Before the new Premier League season began, many pundits were predicting a dire season for Southampton. Not only had their lost their manager Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham, they had seemingly declared open season on their existing squad after finishing eighth in the league.
There were reports of unrest in the camp with the remaining players expressing alarm at the exodus of star players and questioning the ambition of the club. England trio Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw had all departed along with Dejan Lovren. A side that had won widespread respect for its neat, passing game had been dismantled as the bigger clubs came in waving their cheque books.
Southampton brought in Ronald Koeman, a man with experience at some of Europe’s biggest clubs, to oversee the rebuilding project. New signings were made including Shane Long, Fraser Forster and Sadio Mane but it all seemed like bargain basement trading compared to the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.
The forecasts of doom began to look misplaced after the Saints were desperately unlucky not to come away with at least a point from Anfield in their opening fixture. Only the woodwork prevented a late leveller. They were held to a goalless draw at St Mary?s by West Brom in their next fixture but have proceeded to win their next five, culminating in a 2-1 victory at Arsenal in the Capital One Cup.
While Louis Van Gaal complains of injuries decimating a Manchester United squad bolstered to the tune of £150million in the summer, Koeman appears to have built a top-ten Premiership side on a relative shoestring budget.
Koeman has managed Ajax, Benfica and Valencia but has been impressed by the dedication of his new squad. He was stunned when they requested that they be allowed to train on their day off, a sign of how eager they are to maintain their progress. Koeman is amused that he is now being questioned about whether Southampton could qualify for the Champions League only five games after the questions were regarding the threat of relegation.
Players like Tadic, Pelle and Clyne are already attracting media attention as the press comes to terms with the minor miracle unfolding at St Mary?s. Koeman is far too seasoned a professional to let anyone get complacent but nobody is predicting relegation for Southampton this season. A top ten finish and a good Cup run will do very nicely after such a turbulent summer.