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Beaten Saints stay top of their league
DON’T be downhearted by Saints’ losing start to 2014.
From being in third place in the Premier League in late November, the club have now banked just five points out of a possible 27 after yesterday’s 3-0 loss to Chelsea.
As a result, they remain ninth in the table but are now ten points adrift of the top six.
No doubt, ambitious chairman Nicola Cortese would have been dreaming of a higher place given the club’s great start to the season.
But reality needs to bite.
Saints were given a good run of early season fixtures which they capitalised on well when they had a settled side.
Unfortunately for them, a spate of injuries co-incided with a tough fixture list featuring games against Chelsea (twice), Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle, Tottenham and Everton.
Fans might have been annoyed Saints lost at home to Tottenham, but the Londonders went to Old Trafford yesterday and won there too.
The current top seven were the top seven finishers last season, so in that respect nothing has changed.
Newcastle, who finished below Saints last season, are eighth but still possessing many of the players that finished fifth in 2011/12.
It is not wrong, therefore, to say Saints are at present ‘top’ of their own league.
They are above all the clubs of a similar standing to themselves, and above a bigger one in Aston Villa.
All the clubs above Saints in the table have bigger histories, bigger stadiums and, for the most part, far bigger financial muscles to flex and bigger squads.
Regarding yesterday, where is the shame in losing at home to Chelsea?
The Blues were able to use squad rotation due to their large number of world class players.
Look at who they were able to bring into a side which had just beaten Liverpool – £50m Fernando Torres, £24m Juan Mata, £19m Ramires and £18m Andre Schurrle.
That shows the strength in depth Jose Mourinho has.
The manager was able to take £57m of Brazilian attacking midfield talent out of his starting line-up and onto the bench.
That meant £32m Willian and £25m Oscar were fresh legs when they were introduced to change the game in the second half.
Mauricio Pochettino did not have such luxuries available – nine of the players who started against Everton three days earlier starting again yesterday Saints currently have the most expensively-assembled squad in their history, and results have shown it is a good squad when fully fit.
But more money needs to be splashed if the club are serious about really wanting to break into the top six.
It goes without saying, really.
As does the fact that the upcoming league fixtures look a lot kinder to Saints.
Of their next seven games, only two are against clubs in the top ten – Arsenal (home) and Hull (away).
Pochettino has now overseen the worst run of his near year-long spell at St Mary’s.
A tough run of fixtures and some injuries have given him some excuses, though to be fair he has rarely moaned about them.
The next lot of games offer no such excuses, and most of the manager’s walking wounded should be available.
If Saints are worse off in the table after those seven games, then that should be the time for in-depth inquests about what direction the club moves with regards to the summer transfer window.
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