Southampton FC: The Saints Keep Marching On

Seven games into the Premier League season for most teams and there is very little to choose between those in the top four and down as far as tenth in the latest standings.

One or two positive results can currently move you very quickly up the table suddenly emerging from the pack and if they turn into a short unbeaten run there is potential to pull away from the chasing pack if momentum can be maintained.

Southampton have put together one of those runs to hoist themselves into fifth place after victory at Aston Villa at the weekend. Since being thumped 5-2 at home by Tottenham back in late September the South Coast outfit haven’t been beaten in the league.

The unpredictable nature of football at the moment which I believe does stem from the lack of atmosphere with no fans in the ground to cheer, jeer or provide encouragement is helping quite a few clubs in some respects, but on the other side of the coin it can bring in some complacency too.

The Saints were comfortably in control of the weekend game against Villa with a 4-0 lead before the hour. By the time the final whistle went Saints just held onto the points having conceded three times in the final half an hour to just about keep that unbeaten run intact.

It’s not often a club keep faith in a manager when things are going against the grain, Saints deserve a lot of credit for persevering with boss Ralph Hasenhuttl who many expected to be sacked following last season’s 9-0 loss to Leicester City.

The club didn’t panic when most would have comfortably sent out the P45 to the Austrian but the club recovered and finished in 11th place last season. This season despite the early defeats, Hasenhuttl has pushed the team on further and so far they are getting their just desserts.

Key to keeping themselves in that mix of the top four places is the fitness of striker Danny Ings. Having re-discovered himself on the South Coast after an injury hit spell at Liverpool, Ings’ return of five goals in those first seven games on top of 22 strikes last season clearly has the striker back at his best that won him a move to Anfield five years ago.

The Saints though are far from a one man team, James Ward-Prowse is proving to be as influential in the middle of the park and more so from a set piece. Two superb strikes in that Villa game added to the solitary strike he had already provided this season; his all-round performance though is being noticed outside of St Mary’s Stadium.

Che Adams is providing the perfect foil for Ings having taken a little time to settle in the Premier League, netting four goals after last season’s re-start and contributing two more so far this season. By playing both strikers defences certainly have more to think about across ninety minutes and not many sides give the opposition that headache.

Like Leicester of last season, opportunities to keep pace with those who have to contend with European competition every week are available, players being able to stay fresher with less matches can give the Saints the edge but a lot does rest on injuries to key players staying away.

With a break coming up for international fixtures, a Friday night visit from Newcastle could see the Saints top the table for just over 12 hours at least, indeed that weekend could be as many as four or five clubs finishing Sunday evening as the Premier League leaders.

The season though is still very much in its infancy, no likelihood of a return to atmosphere means the coaching staff and players have to generate their own motivation and be able to ‘get up’ for every game in quiet stadiums, it’s almost inevitable we will continue to see results that become the unexpected, it’s a chance for anyone.

Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37