Southampton have made a very healthy start to their Premier League campaign.
The Saints drew 1-1 at Stoke in their last outing, but that was largely due to a freak early goal from Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic.
The Saints are currently sixth in the Premier League table and could very take themselves back into the top four with a victory over midtable Hull on Saturday.
Southampton have the best defensive record in the Premier League.
The Saints have conceded just four goals in 11 games in the Premier League and they have had some tough games already this season.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side have already been to Liverpool’s Anfield and reigning champions Manchester United.
The Saints kept a clean sheet at Anfield and conceded just one at Old Trafford. If this is a sign of things to come for the team from the south coast they could very well be this season’s surprise package.
The saying the best form of defence is attack has never been more apt then when talking about Southampton. The Saints defence is built from the front, as high pressing means that the opposition have less time on the ball.
Less time on the ball often means that Southampton win the ball back quicker, than if they were not pressing so high up the pitch. Pochettino’s years in Spanish football have obviously not been wasted, as the style of play he has instilled in Southampton is very much Barcelona-like.
It would be naïve to say that Southampton are anywhere near Barca’s standard or have the same quality players, but the Saints current system is working really well and it is shown in their current league position, just six points off Premier League leaders Arsenal.
I have to say I was one of the people who questioned Southampton’s decision to sack Nigel Adkins and install Pochettino as the Saints boss. The appointment also came out of thin air. Pochettino had done a decent job at Espanyol, before the Argentine left the Barcelona-based club in November 2012 by mutual consent.
The Argentinian methods have proved highly success at Southampton so far. Last season he kept the Saints up and this season they have made a promising start to their campaign. Pochettino is a highly-rated rated young coach and could take the Saints far with the right backing.
This season’s good start has slightly changed the perception of Southampton. Last season they were regarded as relegation candidates, but prior to the season starting there were very few people suggesting they would struggle this season.
The results towards the end of last season helped Southampton establish themselves as a side to be feared. There are very few teams that take victory for granted against the Saints and rightly so the way the team is playing.
One area of coaching that Pochettino enjoys is bringing through young players into the first team. The Argentinian had a reputation for giving young players a chance at Espanyol and he has continued that at St Marys.
Southampton have a very good academy, which has in recent years produced the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and of course the world’s most expensive player Gareth Bale. It has also produced some of Southampton’s current first team regulars.
Captain Adam Lallana came through the Saints academy, while the likes of James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw also came through from the Saints youth ranks, while another academy graduate Calum Chambers has also made appearances for the Saints this season.
Southampton’s summer transfer dealings have turned out to be very shrewd. The Saints spent big, but on quality rather than quantity. The Saints strengthened the core of their team with the signings of Dejan Lovren, Victor Wanyama and Dani Osvaldo.
Centre-back Dejan Lovren has been one of the signings of the season so far. The big Croatian has made a big difference at heart of the Saints this season. His presence alongside Jose Fonte has been one of the key reasons Southampton have conceded so few goals.
Victor Wanyama looks like another inspired signing. The Kenyan midfielder enforcer was outstanding for Celtic last season and he keeps the Saints midfield ticking over. Wanyama plays a crucial role alongside Morgan Schneiderlin in protecting their teams defence.
Southampton’s club-record signing Dani Osvaldo has not had the easiest starts to life on the south coast. Injuries have hampered his stay at St Marys so far, but I am sure he will prove to be a good signing, when he gets accustomed to life in the Premier League, as he proved his quality with Roma in Serie A.
Southampton are an ambitious club and have come a long way under Pochettino. It is very early in the season, but I am sure Saints fans would be over the moon if they were still sixth when the season finished.
The men from the south coast are currently in decent form and a top six finish could be a realistic aim, if that defence and keeper Artur Boruc continue in a similar vein for the majority of the campaign.
I think the hiring of Pochettino was a masterstroke by Saints Chairman Nicola Cortese, as the Saints look to have a bright future under the Argentine and that could start this season.
Can Southampton maintain their good start to the season?