Whenever a team scores eight goals in a single match it is bound to catch everyone’s eye. Regardless of the teams involved, it leaves supporters wondering whether the victorious team were simple too good, or the losing team suffered an extremely bad day at the office.
Southampton embarrassed a sorry Sunderland side, as they smashed eight past the Black Cats. Nobody would have dreamt of such a big result prior to the game at St. Mary’s Stadium. Saints boss Ronald Koeman admitted, “I was surprised by the result but am very proud of the team’s spirit and ambition.”
The 8-0 scoreline matches Southampton’s biggest Premier League victory; the original was against none other than Manchester United. Ultimately, Sunderland were shambolic and will need to to forget the result in a hurry.
Prior to the game, the hot topic was what exactly Southampton could achieve this year and the possibility of the club fighting for a place in the top four come the end of the season.
Having won five of their last six games, Southampton currently sit in third place in the Premier League – three points clear of fourth placed West Ham. Of course, the season is still in its early days, however, if they continue to put in similar performances I’m sure they will finish in a very respectable position. After finishing 8th last season, Southampton were not far off securing a Europa League place. I believe the Saints should be looking to achieve a Europa League spot this time round as a minimum.
Since their return to the Premier League, Southampton have established themselves as a solid top division outfit, playing attractive football and quickly becoming a neutral’s favourite.
During the summer, many expected the worst. Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers all left and the heart of the team was completely torn out, to say the least. Alongside other departures, a managerial change also took place. Before Koeman had even took charge of a competitive game, he was thrown in the deep end and made to rebuild and get a new-look Southampton side to gel. Eight new summer signings were named in the squad that thrashed Sunderland – that shows just how well the new Saints boss has done.
Southampton play a high-paced game, with lots of pressing, similar to the previous season under Mauricio Pochettino. As they came to the end of the previous season, it was clear that players were becoming fatigued due to the playing style, causing a dip in performances and results. This is something that could seriously affect the second half of their season once again, which adds more importance to continue their strong start.
Two of Southampton’s signings that have caught the eye are Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle – two players Koeman knew a lot about. Tadic was brought in from FC Twente and Pelle from Feynoord, where he previously managed. Tadic offers a creative spark in the middle of the park and has the ability to beat players. On the other hand, Pelle gives the team a physical presence and is a superb finisher. He has already scored seven goals so far this season after settling in to Premier League life excellently. These two players could be very important for the Saints this season and next, if they qualify for one of the European competitions. Not only because of their ability, but because of their experience of playing in foreign countries, which could prove valuable.
A fellow new signing that I believe will be important is England goalkeeper Fraser Forster. The young Englishman’s ability was never really justified whilst he was at Celtic, playing in what can only be described as a weak league. Southampton have given Forster the chance to play in one of Europe’s top leagues and develop himself further. He has already shown some great signs and, playing at this level, he can surely only improve.
Before the season started, few people would have believed Southampton capable of qualifying for European football. I don’t think the Saints are quite at the level required to clinch a top four finish this season, however, I do believe that a Europa League spot is very much achievable.