games, where Southampton have been winning and not conceding too many goals, but the goals that they do concede are often individual errors that wouldn't look out of place on a Sunday League pitch. 

The Saints did invest in highly-rated Norwegian defender Vegard Forren in January, but the defender is yet to make an appearance for Pochettino's side.

So overall, I think that Cortese's idea that Southampton could be playing European football in the near future might sound a bit far fetched to the majority, but I think that in time and with a few new signings in the summer, I see no reason why Pochettino's side can't be challenging for a Europa League spot.

One thing is for certain, under Nicola Cortese they have a chairman who is fully committed to the club and determined to make Southampton a force to be reckoned with. He's proved his doubters wrong thus far, so who's to say the Saints won't go on to the next level too?


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Maxi Rodriguez
Jay Rodriguez
Jose Fonte
Rickie Lambert
Premier League
Adam Lallana
Jack Cork
Morgan Schneiderlin

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