Back in 2007, Southampton F.C. were in a relegation dogfight down in League Two. Now, with Ronald Koeman taking the reins, they have put up a valiant fight to consolidate their position at the right side of the Premier League table. The 2014-15 campaign has been Southampton’s sixteenth in the Premier League – and a pretty good one it has been so far. ‘The Saints’ have spent all of their time in-and-around the Top Four this campaign, with Champions League Qualification looking a huge possibility for a while, although that has slightly slipped away from them over the conclusive stages of the league. But still – putting everything into perspective, Koeman has governed his red and white army through a very impressive season.
After losing many of the key players that played such a big part in Southampton’s joint-best Premier League finish the previous year (eighth, something they also achieved in the 2002/03 season), many pundits believed that the St Mary’s-based club would have a hard time staying away from the relegation battle. This was a proclamation hard to disagree with, given that the side found on the South Coast sold many key players such as Luke Shaw (£31M), Adam Lallana (£25M), Dejan Lovren (£20M) and Calum Chambers (£16M); which are in fact the four highest transfer fees Southampton have ever received. To add to this, The Saints’ capture of Shane Long from Hull City for £12M was the only signing to make its way into their top four highest transfer fees paid by the club. This led to many top pundits showcasing their disbelief in the side, with Martin Keown saying, “The heart has been ripped out of the club, but I think they’ll be bottom half rather than bottom three”, along with SkyBet football trader Jamie Munro saying that Ronald Koeman’s lack of Premier League experience was a “cause for concern” and as a consequence pricing them as short as 11/2 for relegation.
How wrong they were.
When Southampton kicked off their Premier League campaign on the 17th of August, they came up against two of their former players in Dejan Lovren and fan-favourite Rickie Lambert for their trip to Anfield, where they faced a team who finished second the previous season. After losing by a slight one-goal margin, things weren’t looking too bad for The Saints. They followed this up with an unconvincing 0-0 draw at St Mary’s against West Brom, before showing their worth by winning four on the trot against West Ham, Newcastle, Swansea and QPR. The loss against ex-manager Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side was quickly erased from memory with an 8-0 demolishing of Sunderland – Southampton’s biggest win since Christmas Eve of 1921.
Koeman’s men also enjoyed a relatively successful spell in the Capital One Cup, where they reached the quarter finals – further than Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal, although they were ‘giant-killed’ by League One promotion-contenders Sheffield United, a feat Southampton achieved only four years ago. But with a plethora of top-quality performances and beautiful high-energy football, The Saints relished in the Champions League places for the start of the season, until a mixture (or correlation) of tough fixtures and a dip in form saw them drop to fifth at Christmas. They then beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park to climb back up to fourth until late February, where a 2-0 home defeat to a newly-inspired Liverpool placed them back down to fifth, and then down to sixth entering April.
While Southampton are blissfully enjoying being situated at seventh in the table, many people seem to forget the immense difficulties they faced at the start of the season; although fourth place looks out of reach now, Saints fans can be extremely proud of their side and its achievements during this Premier League campaign.
Due to their major losses in the summer, I believe Chairman Ralph Kreuger has found a perfect manager who can play good football and get good results so, with seventh all but secured and Tottenham and Liverpool all within reach (who are placed at sixth and fifth respectively), I’d say this season has been a huge success for all involved with Southampton Football Club.
Article written by: @tazpilicueta