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For years many have tried and failed with only but a few success stories.

No, I’m not talking about scoring a date with Mila Kunis but instead, breaking the top four monopoly in the Premier League.

Can Southampton break the top four monopoly?It is easy to see why there are some unhappy faces in Holland right now after Ronald Koeman was overlooked for the national team job as Southampton have enjoyed their best start go a Premier League season ever and currently sit 2nd in the table, picking up 19 points along the way.

Mauricio Pochettino and Nigel Adkins, Southampton

Mauricio Pochettino and Nigel Adkins

While Pochettino left in the summer to manage Tottenham, Adkins—who led Saints to back-to-back promotions from the League One, was his predecessor at the South coast club.

Since their return to the Premier League, Southampton have perhaps become the most likeable team for the way they play and the fact that neither John Terry nor Ashley Cole is in their back 4 also helps. The point is however that they don’t appear to possess any prima donnas amongst their ranks or any inflated egos like some clubs, making them an attractive proposition for any neutral.

Finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League has become such a cash cow that it’s understandable that the big clubs have kept a tight grip on it over the years. Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have been the regular attendees at the end of the season with Liverpool and more recently Manchester City being the other two regular participants over the years.

We may be only nine games into the new season but Southampton have made an impressive start. Couple that with the faltering form of Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal and it raises the genuine question of whether Southampton can keep things going and crash the top four in place of one of the aforementioned giants of English football come next May.

While Tottenham achieved a 4th place finish in 2009-2010 season and another in 2011-2012 only to then have their Champions League spot taken away by an unlikely Chelsea win in Europe’s top competition, not since Everton finished 4th in the 2004-2005 season, have a team been considered drastically punching above their weight, managed to break into the top four in the Premier League.

Tottenham qualified for the Champions League in 2009-10 under current QPR boss Harry Redknapp

Tottenham qualified for Champions League in 2010 under Harry Redknapp

While it was considered quite the feat for David Moyes’ men given their limited spending power and the fact that most of their league games saw the not so prolific Marcus Bent leading the line, it has to be remembered that Manchester City’s money men had not come onto the scene and Spurs were busy battling to a 9th place finish.

Everton effectively just had to capitalise on a poor league season by one of the big teams which in this case turned out to be Merseyside rivals, Liverpool. Although Liverpool were able to console themselves with winning the Champions League proper that season which ensured their participation in Europe’s top competition the following year.

For Southampton this season, the task seems much more difficult. Chelsea and Man City seem odds on to retain their top four status. Arsenal, despite the shaky start have finished inside the top four for the last fifteen seasons running and then you have Liverpool looking to solidify their presence in the Champions League after their return to the competition this season.

Not forgetting Manchester United, spending big in the summer with the aim of getting back into Europe’s elite coupled without the distraction of any midweek European football as an added advantage to aid their cause.

That’s before even considering Everton and Spurs who have been regular contenders for that coveted 4th place in years gone by. That is the task facing Southampton. So do they have the manager and squad in place to pull it off?

If you had read the papers in the summer, you’d have seen the supposed impending doom that faced Southampton. Their best players were being sold at an alarming rate and their manager had packed his bags for London to take over at Spurs.

Despite this period of selling, Ronald Koeman still took the job. For such a well-respected manager and player, it is now clear that he must have had assurances that the majority of the money recouped from sales were going to go straight back into the transfer budget for him to spend.

Ronald Koeman arrived from Eredivisie club Feyenoord

Ronald Koeman arrived from Eredivisie club Feyenoord

While most new managers have to take over another man’s team, see Pochettino at Spurs. It seems Koeman was actually in a position whereby he was able to go out and identify his transfer targets and put together his own team straight off the bat, having just stepped into the club.

Koeman appears to have bought well, buying players he knew from either coaching in the past or from seeing them play regularly in the Eredivisie where he was previously employed with Feyenoord.

Goalkeeper, Fraser Forster was brought in from Celtic. With experience of big Champions League nights and England squads, Forster represented real value and with the keeper knowing that if he is to have any chance of usurping Joe Hart as England’s number 1, then he will have to be playing his best football week in week out in the Premier League.

Ryan Bertrand arrived from Chelsea on loan to replace the outgoing Luke Shaw. While before the season started he probably best represented the answer to an obscure pub quiz question of ‘who is Southampton’s only current player to have played in and won a Champions League final?’ however he has already nailed down the left back role with some impressive displays and will be hoping that he can follow fellow full back, Nathaniel Clyne, into the England manager’s thought process for future England squads.

Ryan Bertrand celebrating with Nathaniel Clyne against QPR

Ryan Bertrand celebrating with Nathaniel Clyne against QPR

Jose Fonte stayed on and has a new defensive partner in Toby Alderweireld who was brought in from Atletico Madrid, a player Koeman will have known from his time spent in Holland. Already he looks a more than adequate replacement for Dejan Lovren who isn’t enjoying the best of times at Liverpool right now. The concern however is if one of the two centre backs is unavailable, next in line is the worryingly average Maya Yoshida or the so far untested Florin Gardos. This is one area that Southampton perhaps lack some depth in quality in and could be exposed as the season wears on.

