Are Southampton genuine title contenders? It’s an idea that coach Ronald Koeman is slowly coming around to after the Saints marched to a fourth consecutive victory in all competitions and 10th win in their last 11 outings.
"Maybe, maybe [we can challenge for the title]," said the Dutchman. "[We are] always positive. [If we] continue winning, continue up in the table then why not?
“Because we have a good team organisation. I think we showed that again. The expectation is high. I like that because we like to win. We are football players and we like to win games. If you win games you will have good possibilities to maybe play in Europe, you never know.”
Saturday’s contest at Hull was settled in just the second minute and in spectacular fashion; Victor Wanyama blasting home from 40-odd yards after Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic had sliced his clearance.
"It's a great finish from Wanyama, but you make a mistake like that and it puts everyone on their heels," Tigers boss Steve Bruce lamented. "It was a difficult afternoon for us. We've seen it happen. To go 1-0 down to a goal like that is difficult to take in for everyone; it shocked the whole stadium, the players and everything.”
Wanyama’s early strike set the visitors on their way, but it was the manner in which the South Coast club saw the game out without too many troubles that was perhaps a more pertinent display of their credentials; the home side managing just 1 shot on target and 0 in the second half when chasing a leveller.
Southampton’s work-ethic to ensure they protected their slender advantage was key; Koeman’s side completed 29/39 tackles over the course of the afternoon, compared to Hull’s 12/16.
Unsurprisingly it was the men in red-and-white who topped the tackling charts, Nathaniel Clyne leading the way with 9/10, followed by Morgan Schneiderlin (7/9) and Wanyama (6/8).
While match-winner Wanyama also made the most ball recoveries for his side and was the game’s most fouled player, leading to post-match praise from his manager.
"He was fantastic," raved Koeman. "The goal was amazing, but also how he played. He was strong, winning battles, playing good on the ball, he had good positional play. It's fantastic to have those kind of players."
Ahmed Elmohamady made the most attacking third passes of the game as he advanced down the right flank, while the in-form Mohamed Diame attempted a match-leading 10 take-ons and beat his man on 5 occasions.
But boss Bruce was left to reflect on a second-half display where his side “lost the discipline to take care of the ball and lost the possession we had in the first half.”
The Tigers now have just one win in nine games to their name, a slightly false statistic given the creditable draws at Liverpool and Arsenal in their previous two outings.
And they can take some solace in the fact they hardly ever beat bogey side Southampton, who have now won their last five league encounters with Hull and lost just one of the last 17 meetings in all competitions.
- Victor Wanyama has netted 3 goals in his last 6 Premier League games for the Saints this season, having failed to score in the previous 26.
- Ronald Koeman’s side have conceded just 5 league goals this season; fewer than any other team in England’s top four divisions.
- The Saints have now kept 3 clean sheets in a row.
- Southampton have won their last 5 league games against Hull and lost just 1 of the last 17 in all competitions (W11 D5 L1), including a meeting in the Full Members Cup in 1986/87.
- The Tigers have won just 1 of their last 9 Premier League games, losing 3 and drawing 5.
- Hull’s only 2 home clashes with Southampton in the Premier League have both ended in 1-0 defeats.