Saints defence behind brilliant start

Monday 7th October 2013 9:30

Artur Boruc: Has four clean sheets in a row to his name

Artur Boruc: Has four clean sheets in a row to his name

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Southampton FanZoner Ben Stanfield believes Artur Boruc and Saints' back four take much of the credit for the club's rise into the top four.

I said in my last piece that there was plenty of improvement for Saints to make if they wanted to get their season off and running - and boy have they done that since!

A fantastic performance at Anfield, beating Liverpool 1-0 and playing very well, was followed up with two solid 2-0 home performances against Crystal Palace and Swansea to see Saints sitting very nicely in fourth position at the time of writing.

Ultimately, after seven matches, it's been one of Saints best starts to a season. But typically, as a fan that sometimes can be very hard to please, it might have been even better if we could have got that goal against West Ham to beat them and started a little more quickly against Sunderland. We could realistically have had 18 points by now and be in an even more healthy position - but I'm not really complaining!

So where does the credit go for the improvement over the last few games?

The manager aside, who is doing a really good job, for me there is no doubting that the back five for Saints have been one of the key reasons in the team improvement.

Artur Boruc has kept four clean sheets in a row now - the first time Saints have done this since 2003 - and has been in the sort of form that saw him become such a hero with Celtic fans. Having got off to a difficult start in his Saints career (see the 'bottlegate' incident) he has now become a fans favourite at St. Mary's.

Boruc may have a range of odd pre-match rituals, and give the impression of someone who will make a career out of being a doorman after his footballing life finishes, but when it comes to making world-class saves, boy can he make them!

He is a presence, there is no doubt about that. He's not afraid to use his physicality and go in where it hurts but he is also very agile in moving across his line and making saves. He commands his box well and, as a current International footballer, really adds a lot of value and experience to some of the younger players in our team.

Alongside Boruc has been the back four which, predominately, has been Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren and Luke Shaw.

Clyne and Shaw are two of the most exciting English full-backs in the game at the moment. Both have significant chances of playing for the full England team at some point in their career and add a lot of flair at Saints going forward up the wings. But they can defend as well and their energy getting up and down the pitch is a pleasure to watch.

So whilst they like to roam forward the two centre backs, Jose Fonte and new summer signing Dejan Lovren, have often been looking after things at the back and have been very measly in giving opportunities to opposition attackers.

At the time of writing Saints currently have the best defensive record in the Premier League - two goals conceded in seven games - and the second best in Europe as well (behind Roma in Italy).

Lovren, who is an Intentional for Croatia, has been in fine form since he first pulled on the hallowed shirt against West Brom on the opening day of the season, whilst Fonte has probably been in the form of his life next to him. I actually believe that Fonte has already learnt a lot and increased his confidence from playing alongside his junior colleague.

Admittedly, with the exception of Liverpool, Saints haven't played too many games against teams in the top half of the league as yet but, when you bear in mind how bad our defence was at leaking goals a year ago against anyone, it is a remarkable turnaround.

With the confidence that the back five are providing it's no wonder that the rest of the team are starting to thrive at the other end of the pitch. The goals are starting to flow a bit more and with some real quality behind them as well.

Pochettino has got all of the players working for each other and also got them all chomping at the bit to play. Players like Steven Davis, who is always Mr. Consistent but may feel he doesn't get as many chances to start as he wants to, are now actually coming in to their own and thriving in a team that seems to be going places.

It's early days but there is a real buzz around Southampton at the moment. The squad looks to be very close and is full of quality across the pitch.

With a couple of weeks off, Saints fans can now enjoy the International break, cheer on Rickie and the rest of the England squad to World Cup qualification and every so often have another quick look at the Premier League table just to make sure we are still in fourth place!

Next up for Saints after that is a trip to Old Trafford to play David Moyes' Manchester United. We can go there without any real fear or trepidation with a large number of points on the board and the confidence we are showing and, let's be honest, with their current lack of confidence, are we ever likely to have a better chance to get a victory against them? Anyway, that's for another day!

Up the Saints!

By Ben Stanfield, FanZone's Southampton blogger. Follow Ben on Twitter at @benstanners and don't forget to follow FanZone too.

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