Online sports articles and news over the net

Latest online sports news , sports articles and sports videos

Can Southampton secure Europa League football this season?

Posted on | September 4, 2015 | No Comments

After an excellent 2014-15 campaign, Southampton are looking to press on this season as they try to build on their seventh-placed finish. Ronald Koeman’s side earned a place in the Europa League but were knocked out of the early qualifying stages by Denmark outfit FC Midtjylland after a 2-1 aggregate defeat. While this was obviously a massive disappointment at the time, Saints should see the positives and try to emulate last season’s excellent league position this term. If they can secure back-to-back top-eight finishes, Southampton will have firmly established themselves as a dominant Premier League outfit and will have once again silenced their critics after a busy transfer window.

Southampton were criticised last season after they sold the likes of Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert – all of whom were key components of their successful 2013-14 campaign. However, new manager Koeman completely changed their tactics and style of play, adopting a much more efficient and effective approach than Mauricio Pochettino’s aggressive, pressing formation. Koeman’s decision ultimately paid off as Saints finished seventh, and threatened to break the dominance of England’s top clubs after spending a large chunk of the season in and around the top four. Although they struggled towards the end of the season, Southampton were still one of England’s most impressive performers in the 2014-15 campaign.

Koeman has done an absolutely sensational job in charge of Southampton, considering he had no control over their transfer dealings before arriving at the club. The Dutchman has had an instant impact at St. Mary’s Stadium and some are even estimating that Southampton could finish as high as sixth this term. While that may be a tad far-fetched, they are capable of going on an unbeaten run and, when this article was produced, Saints were priced at 9/2 with betfair to finish in the top six this season.

While Southampton are more than capable of achieving similar results again this season, there are a number of other clubs that are threatening to push on and finish in the top half of the Premier League. Crystal Palace, Swansea City and Stoke City all enjoyed advantageous transfer windows and strengthened their starting line-ups while adding plenty of depth to their squads. Alan Pardew’s men acquired Yohan Cabaye from Paris Saint-Germain while Patrick Bamford has also joined the club on loan from Chelsea. Cabaye teamed up with Pardew during their time at Newcastle United and has slotted in comfortably at the heart of the Eagles’ pacey midfield.

Meanwhile, Garry Monk’s Swansea have also invested wisely and, despite facing both Chelsea and Manchester United in their opening four league fixtures, are currently unbeaten. Andre Ayew, who joined the club on a free transfer from AS Monaco, has been a revelation at the Liberty Stadium and has already formed an incredible relationship with fellow strike partner Bafetimbi Gomis, who has scored in each of Swansea’s first four matches. The Welsh outfit are expected to enjoy a reasonable campaign and could well finish in the top ten this season.

Finally, Stoke City are Southampton’s final rival for eighth spot and Mark Hughes deserves plenty of praise for his role in improving Stoke’s general style of play throughout his time at the Britannia Stadium. Ibrahim Afellay, Marco van Ginkel, Glen Johnson and Xherdan Shaqiri all made the move to Stoke this summer, despite playing for the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea, Liverpool and Inter Milan. These players are all capable of enhancing Stoke’s style of play and will ultimately help to improve their performances over the course of the season. The Potters are a force to be reckoned with this campaign, although it may take some time for their newer players to adapt to the Potters’ setup.

Meanwhile, Saints also improved during the transfer window despite losing some influential performers. Jordy Clasie was an excellent purchase to replace Morgan Schneiderlin, who joined Manchester United earlier in the summer, while Virgil van Dijk will help to bring some stability and reliability to a much-changed defensive unit this term. The former Celtic man cost approximately £12 million but could feature at the heart of Southampton’s defence for the next five years and is well worth the investment.

Victor Wanyama, who seemed almost certain to join Tottenham Hotspur this summer, will also remain at St. Mary’s until the end of the campaign after the Kenyan opted to stay at the club. Wanyama had made it clear that he intended to move to White Hart Lane but changed his mind and is reportedly looking at extending his contract at Southampton. A lot can change in football but this was certainly a positive for Southampton after a difficult 12 months of transfer dealings. This time around, it could be argued that the Saints have improved despite losing Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne, who joined Liverpool.

Although their transfer window wasn’t quite as successful as the likes of Stoke, Palace and Swansea, Southampton have enjoyed a reasonable spell and Koeman will be more than happy with his current crop of players. However, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Dutchman turn to the transfer market in January if Saints are struggling – something that he didn’t do last season when Southampton were seeking an out-and-out goalscorer.

In summary, yes. Southampton are more than capable of securing Europa League qualification this term but may face a difficult task due to the increased levels of competition for a place in the top half this term. While Tottenham are failing to inspire, Palace and Swansea are looking extremely good and Saints cannot afford to give these clubs a head-start, particularly in the opening stages of the campaign. If Southampton can perform at their optimum level throughout the second half of the season, they will finish strongly and could pip the likes of Spurs and Swansea to an automatic Europa League spot.




Leave a Reply