In midfield, Morgan Schneiderlin saw numerous team mates depart this summer and decided to kick up a fuss when he wasn’t allowed to follow them out of the door. While his reaction on Twitter was perhaps ill advised, he has since got his head down, putting in a number of impressive performances after deciding that playing regular football just about serves him better than sulking in the reserves for a year.

Yet if Saints do finish in the top four and Spurs continue to struggle, it will be interesting to see if Schneiderlin is so keen to make that switch to White Hart Lane next summer as he was this one.

With Victor Wanyama, Steven Davis, Jack Cork and James Ward-Prowse, Koeman has quality options in midfield that will allow him the ability to occasionally freshen things up, rest players when needed as well as not be too affected by any potential injury, unlike the situation with his central defence.

Victor Wanyama celebrates with Morgan Schneiderlin

Victor Wanyama celebrates with Morgan Schneiderlin

In the attacking department, Tadic was brought in as one of those players that Koeman had seen play regularly in Holland. With 7 assists already, albeit four in one game, the Serbian ‘assist King’ is proving to be a reliable creative force and has also looked dangerous in front of goal himself, notching a goal in the process.

With Senegalese, Sadio Mane, also having arrived from Austria for just under £12m and with an impressive scoring record at his last club, Red Bull Salzburg, he is one player that has flown slightly under the radar so far, with Koeman perhaps allowing him a little more time to settle.

With two goals in his last two games, (one was later taken away from him by the dubious goals panel) Mane has looked dangerous and hungry and as though he may be one to chip in with a few goals to lessen the load on one Graziano Pelle.

And so onto Pelle, who has so far been Koeman’s jewel in his transfer market crown. Having worked with the striker previously at Feyenoord, Koeman clearly knew his strengths and believed that he was the man to lead Southampton’s line, despite not ever really being able to make it in his native Italy.

History will tell you however that paying big money for a striker from Holland’s Eredivisie is almost like a game of roulette. For every Ruud van Nistelrooy there is an Afonso Alves and it probably would not have surprised too many if Pelle had scored 0 goals by now rather than the 6 he instead finds himself with.

Graziano Pelle has been a revelation since arriving from Feyenoord

Graziano Pelle has been a revelation since arriving from Feyenoord

Pelle is not just about goals though, his all round play is very good, he has the ability to hold the ball and bring others into the game, something the likes of Mane will most likely thrive on and Koeman isn’t his only admirer. Pelle’s early season form was rewarded with a call up from Antonio Conte to the national side, starting their recent European Qualifier away to Malta in which Pelle scored the only goal of the game.

With Shane Long also in reserve along with last season’s top scorer, Jay Rodriguez, to return from injury, Southampton appear to have plenty of attacking options should Pelle suffer an injury or loss of form at some stage during the campaign.

The key to Southampton sustaining their assault on the top four will be their ability to adapt as the season progresses. The better they play the more this will be highlighted and when the second half of the season rolls around, teams will be more switched on to their strengths and prepare accordingly in their game plans.

The likes of Pelle and Tadic may have taken a few opposition defenders by surprise so far but they won’t be afforded that luxury second time around so adaptation by the players and Koeman in how he sets his team up will be vitally important if they are to keep up the momentum they currently have.

This season perhaps sees a prime opportunity for a team like Southampton to capitalise on the other big teams’ so far, slow starts and poor form and to challenge for a top four place.

Everton and Spurs, you would expect to be in that challenging group too but so far both have suffered poor starts to the season and with both involved in the Europa League, this will only serve to benefit Southampton and not just for the obvious reason of simply having to play less games throughout the season.

Tottenham and Everton have more fixtures, in the form of the Europe League

Tottenham and Everton have more fixtures, in the form of the Europe League

While usual Europa League protocol has sometimes been to rest first team players and allow fringe players the opportunity to shine, this season Everton and Spurs may well be placing a lot more emphasis on the competition, given the change in rules that now sees the winner qualify for next season’s Champions League.

It could be argued that winning the Europa League is an easier task than that of finishing in the top four in the Premier League, so Roberto Martinez and Maurico Pochettino may be best advised in shifting their primary focus, particularly if they navigate their way to the latter stages of the competition.

With Man United still showing a great deal of inconsistency despite the millions shelled out on players and Liverpool seemingly struggling with life after Suarez as well as the reduced time to prepare for games compared to last season due to their participation in Europe, there may not be a better time for Southampton to make a run for finishing inside the top four.

Can they do it? Only time will tell but with the attractive and exciting football they play, a seemingly skilled and likeable manager in Koeman, it’s likely that no neutral would begrudge them the part of David in a battle against multiple Goliaths.

Regardless of where Southampton ultimately finish in the table this season, the signs are there that it is definitely a good time to be a Southampton fan. They should sit back and enjoy the ride.

Originally published at crazyaboutepl.com

Post written by Farquea
for Crazy About EPL, Blog: Crazy About EPL, Twitter: @CrazyAboutEPL

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