Southampton Are Ready to Challenge the Premier League’s Elite
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Southampton moved top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Newcastle | Robin Jones/Getty Images

[Saints fans, ignore this first paragraph] On October 25, 2019, Southampton fell 9-0 to Leicester City and found themselves at perhaps the lowest point of their top-flight tenure.

A little over 12 months later, and they find themselves top of the Premier League table.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side climbed to the top of the mountain thanks to a 2-0 win over Newcastle that did not flatter them whatsoever. In fact, they could have easily had five or six, which is the kind of scoreline usually reserved for the division’s elite.

? @SouthamptonFC go ? of the #PL#SOUNEW pic.twitter.com/K9tpK35ljC

— Premier League (@premierleague) November 6, 2020

That defeat to Leicester was the kick up the backside that Southampton needed to get their heads on straight. Hasenhuttl will likely have whipped out the hairdryer soon after, but most importantly, he came up with a plan to recover.

Doing away with a 3-5-2 in favour of a balanced 4-4-2ish, Hasenhuttl has managed to get his side pressing all over the pitch and demanding space, and the Saints are good enough to take advantage of all of that.

They’re now a fluid unit who are all determined to work hard for the good of the team. At the back, Jannik Vestergaard is the first point of attack, with his passes either bypassing the midfield towards Che Adams, Theo Walcott or Danny Ings, the latter of whom is currently sidelined through injury.

Vestergaard is dominant at the back | GARETH COPLEY/Getty Images

In midfield, you’ve got the excellent little-and-large duo of Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse. Romeu’s destructive ball-winning is complimented by Ward-Prowse’s metronomic passing, but both players are prepared to switch roles when needed. Against Newcastle, this rotation was overwhelmingly effective as the Magpies’ midfield didn’t know what to do.

Walcott, Adams, Moussa Djenepo and Stuart Armstrong make up the attacking line, and they’re usually joined by right-back Kyle Walker-Peters, who is surely flirting with an England call-up on the back of his recent form. Yes, England have another promising right-back.

Southampton looked devastating in attack, and this was without the man who has five goals already this season, and who bagged 22 last year.

This is a side who know their identity and are determined enough to impose that on others. Hasenhuttl has organised his Saints perfectly, and they now look like a side capable of asking questions of any defence on the planet.

Hasenhuttl has worked wonders with this side | Robin Jones/Getty Images

Sure, there’s still a long way to go before they can be seen as genuine title threats, but based on performances like this, Southampton will be expecting to be in the race for European football this year, and justifiably so.

Who’d have thought that losing 9-0 could be the best thing that ever happened to Southampton?

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