Reality’s setting in on the south coast as Spurs travel to Southampton
Tottenham correspondent Ben Pearce takes a look at today’s opposition ahead of the trip to St Mary’s Stadium.
Newly-promoted Southampton made a brave, swashbuckling start to life in the top flight and initially looked like they could defy the doom-mongers who were predicting a rapid return to the Championship.
But, as winter approaches, a record of one win, one draw and six defeats from their first eight Premier League games suggests that they face a long, hard season in the relegation battle.
The Saints were given a veritable baptism of fire as they took on Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal in their first four games – and they initially looked to be up to the task.
Having gone behind against City and United, Nigel Adkins’ side fought back to go 2-1 up in both games – only to lose 3-2.
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Matters quickly worsened as the sorry Saints were hammered 6-1 at the Emirates and, although they bounced back to record their first win over Villa, last weekend’s 4-1 defeat at West Ham leaves them in the bottom three.
Adkins has led his team to back-to-back promotions from League One and the Championship – but his ‘reward’ is an unforgiving start to life in the top flight, and he is now the second-favourite in the sack race, with bookmakers offering odds of 7/4 that he will be the next Premier League manager to lose his job.
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Despite the pressure, the 47-year-old remains intent on playing his way out of trouble in style.
Adkins said: “We want to have a certain brand of football, but maybe it’s going to take a bit of time to do that and to get it perfectly.
“That’s a process we’ve got to ensure we concentrate on because we believe that’s the way to give ourselves an opportunity to remain in the Premier League.
“It’s a fine line, because if we want to stay in the Premier League then we’ve got to win games of football – but we can’t sacrifice the principles and the vision we’ve got here.”
Southampton’s talisman is centre-forward Rickie Lambert, who has played his way up through the divisions after representing the likes of Macclesfield, Stockport and Rochdale and has scored 92 goals in 166 games for his current club.
The 30-year-old joined the Saints from Bristol Rovers for �1million in August 2009, when Alan Pardew was in charge and the Saints were in League One, and he is now living the dream in the Premier League with four goals so far.
Knowing that he could not simply rely on Lambert, Adkins broke Southampton’s transfer record during the summer, spending �12million on Gaston Ramirez.
The Uruguay international opened his account in his third game against Everton, but he has not played since due to a leg injury and is expected to miss the Spurs game today.
Adkins also recruited the former Villa and Fulham midfielder Steve Davis from cash-strapped Glasgow Rangers while striker Jay Rodriguez arrived from Burnley for �6m – and 24-year-old midfielder Adam Lallana was recently called up to the England senior squad for the first time.
The real problem is at the back, though. Adkins has signed two new full-backs – 21-year-old Nathan Clyne from Crystal Palace and Maya Yoshida from Dutch outfit VVV Venlo – but his defence has been leaky to say the least.
Southampton have shipped 24 goals in their eight top-flight fixtures – more than any other Premier League side has ever conceded at this stage of the campaign.
The Southampton manager has attempted to improve his rearguard by bringing in a new goalkeeper, with the ex-Celtic man Artur Boruc coming in on a free transfer midway through September.
The 32-year-old made his debut at Upton Park on Saturday, becoming the third keeper to play for the Saints in their opening eight league games – but they still shipped another four goals.
Prediction: On paper, this looks fairly similar to Spurs’ trip to newly-promoted Reading, and the result should be the same – 3-1 to Tottenham
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs