Last season, we saw a lot of this from Southampton’s attack…
But once “this,” left for Champions League football, Southampton supporters were left asking themselves, now what? Who could possibly fulfill the rolls of Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana, and who could partner with Jose Fonte at center-back?
An answer must have been found though, as the Saints sit in the Champions League spots just four games in having won two, drawn one, and lost one.
Before Lambert, Lallana, and Dejan Lovren left St. Mary’s though, so did their gaffer, Mauricio Pochettino, who jumped ship for Tottenham Hotspur. The mass exodus of sorts led to fake team sheets that merely rendered Artur Boruc, but even those viral jokes had little truth in them. Thus, the future for the club appeared bleak entering the season.
Some condemned the Saints for mid-table mediocrity, while others doomed them to the bottom three and life in next season’s Championship.
Koeman entered office with a high-burden of expectations though, as those loyal to Premier League Southampton have grown accustomed to attractive football played at a high-tempo. The new boss was also faced with going on a hunt to find a replacement for the three men he lost to Liverpool.
After an emphatic 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle United on Saturday, Koeman could finally yell out, “Found it!” because he has got the replacements.
Graziano Pelle has proved to be the Lambert fans expected, while Dusan Tadic has the creative abilities and skill Lallana possessed. Tadic has averaged creating just over a pair of chances for his teammates in his first four games and has two assists to show for it. Tadic takes the creative part of his game seriously, and appreciates a nifty piece of skill, be it a deft dribble or a well-shaped corss. While it can be hard to read into little things like this, it’s interesting that after Pelle finishes the below cross, Tadic immediately points at Ryan Bertrand, who delivered the ball, and runs over to his teammate to congratulate him. That is an excellent moment that could show the two are gelling.
As for Pelle, the Italian striker is the proud owner of a 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame, which makes him a decent matchup for Premier League center backs. A late-bloomer, Pelle came to life under Koeman at Feyenoord and seems to have brought his renaissance to the Premier League. While he may not be producing any memorable free kicks from distance this season, Pelle can poach.
Shane Long has looked like a good acquisition in the past couple of games, as he has been able to create space behind defenses, which creates space for Pelle and Tadic to exploit in and around the box.
A midfield three has been the go-to for Koeman, who has been playing a 4-3-3 thus far. It seems that Morgan Schneiderlin will take on the deeper role in a triangle midfield with Jack Cork, James Ward-Prowse, Victor Wanyama, and Steven Davis vying for the two spots ahead of him.
The back four has been good so far, conceding two in four Premier League matches. Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne can get forward to cause problems down the flanks, which the latter did against Liverpool. From Jose Fonte, it has been much of the same. For the Saints, the weakest link is the left center back position, where Maya Yoshida played the first three matches, before the versatile Toby Alderweireld replaced him for the match against Newcastle.
Alderweireld did well on the day and made the impressive tackle below in the clean sheet.
The Saints will be at full strength when Jay Rodriguez recovers from the knee injury that ruined his World Cup bid. However, his return will not occur until December or January according to Koeman. Other clubs may want to steal the attacker away from Southampton in the winter transfer market too, as a few Champions League contenders have been linked with the England man.
Team Rating: 4 out of 5
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