As Swansea continue to light up the Premier League with their fresh approach, considering they are a newly promoted team and thus expected to play more defensively to avoid a “Derby”, there is a number of parallels to be drawn between the South Wales side and the South coast side, Southampton.
As emphasised in a recent article, Swansea’s passing style has been credited as their flagship trait as they continue to excite and entertain in the Premier League: Leon Britton is the dictator in the midfield and as the most accurate passer in the world – 93.5% – pings balls around the park, where his team-mates then keep hold of it at a tremendous rate: so far this season, Swansea have averaged a possession of 59% per game, higher than two of the top four, Manchester United and Tottenham, and only bettered by the other two, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Meanwhile, Southampton follow in Swansea’s footsteps in the Championship and are currently in an automatic promotion place, branding themselves on home-grown English talent, with 50% of their academy players earmarked to contribute to the future first team, where they’ll fall into a side that are replicating the slick passing game, tight defensive home record and possession with penetration approach, which has so far returned an average of 1.92 goals per game and the same amount of points. The last team to average a higher goal to game ratio was Newcastle in 09/10 and they went on to win the league by 11 clear points.
But who are Southampton’s Sinclair, Britton, Dyer and Graham?
- Adam Lallana
On the South coast, when Alex Oxlade Chamberlain left Southampton for £15m, many Saints fans were quietly confident that, in Adam Lallana, they had kept their best asset for at least one more season. Tied down to a four-and-a-half-year contract last January, Adam Lallana continued to flourish under Nigel Adkins in the same rich vein of form he came into under Alan Pardew.
During Southampton’s first season in League One, the #20 scored 20 goals from midfield in 52 games, and last season, despite playing only just over half a campaign’s worth of games, the midfielder continued to prove his goal-to-game efficiency with 10 goals in a total of 32 games. Yet, under Adkins, Lallana has blossomed in a side where possession is key and a brand of football is being built. Lallana, who only laid on three goals under Pardew, is ever increasingly turning provider with 1.06 assists for every goal he scores, since Adkins entered the building.
- Jack Cork
Considering the prices thrown around this window and some of the purchases made in the summer – Matthew Mills to Leicester for £5m and the £20m fee that it took to take Cork’s fellow England u-21 central midfielder Jordan Henderson to Liverpool – the £750k it took to sign Jack Cork from Chelsea was a bargain. Price aside, the competition for his signature was hot enough to make it a steal and apparently, since joining Saints, a number of clubs, including Premier League suitors, have been scouting the midfielder who was part of Stuart Pearce’s England U-21 side that competed in the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship in Denmark.
Enjoying his second stint at Southampton, this time on a permanent deal, Cork has featured heavily in a midfield department that boasts former Colchester captain Dean Hammond and the French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, who has represented France at all but full international level, including captaining the u-18s. His command of the ball and forte for short passing complements his French counterpart, known for his long range passes, in a midfield department which is the hub of everything creative at St. Mary’s.
- Rickie Lambert
Leading the goal-scoring charts with 15 to his name so far this season, Rickie Lambert is on course to better last season’s top scorer Danny Graham, who hit 24 goals in 45 appearances. Southampton’s target man was questioned by some at the beginning of the season over his credentials to make the step up to the Championship; however, the man who is cheekily sung about on the terraces, “when he gets the ball he takes the piss, he wears the shirt of Matt Le Tiss,” has carried his form over from League One, where he had finished top scorer twice in three seasons, having hit 81 goals in 136 games, to the Championship, where he’s leading Ross McCormack and Darius Henderson by 3 goals.