Southampton look the real deal after 8-0 win

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It became a procession. Southampton were scoring at will against what was previously one of the best defences in the Premier League this season in Sunderland.

No doubt Southampton fans would have wanted to carry on from where their team left off last season. This time however, the Saints may reach even further heights.

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The 8-0 drubbing of the Black Cats on Saturday afternoon was a culmination of Southampton's season so far: hard-work, pace, power and clinical finishing. It was a masterclass of a performance.

Southampton experienced an extraordinary summer. Losing players of the calibre of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers made the club's fans fear the worst. Little did they know, however, that there would only be positives coming their way from thereon.


Dutchman Ronald Koeman came in with big shoes to fill - Mauricio Pochettino raised the club to levels they could only dream of three or four years ago. But Koeman came in with his own strategy and his own goals. He wanted to get rid of the players who weren't committed and develop the players who were - a risky but courageous policy at the time.

Not only that, but Koeman's big money purchases of Graziano Pellè, Dušan Tadić and keeper Fraser Forster - along with the clever loan signings of Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand - have proved to be excellent additions to a squad that was desperate for new quality after the summer exodus. 

If that wasn't enough, Koeman has maintained, if not enhanced, the club's outstanding youth system, and you only have to look at the mature displays of 19-year-old midfield man James Ward-Prowse to know that youth at Saint Mary's is still in very good shape.

"I knew a lot about Southampton because over in Holland we know that the youth academy is very famous," Koeman explained upon his arrival.

"It's a little bit like Holland - they give opportunities to young players and that's important for Southampton, to give young players a chance in the first team."


It is an remarkable turnaround from Koeman and his men in red and white. Intensity and hard-work made them a very tough team to face last season, but now they have an end product: Tadić creating and Pellè scoring. It is something we are likely to see plenty more of this campaign. 

After struggling for rhythm, £10 million summer recruit Pellè is now flying high. Despite his superb goal record for previous club Feyenoord in Holland - 57 goals in two seasons to be exact - doubts still remained over whether the Italian would have enough for the Premier League.

Pellè seems to have whistled away those doubts, with his finishing, hold-up play and work-rate an admirable part of his game that is of such value to the Saints. 

Yet one can argue that Southampton's most influential player is Tadić. Skill and vision combined with a killer pass and an eye for goal, the Serbian's deadly displays have been highly impressive in the Saints' surge this term.

And with seven assists - four of which came on Saturday - and a goal so far, Southampton look like they have found the ideal replacement for former captain Adam Lallana.

Standout players

These two stand out, but you could pick a handful of Southampton players that fully deserve the huge amount of praise that is being heaped on them. And when you have your best start to a top-flight season for 26 years, they have every right to thrive on the accolades that are coming their way. 

The improvement is there to see. Koeman’s squad are already making more passes and tackles, having more shots, and scoring more goals per game than Pochettino’s managed last season.

Not only that but, remarkably, the rhythm is quicker and of more quality than ever before, therefore a testament to Koeman's skill and vision as manager of this wonderful Saints team.

Not forgetting the defence, the Saints have only conceded five league goals so far - the best in the league by three goals. It is another fantastic turnaround from Koeman considering he lost three of his four first choice defenders in the summer.

The Dutchman went with Ryan Bertrand to replace Luke Shaw at left-back - a decision which has helped the promising former Chelsea player develop into a much more consistent full-back than in his younger years.

Yet it was the addition of another Champions League finalist that impressed so many.

Toby Alderweireld won a plethora of admirers at Ajax and, even though he was part of an outstanding La Liga winning and European runner-up side in Atletico Madrid, the lack of game time was always going to be a problem considering the ominous form of Miranda and Diego Godin.

His move to England however has helped Southampton massively and - similar to the case with Tadic and Lallana - the Belgian has proven to be a like for like replacement for Dejan Lovren, who left for Liverpool.

It was yet another master move by Koeman, who has been instrumental in guiding the Saints to play a brand of football that - as Sunderland brutally found out on Saturday - is going to cause many teams problems.


They seem to have it all: The solidarity of Forster and Alderweireld, the power of Victor Wanyama, the pace of Long, the brains of Schneiderlin, the creativity of Tadić and the clinical ability of Pellè. It has been an incredible recovery so far considering the mayhem of the first half of the summer window.

The team may have been altered somewhat excessively, but the vision and the system remains the same. The Saints are on top form: the fans are singing and dancing, team morale is at an all time high and the manager is feeling confident every time he watches his new team play.

Southampton are a breath of fresh air to a league footballing world becoming dominated by money and the luxury that comes with it.

The bookies have Southampton 8/1 to finish in the top four, though it may be too early to made rash predictions at this stage - as the club's 13/14 season proved. Yet if the Saints can maintain this level of performance for a sustained period then who knows?

There may be a few eyebrows raised at the end of what is sure to be yet another crazy Premier League season.

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