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Mature performance sees Saints surge to second after Stoke win

Who would have predicted that after nine games, Southampton would be sitting second in the Premier League, after the summer they had, and as a result are 9/2 with Coral to finish in the top four. It is easy to keep referring to the fact that they had a mass exodus of their best players, though to keep reflecting on that is surely an insult to the recruits that new manager Ronald Koeman brought in.

Graziano Pelle, for example, has proved he is as good as any centre forward in the Premier League so far this season, while Shane Long and Sadio Mane have been sensible signings. Dusan Tadic has been nothing short of a revelation, and replacing Dejan Lovren and Luke Shaw with Toby Alderwiereld and Ryan Bertrand was a masterstroke.

Following an 8-0 thumping of Sunderland last time out in the Premier League, Koeman had to temper his team for the visit of a different animal; Stoke City. An opponent that requires an alternative approach. Wariness from set pieces, grit in midfield, and clinical on the counter-attack.

It was Mane’s solitary strike that proved the difference against the Potters and, having had his goal chalked off against Sunderland last week, due to it having gone into the net via a Black Cats player, there was no wonder he celebrated like a madman, sprinting over to the home dugout.

“Maybe that’s why he came over to the bench,” said Koeman, following the 1-0 win. “I think he was saying, they’re not going to take this one away from me again.

“Actually, when I told him earlier in the week that it was an own goal and not his [against Sunderland], he wasn’t upset about it.”

Understandably, Koeman is delighted with the position he finds himself in with his new team, though eludes to the fact that the victory over the Midlands outfit was sweeter than the one against Sunderland.

“It’s nice to be in this position, especially for the fans. To be so high in the table is great and we should enjoy it,” Koeman continued.

“This was nicer than the win against Sunderland because it was more difficult. Stoke made it difficult for us with their physical strength.”