Can Southampton still finish in the top four despite their poor recent form or is a Champions League place a step too far for Saints now?
Throughout the opening half of this 2014/15 Premier League season, Ronald Koeman and his determined Southampton side completely took the English footballing community by storm. The Saints wowed fans with the efficiently entertaining style on the pitch, but what was perhaps more impressive, was the fact that they managed to seemingly maintain their form for a great deal longer than most expected.
The triumphant 8-0 destruction of Gus Poyet’s hapless Sunderland in October of last year acted as the perfect example of how rampant Southampton could really be. However, as the Saints have only recorded one single goal throughout the whole of February, losing to the likes of Swansea and West Brom in the process, it seems that their once unstoppable run of success may finally be sliding off the rails.
As a fourth place finish now looks to be slowly slipping from Southampton’s determined grasp with the rest of the season playing out, is Ronald Koeman still able to achieve the seemingly unlikely this campaign, or are the Saints simply going to have to accept that Champions League qualification may just be beyond them this season?
The much improved, if not entirely convincing, form of Manchester United, Tottenham, and even Liverpool in the last few months, has not only been a major cause for concern for Southampton this term, but it has also seen the usual Premier League standings return to their traditional form.
Such developments should not be the signal for widespread regret down at St. Mary’s however. Both United and Liverpool had been more than frivolous with their spending habits in the run up to this campaign, and as Spurs have also enjoyed the spoils of their much documented Gareth Bale money over the past few seasons, the Saints shouldn’t take their recent slide down the table with too much surprise.
Koeman obviously carried out his fair share of spending in the lead up to the 2014/15 season, especially has nearly half of Southampton’s main stars were hand selected by Brendan Rodgers throughout the summer months – but in comparison to the sides currently in and around them right now – the extent of financial power offered on the south coast simply doesn’t compare.
With that aside however, Southampton have not exactly helped their own cause recently. Graziano Pelle, for all his goal-scoring prowess at the beginning of the season, simply hasn’t been able to find the net as frequently as he would have liked of late. His performances are becoming increasingly desperate for a player that just wants to get back to his scoring figures of old. As this scenario has also been the case for several of Koeman’s other attacking talents at the moment however, Southampton simply can’t rediscover the form that made them ever so deadly in 2014.
That said, whilst a few results really have not gone their way in recent months, the Saints still look a formidable force at the back. The amount of goals conceded in recent outings will have not gone down as a great frustration for the St. Mary’s faithful, but if they’re side are simply failing to get results that matter, such an attitude can only take even the most positive of fans so far.
Southampton’s defensive resilience does give them renewed hope however. It offers a platform to build upon, and whilst more goals need to go in at the other end if the good times are to blossom once more, it shows that this current Saints side aren’t quite finished yet.
Champions League qualification is seemingly not yet out of reach for Ronald Koeman, but with the odds now stacking up against Southampton, Europa League football may be all that awaits the Saints come the end of the season. With all things considered however, such a finish would still most definitely be considered a success among all those who have enjoyed watching Southampton in 2014/15.
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