Time for Southampton to be taken seriously

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Southampton are flying, they sit 3rd in the Premier League and have only lost once so far this season.

As a result, three of their players have been called up to the England squad and are now genuine contenders for a European place.

A year ago they had just been promoted to the Premier League, and found life difficult after only winning one of their first 10 games, and sat in the bottom three at this stage. 

Last January it was fair to say we were all baffled to find out that Nigel Adkins was abruptly sacked by Southampton off the back of a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, also with the club being embarked in a five-match unbeaten run.

However, it's turned out to be a stroke of genius from chairman Nicola Cortese, who realised that was as far as Adkins could take the club, which for lets say, Steve Parish at Crystal Palace, sitting 17th and steady form would have been satisfactory.

But, it's clear Cortese has a vision, and that is why he thought that was the time to install Mauricio Pochettino and the introduction of a high tempo, high pressing style of play which the players have all flourished in.

Victories over Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea last season were just some of the results which kept Southampton up, comfortably, finishing 14th. 

So with a chairman who is willing to make very brave decisions and have them pay off, he also has stable finances and a respectable transfer policy. QPR had a bit of money last season and after survival in the Premier League they bought in 12 players and shipped out as many.

It didn't work and they subsequently relegated. Whereas at Southampton they made three very astute signings, quality over quantity and that is all they have required for this already talented young squad to move forward.

Dejan Lovren has proved a bargain at £8million, and Victor Wanyama has been one of their most consistent performers. The squad all of a sudden looks rather formidable. They now have a solid back four, Wanyama and Morgan Schniederlin pull the strings in the middle and add that to the young, talented and English contingent of Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez, James Ward-Prowse, Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne. Not to mention prolific striker Rickie Lambert who doesn't quite fall into that category because of his age.

The bottom line is they have a balanced squad and Pochettino's style and system is working like a treat, and when you're leaving £12m and £15m worth of talent on the bench, in Gaston Ramirez and Dani Osvaldo respectively, hen there's definitely strength in depth and a very strong team performing on the pitch. 

They face arguably their toughest test yet at the Emirates on Saturday and a result there will  certainly make even the most pessimistic of us take them seriously as European contenders.

Saints have already beaten Liverpool at Anfield, and got a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, so they have already "passed" their real test so far this season. They may not be quite ready to challenge for a place in the top four, but who knows what might happen in the next couple of years?

The club is stable, the manager is very good, the squad is strong and there is plenty of young talent coming through for the future, having said that there always has for Southampton, the only difference now is they are more likely to pledge their future to the club rather than go in search of a move away like Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have in the past.

This is why it's time that we all take them seriously now and enjoy them in the most competitive Premier League season to date.

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