Eight wins, 25 points, a game in hand. Southampton are flying high this season in the Premier League, destroying the critics who claimed they would be 'relegation fodder' after losing high-profile players such as Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana to Liverpool in the summer.
Yet what many people had realised last season was that Southampton weren’t simply a squad, they were a team. A team whom punched well above their weight in finishing eighth last season, they did this by combining all the good attributes from their team and combining them together to create a strong, solid and versatile team.
Individual stars weren’t like Luis Suárez or Sergio Aguero but players who managed to buy into the mind-set of team and manager; simply look at the club record signing of Pablo Osvaldo, who saw his own aims as greater than the team. Man
teams would have simply bowed down to his requirements, thus having a detrimental effect to the team morale and performances. But no, Osvaldo was sent away from the club just five months after joining; this was a major statement from not just then-manager Pochettino, but from the board who refused to let the fiasco develop into an Ambramovich-Torres scenario.
The loss of Osvaldo didn’t hamper the team in anyway, with the Saints continuing to ride high all year, even the loss of their to goalscorer, Jay Rodriguez, didn’t seem to derail the fascinating journey that the club was on in the 2013-2014 season.
The reason for this is simple: Southampton’s successes aren’t borne out of money or individual superstars; Their success is not based on a physical specimen, but purely the some may say old-style club ethos of work, work, work and all the players buying into that.
Let us look at Ryan Bertrand for example, who last year was part of an Aston Villa set-up where he made just ten appearances for between January and May last year. Bertrand had become somewhat of a failed prodigy whose career was on a steep downward slope after failing to impress Chelsea whilst on loan at many, many different teams.
However, now he looks a new player; bright, pacey and inventive. There may be an argument for Bertrand simply coming of age, but such a massive increase in quality on the pitch after being labelled a failure at his last eight teams cannot be put down to this. Bertrand has bought into the team ethos.
Players Are On Board
Many other players have brought in this season and last season, leading to Southampton’s success, just look at the shortcomings of Lallana, Lambert and Lovren at Liverpool to see that Southampton’s players are made brilliant by each other and not by individual star quality.
Remember this is a team who sit a point clear of Manchester City (with a game in hand) before Monday night's trip to Aston Villa; the current champions of England who had a summer transfer net spend loss of £32million, while staggeringly Southampton made a £31million profit.
Reason To Believe
This tells me that even when the tight fixture schedule around Christmas comes to fruition Southampton will pull through with pull through this hectic schedule by continuing to tirelessly work and combine with each other. I know that they have a very genuine chance of getting Champions league football next season, simply look at the third- and fourth-placed teams from last year.
Liverpool: 18 points from first-placed Chelsea, whom they finished higher than last season and Arsenal, who sit an astounding eight points behind Southampton having played one more match than the Saints.
Yes, there will be struggles and dips in form, but I believe the ethos and determination of the team, both on and off the pitch can see Southampton “Relegation-fighters” make it into the top four of the premier league and next season lining up against the best teams on the planet.