This weekend’s Premier League was one of firsts: Rafa Benitez’s first game in charge of Chelsea, a hat-trick for Wigan’s Jordi Gomez and most perhaps surprisingly, a clean sheet for Southampton.
After what can be best be described as a difficult to start to life back in the top flight for the St. Mary’s club, the post-match musings of Nigel Adkins are becoming more believable by the week.
Southampton’s turbulent start to the season where two cruel 3-2 defeats to the Manchester clubs were followed by a period where The Saints’ defence was charitable to say the least, had started to make something of a mockery of the manager’s blind faith in his team.
Yet after easily the team’s most impressive performance of the season so far, maybe Adkin’s will be laughing last after all. Sunday’s 2-0 success over a toiling Newcastle United secured consecutive wins for the south-coast-side for the first time this season. Although the resounding nature of this win and that of the previous week’s 3-1 away triumph at QPR, will almost be as comforting as the points themselves.
Even during their miserable run at the beginning of the season, it was apparent that Southampton could produce passages of admirable, attacking play.
In Rickie Lambert they have “Grant Holt Mk. II” – a previously lower league player, seizing his chance to play at a higher level – who combines well with co stars: Jason Puncheon, a sharp and direct winger and Adam Lallana, a clever manipulator of the ball. Sunday also signalled the belated landing of marquis signing Gaston Ramirez whose energy coupled with effectiveness in possession, was a joy to behold.
Unlike in previous outings this season, the contributions of The Saints’ adventurous forward-line weren’t in vein as the back four and midfield pressed a lethargic Newcastle into submission. As a result the Magpies enjoyed just four attempts on target all afternoon.
Adkin’s cited the players’ hard-work on the training ground as the key to his side losing their clean-sheet virginity and the general upturn in fortunes. But surely the resolution of the club’s goalkeeping conundrum has also provided reassurance to Southampton’s often flustered defenders. With Kelvin Davis’ credentials as a Premier League ‘keeper undetectable and Artur Boruc picking ill-conceived fights with his own fans, the emergence of Paulo Gazzaniga has provided solace.
One particularly excellent save from Vurnon Anita suggests the young Argentinian has a promising future, a future in which Southampton will aim to push up the league table.
And with Norwich at home in mid-week, maybe The Saints can go marching on.
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