Southampton continue to defy expectations

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What would make this season a success for Southampton? Were this question to have been posed to Saints fans prior to kick-off on August 17 last year, the opening day of the season, it is highly likely the answer would have been somewhat close  to, 'surviving relegation'.

However, were the same question to be asked today, one could expect a far different response.

An eighth place finish last season equalled Southampton's highest placing in the Premier League, leaving many fans optimistic about what their youthful squad could go on to achieve in future seasons.

However, their monumental campaign didn't go unnoticed and as the more established sides of the Premier League came calling, one by one Southampton's start began to leave in search of bigger and brighter things.

Bleak outlook

Manchester United swooped to take left-back Luke Shaw in a £27m deal, making him English football's most expensive teenager, and then came Arsenal, who secured fellow young England defender, Calum Chambers for £16m.

Liverpool inflicted the most damage upon the south-coast outfit by taking the spine of Southampton's team in signing the trio of Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert for a combined total of £49m. But it didn't end there.

In amongst the mass played exodus, manager Mauricio Pochettino jumped ship to Tottenham Hotspur, with the hope of taking Morgan Schneiderlin with him. Although the latter move didn't come to fruition, Southampton, who eventually installed Dutchman Ronald Koeman as their manager, were left in a precarious position leading many pundits to fear the worst for the club who had had its heart ripped out in only matter of months.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Koeman recalled: "Everybody was afraid because we had to make a lot of changes.

"I know we will lose some players but I had good meetings with the club meetings with the club and the scouting was well organised."

Clearly not fazed by the task that lay ahead of him, none would have predicted the remarkable march up the table that he would take the Saints on.

Exceeding expectations

Yet despite being categorised as relegation candidates, a points total of 29 by Christmas left Southampton very much in the hunt for a possible Champions League spot while any fears that they would be fighting for survival were completely eradicated.

Currently sitting seventh in the table, having slowly fallen some way clear of the Premier League's elite in recent months, the club's ambitious hopes of perhaps finishing amongst the Champions League qualification spots are finally over.

Nevertheless, Southampton have been the revelation of the season, exceeding all expectations by far. With survival very much secured quite some time ago, what would now define this campaign as a success for Southampton?

If the league were theoretically decided by each team's wage bill, in that the club with the highest wage bill finishes first and so on, then based on that knowledge Southampton should expect to finish 16th in this year's table.

The fact that they are so far ahead of this marker shows the extent to which the club could be considered as over-achieving, and demonstrates the outstanding effort made by the Saints players this season. 

However, haven proven themselves to be more then worth their place in the higher echelons  of the Premier League table, Southampton are well within their means to finish as high as fifth, which would not only see them record their highest top-flight placing, but would also see them rest above the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham.

Though, should they even somehow manage drastically collapse and lose all of their remaining games, falling deep into mid-table territory, considering the bleak outlook for the Southampton ahead of the opening day, it would undoubtedly still be a season of success of the Saints whatever happens.

Saints fans: what are you expecting for next season? Let us know below!

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Mauricio Pochettino
Premier League
Ronald Koeman

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