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THE SIX O'CLOCK MUSE: February 18th

The revival in form is on the agenda this week, but who do our writers credit most?

Shane Long's 69th minute header against Swansea gave Southampton a fifth win in six, with the Saints now in sixth place and just a point behind Manchester United.

It is some turnaround from the back end of last year; a defeat to West Ham left Ronald Koeman's men 12th in the Barclays Premier League, and the hangover continued with a 1-0 loss to Norwich in the first game of 2016.

Although the Saints crashed out of the FA Cup third round to Crystal Palace, in the league things are much more rosier, and the return of Fraser Forster from injury has seen the giant goalkeeper keep six straight clean sheets.

But is the return of Forster the only reason why Koeman's side are suddenly much improved, or are there other forces at work? We asked our writers to answer this question...

Who is the main reason for Southampton's recovery in form?

GEORGE GALPIN: Ryan Bertrand and Shane Long

Okay, naming two players is kind of cheating, but I genuinely cannot pick one without the other.

With Koeman's favoured 4-3-3 not really working with the team leaking goals aplenty, he needed to change shape and do things slightly differently. While he deserves credit for tweaking the formation to one that suddenly has given the team a new found steeliness, without the players the formation is just dots on a board.

It is, in my opinion, Bertrand and Long who make this formation work. From being a flying full back who marauds the left flank, the former Chelsea defender is now a rock-solid centre back who covers the space in behind Matty Targett, and his tactical sense and positioning is sound.

At the other end, it is Long who gives a team designed to counter an outlet to relieve pressure. As well as tireless running of the channels, the Irishman has become someone who looked lost on the right wing to arguably the undroppable striker, and is now adding goals. For someone who wasn't exactly prolific last year, he's been superb this season.

TOMMY SCOTT: Fraser Forster

I wrote awhile back on Twitter when we were dropping game after game that the back line were less confident with Gazzaniga/Stekelenburg.

When Forster returned, you've seen everyone from Yoshida to Fonte and Van Dijk with a renewed sense of skill and confidence. It helps the defense to know that they don't have to go "boom or bust" for every ball when they know that they have a quality keeper behind them to save the day.

So quite frankly, Fraser has been the reason for the revival in form not just with his talent, but instilling confidence in himself and the rest of the team.

JAKE HUGHES: Ronald Koeman

Fraser Forster has clearly had a fantastic impact on Saints' fortunes since returning from injury. But, I think another key is the tactical fluidity of Ronald Koeman and his balls to try out different formations on the fly.

José Fonte, Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand work really well together at the back and Matt Targett has been a revelation since being allowed to get forward as a wingback - that's testament to good management as well as having confidence in Forster as a goalkeeper. The extra cover at the back has also allowed Cedric to get forward at will and he too has visibly improved with Koeman's new formation.


He tried to change things, played three at the back and stuck with it after a bad first result.
He also must have pushed for Austin - which is another boost to players and a kick up the arse for our faltering forwards. Except Shane Long, who, again, Ronald has shown tactical nous in standing by.

Forster's return has added huge confidence, but it is Ron who selected him as soon as he could and who has shown great management to select the back line.


Enough fans were ready to apportion the blame to Ronald and lay it at his door, so it only seems fair to give him the credit for leading this turnaround. What separates good managers and great managers is being able to battle to turn a bad situation into a good situation, especially as some people begin to doubt you.

Ronald has done just that and has shown why he is a great manager. Long may he continue at St. Mary's.