The only good thing about the international break is the foreign player interviews that find their way back to these shores. Footballers don't seem to realise Google translate exists, their tongues loosen and we get some choice sound bytes.
Yesterday Schneiderlin told France Football that the only alternative to his incendiary summer tweet was "to go into the club and lob in a teargas grenade". He also divulged "I'm no longer a sheet". Beautiful stuff.
On the field he talked of more explosions. "We're playing well, we have great facilities. We could perhaps do something fantastic. Qualifying for the Champions League would be extraordinary. That would be a bomb going off in the English championship." Over in Italy Pelle has a more definitive view of the future saying the top three in league at end of season will be Southampton, Chelsea and Manchester City and he'll be top goal scorer.
It's nice to see the players have the same dreams as fans but let’s try and have an objective look at how the new saints team is doing.
The numbers above highlight a few noticeable changes between the teams put out by Pochettino and Koeman.
Last year Southampton were premier league possession champions, this season we aren't even in the European places. Pochettino's relentless high press has been relaxed, now being reserved for certain situations, and it has not been uncommon for the side to drop back into position and only re-engage with the enemy once the ball passes the half way line. The previous obsession with dominating play often lead to a siege mentality, teams would retreat into a solid formation against us and without a plan B shot after shot would be launched from areas with low scoring probability. 127 shots in 7 games is a lot. Scoring from less than 10% of these shots is Nani-esque*.
Despite making 41 fewer attempts, Koeman's team is only 4 shots on target behind its predecessor. This year's vintage is being more direct when they get the ball, and finding themselves in better scoring opportunities. The new frontline of Pelle, Mane and Tadic has power, pace and technical wizardry. A perfect combination to get in behind the opposition.
Last season's squad was praised by the gods of football(G.Nev and Carragher) for being an expertly drilled unit. Lovren and Shaw got picked for many teams of the year and quite rightly because Boruc had lots of games where he faced just one or two shots on target. With the summer sales of three of the back four as well as the loss of the system's architect many feared a return to Southampton's less than stellar historic defensive record.
But, early signs are encouraging. Shots on goal and on target are down on last year's impressive numbers and as a result Forster has conceded two less goals than anyone else in the league. The defence has improved in depth as well. Last year's back four was great but injuries meant Hooiveld had to play far too many league games(three) and when Shaw was unavailable Clyne had to switch sides. This year a reserve back four of Targett, Gardos, Yoshida and Alderwiereld should provide ample cover during the frantic winter months.
I have decided to compare statistics in corresponding fixtures as the saints have had a relatively kind start to the season. The graphs below show where Pochettino's men scored three points and how difficult each fixture was based on the number of points the opposition scored in those games. The newly promoted sides have been assigned the difficulty of the team they replaced. Arry's financial fair play dodging QPR, who scrapped through the playoffs, take the role of bottom placed Cardiff.
As you can see all the points Southampton have taken this season have been in the easier category.
So from the numbers above and what we have seen on the pitch, this year's team looks just as competitive as last year. Here are the current standings in the race for the Southampton FC premier league points record.
Stick with us here at St Mary's Musings throughout the season to see if Fonte's men can wrestle the record from Adam Lallana and his Geneva Convention defying beard.
*I looked it up, in the premier league Nani scored with 7.38% of his 298 shots. Poch's 10 goals from 127 shots is slightly better at 7.87%. This year we are at 12.78%. Falcao-esque^
^I have not looked that up.