Why the Next 2 Weeks Will Determine If Southampton Are Ready For a Top Four Challenge

Southampton is currently third in the Premier League table and have already taken points from English giants Liverpool and Manchester United. Their early season success raises the question: “When are people going to accept Southampton as a serious Top Four threat?”

The rebirth of Southampton has been one of the better Premier League stories this season. Over the next two weeks, Southampton will play four matches, three of which will be against clubs challenging for the Top Four: Arsenal (away), Chelsea (away), and Manchester City (home). To this point, the Saints have done everything that could be asked of them. They’ve taken twenty-two of a possible thirty-three points in the league and only trail league-leading Arsenal by three points.

As timing would have it, Southampton’s latest challenge will take place this Saturday against the Gunners. Should the Saints win at the Emirates, there is a possibility that they would catapult to the top of the Premier League table. It would be hard to find a Premier League expert or fan who would have dreamed this possible at the beginning of the season. But the club’s resurgence is something that Saints’ chairman Nicola Cortese envisioned when he developed his plan to take Southampton from the bottom of League One to Champions League qualification.

Southampton has a well-documented history of producing talented players: Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer, Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are some of the more recognizable names. The foundation of the academy was laid down by former chairman Rupert Lowe as he employed Huw Jennings, Steve Wigley, Stewart Henderson and Malcom Elias to recognize and develop young talent.

Cortese and Southampton’s head of football development Les Reed analyzed the best way for the club to be competitive on the European stage. They have stated time and time again that they did not “copy” any other clubs. But Cortese feels Southampton were best suited to follow the example of Barcelona’s La Masia academy. The La Liga giant has nurtured young Spanish players to their style of play with enormous success. Since Southampton has been regarded for its development of young English talent, Cortese’s plan was to invest more funds into the club’s academy and implement a playing style that is taught from the bottom to the top of the club.

While many experts were down on young English footballers in general, Southampton and Mauricio Pochettino were optimistic of the players at their club. “The future of English football is good,” Pochettino recently told the Guardian. “English players are technically good, they are brave, daring and they only need to be allowed to show that on the field and that’s our responsibility. I think this club has been a pioneer in bringing up youth players and taking them to the top divisions. Moving forward, that is how we want to proceed, just reinforce that nucleus of home-grown players from the academy.”

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