Saints alive! New force beginning to stir on South Coast

Southampton's long-serving midfielder Adam Lallana says new signings, astute management and old hands are creating quite a team

The sight of Southampton occupying a Champions' League place this time last week took many people by surprise, but it did not come as a shock to Adam Lallana. After the club broke their transfer record twice over the summer, and with manager Mauricio Pochettino putting his ideas fully into practice after taking over from Nigel Adkins in January, the Saints captain expected good things – and a third successive victory, against Swansea City at St Mary's today, will keep Southampton on course for an unlikely tilt at a place in Europe.

"We were quietly confident," Lallana said. "We were happy with our pre-season and with the additions we've made to the core of our team. I wouldn't say we had an official target but we've had a good start and we want to stay in the top six. I think we've got a good opportunity to get three points at the weekend."

Nicola Cortese, the chairman, had already signalled his ambition when he persuaded the owners, the Liebherr Trust, to fund an outlay of more than £35 million, on Croatia defender Dejan Lovren from Lyon for £8.5m, Belgian midfielder Victor Wanyama (Celtic, £12.5m) and Italy striker Dani Osvaldo (AS Roma, £15m).

"It proves that they're backing the club, the manager and the players who are already here," Lallana said. "It's lifted the quality in training, and when there's competition for places, it raises the standards.

"I think we've got the perfect blend. We've made shrewd additions, but we've still got a good group of players that have been here since the League One days that know the club, and we're starting to find out different aspects of each other's games. I think that's going to grow as the season goes on."

Cortese's decision to dispense with Adkins and appoint Pochettino startled most observers, but Lallana is positive about the change. "He has an aura and presence. He's very calm at half-time, organised and structured, and that's what you want as a player. You're going to train hard, maybe harder than you play, but we all believe that's good for us. I think if everyone buys into that then that helps the results. Last season, I don't think he wanted to change everything, but this season he's 100 per cent got his way, his training methods, the way he wants us to play."

Could Pochettino attract the attention of a more realistic contender for Champions' League places? "He's a talented manager and was linked with a number of jobs before this one, but knowing him he'll want to complete this job here," Lallana said. "You can tell he's very loyal and very enthusiastic and the club is lucky to have him. So yes, definitely. But not yet."

One curiosity of Pochettino's reign is that his team have beaten Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City at St Mary's but lost to Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion and drawn with notoriously poor travellers such as Stoke City, Sunderland and West Ham United (twice). The Argentinian's gameplan of pressing high up the field seems to create congestion against the massed defences of less ambitious visitors that Saints have difficulty penetrating.

"When teams put men behind the ball, that's something we've just got to deal with," Lallana said. "We have to improve if we want to do well and there will be all kinds of tests. If we don't get an early goal we have to be patient."

Getting goals at any time has been a problem. Southampton have scored a lone Premier League goal in free play, when Osvaldo opened his account against Crystal Palace eight days ago, before Rickie Lambert's free-kick settled the game – the only time the team have scored more than once. A concern?

"I wouldn't say it's a concern. It's one of those things that just happen," Lallana said. "We'll have a game soon where we score three or four from only five or six chances. We have been creating chances but for one reason or another not taking them.

"But that just proves how well we've been defending as a team, we've been winning 1-0, or drawing 0-0 if we're not scoring. If you can keep a clean sheet and nick a goal even if you're not playing well, it's the sign of a good team."

In theory, Swansea's footballing approach should give Southampton more openings. "Swansea are a talented team," Lallana said. "They've had a great few years and they're definitely a club that we should aspire to [emulate], but we feel we have the quality to overcome them.

"The international fortnight drags if you don't get a result, so we want to make the two weeks easier and look forward to a trip to Old Trafford."

Southampton v Swansea City is today at 1.30pm

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick