Premier League Performances: Southampton FC Make Strong Start

The James Beattie era was many moons ago and it has, thus, been a good stretch of time since I frequented St. Mary’s Stadium. In fact, the only living remnants of the quest for my team to achieve the triumphant title are outdated posters, an XL Sanderson-sponsored shirt, and a Team Saints CD wallet (well, amongst another few pieces of obscure/laughable merchandise). As a home fan, I’ve always hoped that Southampton FC would profit again from talented players, but reshuffling and rejigging the team on countless occasions has seemed futile and any attempts to regain at least some victories have been flawed. However, it seems that the clock has struck for Saints; their Premier League campaign was vocal and inspirational last season, and their recent storming opening game against Liverpool has laid Ronald Koeman’s side bare for all to bask at their potential. To predict that Saints will win the league would be a tad ambitious, but I have certainly been enlightened, and their vivacious playmaking lately is both a sight for sore eyes and something remarkably encouraging.

Last year, Southampton fans and keen Premier League followers spanning far and wide engaged in chatter about numerous players sporting a Saints shirt: Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana. The latter two men unfortunately left the club for pastures new at Liverpool, as did deft defender, Dejan Lovren, and so last Sunday’s opening division match was crucial for a handful of reasons. Southampton had to put on a good show not least for Koeman’s reputation, but also to unveil to the world that they would not be hampered after selling arguably their top players, and absolutely not when they were facing them. Luke Shaw’s departure to Manchester United was another gutting blow for fans, as was other young protégé, Calum Chambers, who was among a string of rather exciting new members to the Arsenal squad. Parting with this feisty five alone was suitably unsettling, but was not meant to be the end of a strong streak for the southern club.

Despite a lengthy list of players departing, many extremely interesting characters signed with Koeman. Fraser Forster and Shane Long have been tipped as enthusiastic footballers with much to grant Southampton, but the real pair to console woeful fans comprises ex-FC Twente Serbian starlet, Dušan Tadić, and suave Italian striker, Graziano Pellè. From the Liverpool game, we can glean that these men harbour enough energy and pitch-smarts to assert themselves in the box and shower Southampton in glowing success; Tadić in particular boasts a clever knack to slip through the opposition and create some notoriously electrifying chances.

Koeman’s boys managed a very promising start, but I feel they require a lot more luck, bluntly. I know such a thing cannot simply be placed in the palms of a team, as it is sport after all, but Saints clearly had many opportunities to score goals, but seemed to lack a vital ingredient. I say it’s a bit of luck, but it could be attested whether they have a similar problem to the English national side: no follow through. Not enough oomph behind delivery can cause results to turn sour, and one might be inclined to chalk the loss against Liverpool down to that. However, if it is a problem with finishing, it is something that can easily be built upon, especially with experience.

In between some really vigorous end-to-end action, Southampton were clawing at the heels of Liverpool on the break and aiming for goal at any and every moment possible, so much so, I feel potential balls in the back of the net could be tallied at 6-3 in favour of Saints (Liverpool had a brilliant run, let’s not forget). Speculation aside, a really positive feeling danced inside me after seeing just what the club could do, especially against a team rich in winning history and now with several ex-teammates of those in the initial line-up.

Tadić was excellent and will likely unfold as a force to be reckoned with, but Nathaniel Clyne was the one to tip the scales for Southampton, earning them the only goal they gained in the game. Although it was a loss the lads walked away with, the combination of Tadić and Clyne has very rapidly proved industrious and can now be used for exploitation for ultimate glory. Further still, Mr Clyne was impressive, springing up the field effortlessly; it was merely a shame the man could not swing a hat-trick.

As a writer, a person with a keen interest in football, and chiefly, a fan of Southampton, I was chuffed with the outcome, despite realistically losing the game 2-1. I shall now continue to take comfort in knowing that relegation concerns could be in the past for my home side, though will persist to worry that some mean team (ehem, Tottenham) steals golden Frenchman, Morgan Schneiderlin.

 

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