The Speedy and Sensational Rise of Southampton FC

SouthamptonThree years ago, Southampton were lying in League One, vying to regain promotion to England’s upper tiers. Now in 2013, the Saints are stable in the Premier League, playing good football, and with good quality players such as Gaston Ramirez in their ranks, it’s not hard to see why. Traditionally one of the better sides in English football, the club have suffered ups and downs over the last few years, but now feel they are finally back comfortably at the top table of England’s football structure.

Even in mid-2012, when the Saints gained a second successive promotion, this time back to the Barclays Premier League with a final day thrashing of relegated Coventry City, it would have been hard to imagine that they would cope so well on their return to the top flight. Many of the players contained in that side are still with the club in the current squad, including now-England international Rickie Lambert. This shows that the team was perhaps just missing a couple of cogs from their full potential.

Even in their first competitive game back in this league, against Manchester City at the Etihad, there were many signs of things to come for the side. They went behind in the first half, before a shock turnaround saw them 2-1 ahead, before goals from Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri gave the Citizens the three points. Despite the loss, there were a lot of positives to take from the defeat, and they built from there.

They ended up finishing in 14th place in the 2012-13 season, sacking manager Nigel Adkins halfway through the season and replacing him with the Argentinian Mauricio Pochetino in February. Pochetino guided his new team to victories against sides like Liverpool and Manchester City (in matches at St. Mary’s). However, whilst they may not have lived up to their early billing, there was clearly more to come from the south coast side.

During the summer, Saints chairman Nicola Cortese sanctioned what fans felt to be some very shrewd purchases. Croatian international Dejan Lovren was the first to join, from Olympique Lyon. The 24 year-old is a highly underrated defender, partly because he had only been playing in France’s Ligue 1, generally considered a poorer league, and whether he is or not remains to be seen.

Dani OsvaldoVictor Wanyama, a Kenyan who attracted attention from the likes of Liverpool during his time with Celtic was another player to join the club over the summer for a fee of £12 million. Again, this is a top-quality purchase, considering the midfielder’s accomplishments during his time with the Bhoys, on both the domestic and continental stage. He has been a Kenyan international since the age of 16 whilst he was still playing youth football with Helsingborg of Sweden, and has amassed almost 30 caps in the six years since then.

The Saints’ third and final purchase of the summer was their very own Johnny Depp impersonator, Dani Osvaldo, from Italian side Roma for a club-record fee of £15 million. The Italian international was also reportedly targeted by Manchester City and Tottenham during the summer but joined the Saints with a couple of weeks left in the window, and has had a positive effect on their results so far. He may have only scored once in his first seven games for the club, but there is a belief in the Southampton cap that he will come good sooner rather than later.

In Southampton’s opening games in this year’s Premier League, they’ve started extremely well, sitting in fifth after eight games above sides like Manchester United. The Saints have also suffered defeat in just one of their games at the hands of Norwich City, and drawn three of their remaining seven matches. However, wins have included a tough victory at Anfield against Liverpool, and also against sides such as West Brom and Swansea.

One notable worry is that Southampton - despite having a strong defense that has conceded just three goals in the entirety of this season - can’t seem to score a huge amount of goals, which comes back to bite them in later months. Indeed, they have failed to score more than two goals in any of their league matches this season, meaning their victories and draws have been down to the defensive side of their game.

Whilst it’s still early on in the new season, the signs are all there that Southampton could be set for a good year in prospect. If the defense continues to perform at the current levels and the attacking side of the game improves, then the Saints could be a very tough nut to crack for the bigger sides this season, much as they were at times last year. With Pochetino at the helm and players like Gaston Ramirez and Victor Wanyama in the side, there aren’t too many weak links in the line-up, which can only be good for the team, and the Premier League.

Written by Ben Warner

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Champions League Round of 16 Preview: Part 1

February, the month of Valentines Day. For many, it is. But not for football fans. For football fans, the month of February is a month of football. The month of the Champions League. And what a month we have waiting.

December 20th in Nyon, Switzerland saw a whole host of mesmerizing fixtures being pulled out of the hat. Such fixtures included Arsenal vs. Bayern, Milan vs. Barca, and of course, Manchester United vs. Real Madrid. Here’s a preview of what’s to come;

Galatasaray vs. Schalke 04

Klaas Jan HuntelaarSchalke will be looking to maintain their impressive away form in the Cup, having won at Arsenal and Olympiacos before Christmas, which ultimately kept them on course to win Group B. Having said that, away form goes out of the window when playing at Turkish giants Galatasaray.

Jens Keller (Schalke coach having replaced Huub Stevens in December) will be looking for a positive result in his Champions League debut. If Schalke do manage to get an away goal and perhaps scrape a draw or narrow win, I’d predict them to win comfortably at the reverse fixture in Gelsenkirchen on March 12th.

Key players

Obviously, everybody knows the danger that Dutch international, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, poses to any team he plays. Having scored an impressive 47 goals in 52 appearances last year, he is a noticeable threat in the box. Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim will be looking how to nullify such a strong force.

However, Galatasaray have an attacking threat of their own. Turkish international Burak Yilmaz achieved an impressive scoring record of his own whilst playing for his former club, Trabzonspor, scoring 55 goals in only 74 games. Not bad considering Galatasaray only paid €5 million.


I believe that Schalke have the quality to advance into the next round. I predict a draw in the first leg and a Schalke win in the second.

1st Leg: Galatasaray 1-1 Schalke 04
2nd Leg: Schalke 04 2-0 Galatasaray

Celtic vs. Juventus

Andrea PirloThe last time these two clubs met was in a Champions League group game in 2001/02, which featured Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, on the pitch. Neil Lennon played in both matches, with Celtic losing by 3 goals to 2 in Turin after a controversial penalty was awarded in the dying minutes. The return leg featured a wonder goal from Celtic striker, Chris Sutton, but it also (sadly for the Celtic fans) featured a finishing master class from the one and only, David Trezeguet. Celtic won the game 4-3, meaning Juventus would progress into the next round, leaving Celtic behind.

Juventus have been unstoppable so far this season, racking up 48 points in 21 games, with an impressive goal difference of 31. Celtic have been equally impressive, accumulating 49 points in just 23 games with similar goal difference of 32. Both sides match each other on paper, but will Celtic be able to upset the odds and surpass the Italian giants?

Key players

Celtic have been known for their physicality within the midfield, and have been able to bully opponents in the center of the park. That’s why I see Victor Wanyama as the key player for Celtic in this fixture. Wanyama has the brute strength and tackling brain to stop the heart beat of Juventus. That heart beat being none other than Andrea Pirlo. If Wanyama can stop the circulation, the Juventus infrastructure may collapse.

Juventus also have a brute in the midfield, who, if played in the correct position, can intercept Wanyama’s attempt to ‘bully’ Andrea Pirlo. That player is the Chilean International, Arturo Vidal. He has strength and speed equal to those of Wanyama’s, if not better. I expect a thrilling battle in the middle of the park in both ties.


I predict that Juventus will advance, with wins in both matches. However, they will not be comfortable wins, as we all know of Celtic’s resilience in the face of giants.

1st Leg: Celtic 1-2 Juventus
2nd Leg: Juventus 3-1 Celtic

Written by TheFootballSupplement