Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saints regaining their halo in the Premier League

Fraser Forster has been key to Southampton's return to form of late

Fraser Forster has been key to Southampton’s return to form of late

Southampton has been one of the Premier League’s success stories over the past few years.

Every summer their star players seem to vanish and they are replaced by astute Dutch boss Ronald Koeman.

This season looked to be heading in the wrong direction for the Saints at one point, as Koeman even talked about being dragged in the relegation fight.

However, the Saints are now on an unbeaten run of four matches, which has seen them win at Old Trafford and draw at the Emirates Stadium. The men from the south coast are suddenly looking up and not nervously over their shoulders.

A giant return for ‘keeper Forster

Southampton ‘keeper Fraser Forster is a giant of a man and his performances are just as big at times, as his fantastic display against Arsenal on Tuesday night showed.

He is one of the most dependable ‘keepers in the top-flight and was a key to Southampton’s good campaign last season, until he picked-up a season ending injury in March and the Saints campaign tailed-off slightly.

The Saints have missed him this season and since he returned to the team the former-Celtic star has kept four consecutive clean sheets. He is a key player for the Saints, as he gives his defence confidence and reassurance.

If he continues his good form then he will no doubt keep pushing Manchester City’s Joe Hart for the England number one spot. For me should be a certainty to go to the European Championships with England this summer, but with Hart as number one and Jack Butland in decent form this season he faces big competition.

A chance to make up ground

The Premier League table is very congested, but the Saints currently find themselves seventh in the table, five points behind Saturday evenings opponents West Ham. The game gives Koeman’s side a chance to make up ground on the top-six.

Southampton were one of the team’s expected to be pushing for the top-six and probably even outsiders for the top four this season, but in keeping with the rest of their Premier League counterparts their form has been highly inconsistent this season.

Their recent good run of form is more like the form the Saints produced last season to finish seventh. That relatively high finish earned them a place in Europe, although that particular journey did not last long.

Some fans and observers probably believed it was better for the Saints that their team did not take part in the much-maligned Europa League, but surely as a football club playing European football will only help them grow and develop as a team and club?

The Saints were never really going to be dragged into the relegation zone and they were not going to win the Premier League title, so why not enjoy the rarity of a sustained European campaign?

Critics will cry that Southampton is the sort of club that cannot handle European football, as its squad is not strong enough, but some teams thrive in European competition and I think Southampton would be one of them.

Aiming for top-six

Now the Saints have regained their form the team from the south coast must be eyeing up a spot in the Premier League’s top-six this season, which they are currently odds of 11/4 of achieving this season.

If the Saints ascent up the top-flight table can continue against a very good West Ham side then a top six finish is not out of their grasp this season. Whether that would see them gain a European place or not on what happens in the domestic cup competitions.

When everybody is fit and happy (Victor Wanyama I am talking about you!) then Southampton are very good Premier League team. The January signing of Charlie Austin from QPR continues the tradition of the south coast club coming up with absolute gems in the transfer market.

Austin scored within minutes on coming on for his debut and should score a lot of goals in a team that is very capable of creating a bag full of chances for the prolific striker.

Southampton’s season has been turned around in the last month or so and the Saints will now be hoping for a strong finish to a strange campaign in the Premier League.

Will Southampton make the Premier League top-six?


David Nugent

David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.



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