Southampton proving doubters wrong with heart-warming start

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In the opening five games of Mauricio Pochettino’s first full season in charge of Southampton, the south coast club sat in sixth place of the Premier League with eight points. That collection of hard-working, fast-paced players would eventually impress in finishing eighth.

What happened next became as drawn out as a murder plot on Albert Square, but it seems that, with a new manager and a fresh set of players, those who wrote the Saints off as relegation candidates couldn’t be more wrong.

After the first five games of Ronald Koeman’s first full season in charge of Southampton, the Dutchman has collected 10 points and sits second in the table. He’s also fresh from knocking the defending FA Cup champions, Arsenal, out of the League Cup.

The memories of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and the host of others all-too-happy to voice their discontent with life at St Mary’s must seem quite distant now that Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic and, most recently, Sadio Mane are zipping about the pitch.

So encouraging is the start of the Koeman era, which is a tinkered mimic of the Pochettino blueprint, that the Saints are as short as 11/2 for a top-six Premier League finish and live chances to win the Capital One Cup at 10/1.

Pelle has three goals in his first five top-flight appearances, while Tadic – Pelle’s muse – has two assists.

Against the Gunners, Mane made a long-awaited debut in red and white in flying style. His pace created the penalty with which Southampton equalised Alexis Sanchez’s goal, while Fraser Forster is proving that his Celtic heroics aren’t confined to Scottish goalmouths.

Perhaps the smartest move Southampton made this summer, was to refuse to allow their central midfield stocks to be raided.

Under Koeman, the middle-band of three are pivotal in both shielding the defence and springing forward to attack the opposition’s and Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin (among others) are revelling in the role.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.