After this season’s unpredictable beginning to the campaign; Southampton have encountered a steady start to the season, but it is miles behind their high-flying opening of yesteryear.
This time last November; Ronald Koeman’s side were second in the Premier League having won eight of their first 12 league fixtures.
But Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to the hands of Stoke City at St Mary’s Stadium saw the Saints drop to eighth in the current standings on 20 points, already six points behind their tally this time last term.
But what three things have we learnt about Southampton after 13 games?
1) Last season’s achievements were never going to be repeated…
The 2015-16 Premier League campaign was never going to mirror the Saints’ remarkable run of form of yesteryear, where they gate crashed the top four for the majority of the season before finishing in the qualifying spot (seventh) for this term’s Europa League campaign.
This time last November; Southampton were second in the English top-flight, just six points behind leaders and eventual league champions Chelsea on an impressive 26 points from their opening 12 fixtures.
Fast forward to the present day; Koeman’s side have a satisfactory 20 points from their first 13 games in eighth spot. Still good mind you!
2) Mane commands the Saints’ march
The Senegal star, who drew interest from Premier League giants Manchester United during the summer transfer window, is the field commander when it comes to Southampton’s attacking prowess on the pitch.
The 23-year-old, who arrived at St Mary’s Stadium from Red Bull Salzburg for £11.8m last September, has scored six and assisted six goals in all competitions so far this season to help the Saints reach the quarter-finals of the League Cup and sit eighth in the current league standings.
Boss Koeman will face another tricky transfer window in charge over January as United are reportedly set to reignite their interest in the dynamic and influential winger during the New Year.
With star striker Graziano Pelle also being linked with a move to the 13-time Premier League champions and a whole host of other European clubs in recent weeks; safeguarding Mane will also hold the key to help Southampton keep hold of their other star players and send a statement to the Premier League’s ‘elite’ sides.
3) Losing Forster was a HUGE blow
Saints fans were dealt the devastating news that England international and Southampton number one goalkeeper Fraser Forster could be ruled out for the entire 2015-16 campaign all the way back in March. However the consequences were never really fully known until the start of this season.
The 27-year-old underwent major surgery earlier this year after suffering a horrific knee injury against Burnley towards the later stages of last term.
Potentially missing the whole Premier League campaign and the UEFA European Championship finals in France next summer; Forster’s loss instantly became apparent by the shaky start of Maarten Stekelenburg between the sticks, shipping five goals in his opening two league games against Newcastle United and Everton.
The 33-year-old shot stopper, who joined Southampton on a season-long loan deal back in June from Championship outfit Fulham, has conceded 12 goals overall in his 12 league appearances for the club so far this season, keeping just five clean sheets.
It may not come across as a particularly bad record on paper, but Saints fans would still feel a whole lot safer in the grasps of Forster’s hands than the Dutchman’s, particularly with 39-year-old veteran Kelvin Davis and the risky Paulo Gazzaniga left as their only back-up options.