Seven weeks into the Premier League season, there’s a surprise team sitting behind first-place Chelsea and second-place Manchester City in the league table. Southampton currently resides in third-place, ahead of traditional powerhouses Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Tottenham.
The Saints’ outstanding start to the new season has come as a shock considering their high-profile departures during the summer transfer window. The Premier League’s elite circled like vultures to pry away Southampton’s star names. Captain and all-around midfielder Adam Lallana, top striker Rickie Lambert, and key central defender Dejan Lovren were all sold to Liverpool. Two promising wing backs, left-back Luke Shaw and right-back Calum Chambers, joined Manchester United and Arsenal respectively.
Southampton sold a collection of stars for roughly £88 million, though their biggest loss was attack-minded manager Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine boss took over at Tottenham in May after guiding the Saints to an impressive eighth-place finish last season.
His replacement, Ronald Koeman has made a number of shrewd buys for a total spend of about £56.7 million, most notably scooping up attacking midfielder Dusan Tadic and striker Graziano Pelle from the Dutch Eredivise.
Tadic has done an excellent job filling Lallana’s boots after arriving from FC Twente for a fee believed to be around £10.9 million. The 25-year-old Serbian has brought trickery and attacking flair to the Saints’ attack, quickly becoming a favorite at St. Mary’s.
The £8 million signing of Italian striker Graziano Pelle from Feyenoord has to be one of the best bargains of the summer. The 6-foot-4 striker has scored four goals in seven Premier League appearances.
His winning overhead kick against Queens Park Rangers was described as “world class” by QPR boss Harry Redknapp.
“The center forward produced a world class goal,” Redknapp told the BBC. “It was a fantastic finish, great technique.”
Yeah, that’s definitely a contender for goal of the season.
Pelle’s rapid rise to Premier League stardom earned him his first call up to the Italian national team at the age of 29. Italy boss Antonio Conte opted to leave superstar Mario Balotelli out of his recent 23-man Euro qualifying squad to give Pelle a chance to impress – and that’s exactly what he did.
Conte’s decision paid off as Pelle scored the game’s lone goal in his debut appearance against Malta.
Koeman knew exactly what he was getting in Pelle, having worked with him for the previous two seasons as Feyenoord manager. Pelle scored 55 goals in 66 appearances under Koemnan’s watch for the Rotterdam club.
It’s remarkable how Koeman has gotten Southampton to gel so quickly. Many expected the Saints to be dragged into a relegation fight. Right now, it looks more likely that Southampton equals or perhaps even betters last season’s eighth-place finish.
WEEK EIGHT PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS:
Last week’s predictions can be viewed here.
TOTTENHAM AT MAN CITY (Saturday, 7:45 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: City 2-0 Spurs
SUNDERLAND AT SOUTHAMPTON (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Southampton 3-1 Sunderland
LEICESTER CITY AT NEWCASTLE UNITED (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Leicester 2-1 Newcastle
WEST HAM UNITED AT BURNLEY (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Burnley
CHELSEA AT CRYSTAL PALACE (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Palace
HULL CITY AT ARSENAL (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Hull
ASTON VILLA AT EVERTON (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Villa 2-2 Everton
LIVERPOOL AT QPR (Sunday, 8:30 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 QPR
SWANSEA CITY AT STOKE CITY (Sunday, 11:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Swansea
MAN UNITED AT WEST BROM (Monday, 3:00 PM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Man United 2-2 West Brom
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