The Premier League 2020/21 season has already had enough drama to fill two seasons. From high scoring games such as Aston Villa’s 7-2 thumping of champions Liverpool, to some unexpected teams flying high in the league. One of those teams exceeding expectations is Southampton.
Southampton looked set for relegation in the 18/19 season. They were sat in 18th position following a disappointing start to the season which resulted in the club sacking the manager at the time, Mark Hughes. They brought in Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhüttl, and managed to stay up that season.
The Saints saw a steady rise in performance levels and results over the 19/20 season, with standout performer Danny Ings almost winning the golden boot after scoring 22 goals, the same amount as Arsenal poacher Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and one goal off the eventual winner
However, this season may be the tip of the iceberg. At the beginning of game week 8, Southampton topped the table for the first time in their history with them now sitting in 4th position, having only lost two games so far this season.
Southampton have already played a lot of quality sides already with their only defeats coming in the first two game weeks against Crystal Palace and Tottenham. Since then, they have won five and drawn one, which was against title hopefuls Chelsea in an emphatic game which ended in a 3-3 draw.
So, what is the key to Southampton’s success so far this season, is it all down to one player? Southampton have become a well-oiled machine under Hasenhüttl, with the Austrian instilling the spirit and intensity which saw his RB Leipzig side finish 2nd in the 16/17 Bundesliga season. The side based in the south of England have started playing very attractive football whilst also keeping a very solid shape defensively.
Southampton have never really been a side with standout players, with them being more known as a stepping stone club for talent, with the likes of Gareth Bale, Sadio Mane and Virgil Van Dijk having played for the Saints at some point or another. This is one of the many things that is changing at the club this season.
Danny Ings has become one of the most prolific goal scorers in the league in 2020, having scored 5 goals in 7 appearances this season. He has a 60% shooting accuracy and has only missed one ‘big’ chance. Ings has become rejuvenated under Hasenhüttl. He had a solid start to Premier League life with Burnley, scoring 11 goals in 35 appearances for the Clarets in the 14/15 season. This earned him a move to Premier League giants Liverpool.
It didn’t work out for Danny Ings at Liverpool, having only made 14 appearances for the Merseyside team, scoring only 3 goals in an injury ridden career at Anfield. He moved to Southampton on loan in the 18/19 season and his 7 goals that season convinced the side to sign him permanently, which wasn’t such a bad idea.
James Ward-Prowse has been another standout performer for Southampton this season, being involved in every minute he was available for before his injury and pivotal to 25% of their goals in this time, with 3 goals and 1 assist. He stole football fans hearts after scoring two direct free kicks against Aston Villa, who have equally had a surprisingly good start to the season.
Since January 2016, James Ward-Prowse has scored eight goals from direct free kicks, no player in the Premier League has scored more in this time. Besides being the creative spark for the South Coast side, he has been captain of the team since June 2020, leading the side through their most successful period.
Jan Bednarek has been a rock at the back for the Saints, playing all 8 games in the Premier League this season, keeping 4 clean sheets over the course of those games. He also has 13 interceptions and 28 clearances in the League this season. His defensive actions allow Southampton to be more fluid and free with their attacking game.
Will Southampton be able to keep up their performance level over the rest of the season and finish in the top 10, or maybe even higher than that? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!
By James Bousfield
Twitter – @jamesbousfi3ld