Can Southampton go marching into European football?

With a third of the latest Premier League season now in the history books, the table is finally starting to take the kind of shape that we would all imagine it to be in and although the usual suspects sit at the top, there are still a few surprises to be found underneath Liverpool.

As the Manchester clubs fail to get their house in order and Arsenal are doing their best to stay out of any potential relegation battle, it means there is something of a vacuum that is being filled by some less established outfits.

One of those is Leicester and, after collapsing at the tail end of last season, Brendan Rodgers and his players are looking to make sure that they finally book a return to the Champions League, by virtue of finishing in the top four.

The other name that is largely profiting from misfortune elsewhere is Southampton and with the busy festive period imminent, their current third place standing cannot be construed as a fluke. Indeed, Southampton fans will now be casting a cautious eye towards playing European football next season.

We are now too far into proceedings for this to be considered luck, especially given their form at the tail end of last season, and even though there was a large amount of fluidity in the league ladder in the opening weeks, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men now find themselves in a perfect state of equilibrium. The St Mary’s outfit are averaging an impressive 1.92 goals per game at the time of writing, they have been incredibly good value for their position in the table.

Of course, it could have been far different for the South Coast side and, after losing to Leicester 9-0 in October of last year, many felt that Southampton’s Austrian manager may have been sent back to a more Alpine setting.

After such a torrid performance in the driving rain, it would have been easy for the Saints board to consider their rather bold experiment was a failure and instead opt for the usual brand of winter managerial firefighter.

However, their patience has certainly been rewarded and with Hasenhuttl steering his charges away from the choppy waters of the relegation zone and subsequently finishing eleventh last time around, there was certainly hope for optimism over the summer.

Then again, even the most ardent Southampton supporter might not have expected such a start and with the conversation regarding European football now starting to get a little louder, it is a discussion that they are now a genuine part of.

Much of the vernacular of the past couple of seasons, has been to “do a Wolves” – a feat which sees a club attempt to gate crash the elite table known as the ‘big six’ and with Wolves expecting Raul Jimenez to be out a long-term absentee, they might not be in the best place to upset the status quo once again.

The baton looks like it could be handed over to a Southampton side, who have only lost once in their last six outings and, when you consider just how little consistency there has been in the division as of late, it is this attribute that could take them a long way indeed towards playing European football, which in the Europa League or even better.

For a team to be consistent, the goals need to keep coming and when Danny Ings suffered an injury after the rather tense 4-3 away win to Aston Villa in November, there were fears that Southampton might be left rudderless in attack.

However, this unit of players proved that they are far more than a one-man band and with Che Adams stepping up to plate and finally starting to prove his overall worth, the club dealt with Ings’ absence as best they possibly good.

Adams, who signed for a reported £15m last July, was accused of being underwhelming last season and after scoring just four Premier League goals in the 2019/20 edition of the competition, the jury was still out for many pundits and punters.

However, there is a sense that the sizeable outlay that took the forward from Birmingham, is now finally starting to be repaid and with the 24-year-old already scoring as many goals in the current campaign than the last, he is proving to be the perfect foil for teammate Ings.

Not only that, but he has also shown his ability in spearheading the attack and because of this, The Saints’ upward mobility has continued at quite a pace. It is a pace that could see European football on the agenda for Southampton at the start of next season.


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