After Southampton became the second side in as many years to achieve back-to-back promotions from League One all the way to Premier League, not only were the inevitable comparisons with Norwich City made, but expectations were raised that the Saints could emulate the Canaries for a third year running.
When Paul Lambert’s side performed exactly the same feat a year earlier yet managed to survive (with a great deal of comfort) in the Premier League, there were suggestions that perhaps the gap between those who regularly occupy the bottom regions of the top flight and those lower down the league ladder is not as big as some critics would have you believe.
Unfortunately for Southampton, they seem intent on proving that the gap is still rather big. The Saints have won just one of their eight games back in the top division, which, while not entirely unusual for a newly-promoted club, is obviously a cause for concern.
Much more worrying, though, is the manner of the defeats and even at this early stage, unless something changes drastically it is impossible to see Southampton surviving. Defensively, Nigel Adkins’ side are an absolute shambles and it is hard to envisage how an improvement can be made.
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Adkins’ relentlessly positive attitude means that he can always be relied upon to extenuate the good in performances, but even he is struggling to explain away his team’s defending. Southampton have conceded 24 goals in eight Premier League games: you don’t need to be a mathematician to work out that is three goals a game and you don’t have to be genius to fathom that letting in that many goals leads only to relegation.
You could boast Lionel Messi up front and you would struggle to win games if you’re conceding three every time you take to the pitch and with the best will in the world, Rickie Lambert isn’t Lionel Messi (although he probably takes a better penalty).
Adkins’ philosophy of looking to outscore the opposition no matter how many goals were let in was laudable – and certainly worked – in the lower divisions but against the big boys you can’t get away with it and the naivety Southampton have shown has been alarming.
I don’t see a cure with the personnel available, so it is going to be a long winter for the Saints and Tottenham Hotspur can be the latest team to profit from the south-coast club’s lax attitude to defending. The pair meet at St Mary’s on Sunday with Spurs the 4/5 favourites, while the draw is 5/2 and Southampton at 17/5, and it’s hard to see past an away win here.
Tottenham were brought back down to earth slightly with last weekend’s defeat to Chelsea, a loss that no doubt would have hurt Andre Villas-Boas against his former club, but the performance was decent enough, especially without Gareth Bale and Moussa Dembele.
Bale should be back to face his former club and Tottenham look to have too much about them for Southampton to cope with. Spurs have been good on the road: an opening-day defeat at Newcastle was unlucky and since then, they have recorded back-to-back league wins at Reading and Manchester United, scoring three times on each occasion.
The win at Old Trafford naturally caught attention, but the way in which they dismantled the Royals at the Madejski is a better indication of what I think will happen here and Spurs look really good things on Sunday.
But the bet here is the 6/4 that Spurs win the match and there are over 2.5 goals. As we know, there are goals galore in Southampton matches – normally in the Saints’ net – and only one of their eight fixtures has seen less than four goals scored.
That is a remarkable statistic and with games at St Mary’s averaging exactly four goals apiece, you can be sure there will be some more on Sunday and I like the odds on a Tottenham win featuring at least three goals.