Can sensational Southampton star Dusan Tadic do the unthinkable?
Dusan Tadic equalled Premier League history in sensational style during Southampton’s shocking 8-0 mauling of Sunderland, before a thrilled St Mary’s faithful. The Serb was the orchestrator of almost every attack, providing four assists for his teammates, the joint highest number from one player to be recorded in a single game.
Former Twente attacker Tadic pulling the strings for the Saints has been commonplace this campaign, and would have been no surprise to Dutch coach Ronald Koeman. The Southampton boss witnessed the 25-year-old’s talents first-hand, with Tadic netting twice against his Feyenoord side last season.
Tadic contributed an impressive 14 league assists for his former club last term, but it was his goal stats that stood out. The exciting offensive midfielder netted 16 times in all competitions to be Twente’s leading marksman, yet has struggled to find his scoring boots since his switch to the south coast.
Saints fans will be hoping that after breaking his Premier League duck against Sunderland, showing predatory instinct by pouncing on a Vitor Mannone mistake, Tadic can begin to contribute more regularly.
Complaining about his goal stats can be seen as splitting hairs, considering his sparkling performances and ability to act as the perfect foil for the prolific Graziano Pelle. The Backa Toploa-born midfield conductor is certainly capable of more, though, and clearly holds high aspirations for himself and Southampton.
Speaking after the Black Cats encounter, Tadic stated: “Can we keep up our form for a long time? I hope so. Secretly each one of us hopes that we can finish in a position that leads to the Champions League.”
Southampton would be worth a spot in Europe based on their current form, bouncing back from their first defeat in seven games to smash Sunderland. It was the perfect response after fears that the bubble may have burst against Tottenham, and encapsulated the joy and confidence with which the south coast side are playing.
The road to the Champions League is still long, however, and fans will be more than aware they are competing with elite sides boasting significant funds and experience. Their challenge is certainly David and Goliath-esque.
Can Saints ever really hope for more than consistent Europa League finishes peppered with demolitions of lower placed sides? Or a miraculous one off top-four spot? The harsh reality is, probably not. Southampton need to secure European football this term, however, if they are to avoid a repeat of last summer’s dispiriting fire-sale.
It is to Koeman’s credit that he was able to recruit adequate, and arguably superior, replacements for the likes of Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, but he will surely not be able to pull off such inspired signings every transfer window. In addition, just one long-term injury to main men Tadic and Pelle could see their season derailed, with squad depth key.
The Saints have labelled themselves as a selling club now, meaning teams will likely be circling once again in January, after already stealing in to poach players key to what was considered a successful seventh place finish last season.
Whilst Southampton do appear to have a ceiling, for Tadic, the sky is the limit. St Mary’s Fans must celebrate and fret with equal enthusiasm every time the Serbian international threads a lovely through ball, or lofts in a perfectly-weighted cross, knowing that Premier League giants will be watching with envious eyes.
Southampton will just have to hope he reaches his potential at St Mary’s rather than Stamford Bridge, with the south coast club 2/1 to enjoy a top six finish.