Southampton can take comfort despite dropping two of the last three games in the Premier League, having come across a rough patch in the schedule in taking on Arsenal and Chelsea in successive weeks.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men certainly did themselves proud on Sunday at Stamford Bridge despite succumbing to a 3-1 defeat, frustrating Jose Mourinho’s charges throughout the first half and ultimately losing out due to a pair of lapses at the back that allowed Gary Cahill and John Terry to get on the score sheet.
Jay Rodriguez’s opener might have been rather fortuitous, with Michael Essien virtually playing the 24-year-old through to strike low past Petr Cech, yet the clinical nature of the recently-capped Englishman’s finish suggested that he deserved his goal and was indicative of Southampton’s ability to take all opportunities in stride.
After conceding just five times, the south coast outfit has leaked as many in the last two against top opposition. However, they will grow from the experience as a young side in further chasing the seemingly impossible dream of European qualification.
With Aston Villa up next, the Saints have a nearly instant chance to rebound from the pair of losses, set to face a club that features Christian Benteke up front to test their resolve, but also one that has struggled to score in specific spells in a fact that will give Southampton confidence as they return to St Mary’s for Wednesday’s clash.
Further examinations loom immediately afterward as Manchester City, Tottenham and Newcastle sit on the horizon following the visit from the Villans. But in the climate of the Premier League, trial by fire is arguably the best way for the club’s mettle to come under observation, serving as a benchmark going forward for Pochettino to continue developing his troops.
Though it doesn’t seem to get any easier for Southampton as the long season presses on towards the new year, experiencing turbulence at this stage will allow some of the kinks to be worked out for the stretch run, and having done admirably against some of the division’s best in losing efforts affords players the belief necessary to reach the next level.
The Saints are a work in progress, and one that will learn further humility no doubt in the coming weeks. But with budding talents like James Ward-Prowse, Dejan Lovren and Victor Wanyama in their ranks, adversity will provide the environment to raise their game and potentially bring out the best in this exciting Southampton squad.