Southampton’s squad have proved that they are more than capable of finishing in the top four this season…
Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin spoke at length today about his growing belief that his side will finish in the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. And why shouldn’t he be optimistic?
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A scenario that bordered on the ridiculous six months ago is now perfectly plausible – the Saints could finish above Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, an achievement that would rank among the greatest in Premier League history.
Let’s not forget, in the summer, the South Coast side lost Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers – the core of their side – and brought in the likes of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane, relatively unknown players who have proved a huge hit.
Schneiderlin has also had a big year, playing to the very best of his ability despite the apparent transfer interest from the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United, which could have easily put off lesser players.
The 25-year-old believes that the Saints, currently third in the Premier League, can stay in the top four as “something special is going on” at the club, telling BBC Sport: “We want to put Southampton in the spotlight. That will be a shock for the country and the world.”
“We want to reach the Champions League. We want to change this tradition of it being all the big teams. Before every game, we say ‘Lads, we cannot let this slip away,'” the Frenchman revealed.
“We have to make it happen and to make it happen we need to be focused in every game, to not get ‘big time’. We are Southampton. We are players like myself who four years ago was playing in League One. Never forget where you have come from.
“Hopefully we can do something special. We are believing we can but if we don’t, the most important thing is to get Europe for Southampton.”
Their hopes have been boosted by the apparent lack of form of those around them. In their last three league games, Ronald Koeman’s side have beaten Arsenal and Man United, and held Chelsea to a draw.
They have recovered well from a pre-Christmas blip, which saw them take just one point from five games. In short, they’ve done what all good teams do, and return to their best form quickly, rather than fall away and end up in mid-table.
In addition, their next run of fixtures are against Newcastle, Swansea, QPR and West Ham – all winnable games. By the time that streak comes to an end, we’ll be in mid-February, and if Southampton still hold a top four spot by then, you’d make them favourites to hold onto it.
They have the best defence in the Premier League – although Toby Alderweireld was injured in the win over United on Sunday – and they have a respectable amount of depth in their squad, with a whole host of impressive youngsters, such as James Ward-Prowse, and England international Jay Rodriguez, who is due back from injury in the near future.
With Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham all enduring inconsistent seasons, and having beaten United so comfortably at the weekend – with the Red Devils failing to land a shot on target – the threat of the Saints must now be taken seriously. Because they could, and perhaps should be playing in Europe this time next year.
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