KINGSTON UPON HULL (AFP) – Southampton manager Ronald Koeman believes that his side have the quality to qualify for European competition and enjoy a “fantastic season” in the Premier League.
The Saints retained second place in the table after recording their 10th win in 11 matches with a 1-0 victory over Hull City at the KC Stadium on Saturday.
Dutchman Koeman has made an impressive start to his first spell in English football, having taken over from Mauricio Pochettino in the summer.
The former Netherlands defender said: “Expectation is high, but I like that because we like to win something. Football players like to win games and if you win games, you will have good possibilities.
“Maybe to play in Europe, you never know. Everybody knows we have to work hard every day and the players are incredible in the way they are acting together. The spirit that we showed is important and we have to keep that.
“It’s easy to keep that if you win, but more difficult if you lose. If we keep like this, it can be a fantastic season.”
Victor Wanyama capitalised on a mistake from Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic to score the only goal of the match in the third minute.
Jakupovic’s clearance was weak and the Kenyan midfielder scored with a first-time shot from 40 yards.
Southampton have failed to take maximum points on only three occasions from 10 league matches so far and boast the best defensive record in England.
Koeman, 51, admitted he did not expect to make such a strong start as manager at St Mary’s.
He said: “I’m surprised a little bit, of course, about the points that we have, but not surprised about the quality in the team because we have good players.
“We worked hard to have good organisation in the team because clean sheets bring points. It’s important to have that and we’ve received only five goals until now. That’s one of the keys to be successful.”
Southampton finished eighth in the Premier League last season and Hull manager Steve Bruce admires the job Koeman has done so far.
Bruce said: “That’s six clean sheets for them. They’ve got a terrific appetite for work. The midfield three are great protection.
“They’re very good. They were the best side for me last year outside the top teams and all credit to them, they’ve bought well.
“They were going to be everbody’s whipping boys, apparently, but they’ve bought well and the manager needs a pat on the back. Arguably, they’re as good as they were last year.
“It’s no fluke that they’re at the top end of the division where they are.”
Jakupovic is Hull’s third-choice goalkeeper, but is in the team because Allan McGregor and Steve Harper are injured.
The Swiss’s error came a week after his impressive display in the goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield.
Bruce said: “It’s disappointing to lose a game by a mistake. It was a great finish by Wanyama, but you make a mistake like that after a couple of minutes and it sets everybody back on their heels.
“The longer it went, the worse we became. The problem was when we went after the game, we really lost that discipline.
“To go 1-0 down to a goal like that is difficult to take for everybody. It shocked the whole stadium — the players and everyone.
“You make mistakes and this year we’ve made too many individual mistakes, which have cost us. But it was a wonderful finish. Usually when the ball’s coming at that pace it goes over the bar and into Row Z.”