Southampton start no obstacle to achieving another top-six finish

Southampton start no obstacle to achieving another top-six finish

The latest Southampton summer reboot hasn’t yielded instant success, with the Saints collecting two points from the first available nine in the Premier League and consequently sitting 15th heading into the maiden international break of the campaign.

Ronald Koeman, Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle were the prominent pre-season departures, though as ever there were an interesting cast of incomings too, headlined by Claude Puel, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Nathan Redmond and this week bolstered by Sofiane Boufal.

The south-coast side have established themselves as such masters at rebuilding that optimism was high despite another raft of changes, but the mood has dropped somewhat following home draws with Watford and Sunderland and an away defeat to Manchester United.

As a result, they are now available to back at a hefty 8/1 to repeat last term’s top-six finish.

However, there are countless reasons why it is ridiculous to write them off before the end of August, with one of the most notable being that this is an exact replica of what they did on the opening three weekends of 2015/16 before going on to enjoy their best ever Premier League season.

Steven Davis
Plenty of the squad that finished sixth in the Premier League last term remain

Indeed, you shouldn’t be alarmed if it takes them even longer to hit their stride, as last year they won just one of their initial six fixtures – resting 16th at that juncture – and six of the first 20 before everything came together in mid-January as they ascended from 13th to sixth.

It was a similar story under Mauricio Pochettino, who was victorious in none of his introductory three games and a mere one in seven, and new boss Puel has displayed a similar tendency for slow starts throughout his coaching career.

The Frenchman spent his past four years at Nice, where like Southampton he was an overachiever par excellence, delivering two top-four finishes. He kicked off those masterful campaigns, 2012/13 and 2015/16, with one win in ten and one in five respectively.

Even when he lifted the Ligue 1 title with Monaco, he only picked up one of the first six points on offer to him, so it is advisable to pay far more attention to the Saints’ pattern of constant improvement over a seven-year period than three unremarkable results.