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Southampton vs Aston Villa: Quiet miracle-worker Ronald Koeman aiming to end season on a high note

15 May | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Southampton vs Aston Villa: Quiet miracle-worker Ronald Koeman aiming to end season on a high note

The Dutch coach has been a revelation since taking over at St Mary's and may even be the pound-for-pound Manager of the Season

This season, perhaps more than any other in recent memory, has been defined by the cult of the manager. Think about it for a second: can you remember coaches being more newsworthy than they have been this term?

At the top end of things, José Mourinho has cut a typically prickly figure, ranting about nebulous ‘campaigns’ against Chelsea and holding court to sensational effect on Goals on Sunday. Louis van Gaal printed off sheets of statistics to prove a point and has generally been a bit scary. Brendan Rodgers has been Brendan Rodgers and Arsène Wenger has been reborn.

Things have been even more dramatic further down the table: from Alan Pardew’s homecoming and Nigel Pearson’s ceaseless antics to Tim Sherwood’s celebrations and John Carver’s incredible criticisms, this has been a season of rare interest in the dugouts.

Amid all the madness, however, a few good men have been going about things with stoic dignity. Manuel Pellegrini, for all Man City’s problems, remains an admirably calm presence. Sean Dyche has refused to moan about Burnley’s lack of spending. Garry Monk has shone at Swansea. 

But the current prince of the quiet men is Ronald Koeman, Southampton’s below-the-radar miracle worker.

Make no mistake, the task of succeeding Mauricio Pochettino was a thankless one. The Saints were excellent last season, playing neat, incisive football and reaching the giddy heights of eighth. Then the vultures came, plucking away the key players and the manager. A slump looked inevitable.

Koeman, though, was having none of it. With some astute signings – Sadio Mané, Graziano Pellè and Toby Alderweireld have all been excellent – and an understated, fatherly approach, the Dutchman has somehow managed to take Southampton to the next level. With two Premier League games remaining, they have already beaten last season’s points total. 

Koeman’s biggest successes have come at the back. He has coaxed some amazing form from the likes of José Fonte, Fraser Forster and Nathaniel Clyne, meaning the departures of Luke Shaw and Dejan Lovren (!) have barely been felt. Southampton have conceded just 30 goals all season – 16 fewer than they did last term. Only Chelsea have been more frugal.

There has been a slow-down in recent weeks, with cynics suggesting that the Saints – like a few other sides – would prefer to avoid the Europa League. Koeman, though, surely realises that the prospect of European football would be a boon when trying to sign new players.

The worry for Southampton fans will be that Koeman himself will have suitors. For now, though, they should enjoy their adventures under the pound-for-pound Manager of the Season.