Southampton form built on solid defensive foundation

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Southampton are on a run of form that has propelled them to second in the Barclay's Premier League table, and whilst they have won four, it is going somewhat unnoticed that their backline is as solid as it has ever been.

Whilst they have scored 11 goals, they have only conceded four, the least in the entire league which puts them amongst Europe's elite defences so far this campaign.

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And with a winnable set of fixtures ahead, it would be no surprise to see their form continue, as long as the defence remains as stable as it has so far.

Full-back energy

One of the things that is obvious amongst Southampton supporters is the impetus Ronald Koeman gives his full-backs to get forward. With two of the most impressive English defenders in his side, it is easy to see why.

Nathaniel Clyne has continued on from last season and has been in scintillating form so far this term. His goal against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup - which followed  a string of top performances has today seen him drafted into Roy Hodgson's England squad for the first time, and rightly so.

On the other side, Southampton brought in Chelsea outcast Ryan Bertrand this summer as a replacement for another England defender, Luke Shaw, and he too has flourished under Koeman.

So much so that following his opener in the 2-1 win over QPR last weekend, he was also mentioned with regard to a possible England call-up, although it was not to be on this occasion.

However, this leaves Southampton on solid ground and with the energy that both bring to the side going forward and in defence, it is easy to see why the Saints are doing well so far.

Captain's responsibility

Following Adam Lallana's departure last summer, Southampton appointed Jose Fonte as the new team captain and he has stepped up to the plate and grabbed the task with both hands.

He has been an ever-present so far this season and Saints fans have been quick to praise their new leader. Having joined the club from Crystal Palace, helping them through successive promotions on the way, it was questioned whether Fonte could continue to hold down a place as Southampton eyed European football.

That question has been firmly answered though, and Fonte has started this season even better than last, a remarkable feat considering the plaudits went to defensive partner Dejan Lovren last season. He has grown into the natural leader of the team and with him the Saints are in good hands.

Defensive depth

As well as Fonte though, Koeman has a depth in his defence that may not have been available under Mauricio Pochettino.

Maya Yoshida started the season well and the Dutchman also added Florin Gardos to the squad - he is a player who brings with him Champions League experience from his time at Steaua Bucharest.

The final option, and probably just about first choice partner for Fonte is Toby Alderweireld, a deadline day signing on loan from Atletico Madrid no less. The Belgian international has established his place in the Southampton starting 11 and with him alongside Fonte it is easy to see why it is becoming so hard to break down the Saints' defence.

Forster's physical presence

Behind the back four, Southampton raised a few eyebrows this summer by bringing in England's third choice goalkeeper Fraser Forster from Celtic as a replacement for Artur Boruc.

However, the 6ft 7in stopper has proved a shrewd signing by Koeman, who was given assistance by England goalkeeping coach Dave Watson after he joined the backroom staff at St. Mary's.

Although Forster has not had much to do in his short Southampton career so far, when he has been called upon he has proved an almost impenetrable barrier. His huge frame makes him difficult to put the ball past, and his aerial ability makes him one of the most commanding goalkeepers around.

Koeman will know that to sustain a challenge for a Europa League place, his defence needs to have both the mentality and depth for the fight at hand, and with the talent at his disposal, he might just have both in abundance.

Ronald Koeman
Premier League

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