Koeman taking nothing for granted
Published 22/08/2014 | 16:36
Ronald Koeman is preparing for Saturday's meeting with West Brom with the same respect he had for Liverpool last weekend - insisting he has no 'big club' hang-ups.
The Dutchman lost his first competitive match in charge of Saints when they slipped to a narrow 2-1 defeat at Anfield on Sunday and will be hoping to pick up a win in his maiden home game against the Baggies.
Between now and a November 30 meeting with reigning Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City, only a visit to face Tottenham and former boss Mauricio Pochettino at White Hart Lane sees Southampton face a team who finished above them last season.
Games against newly-promoted Leicester and QPR also fall during that period, with West Brom the start of a healthy-looking run of fixtures for Koeman's side - but the former Feyenoord coach refuses to take anything for granted.
"I think it is not good to speak about the big clubs," he said.
"If you look back to the results in the first matches, all of them are very close. Arsenal only won in the last minute (against Crystal Palace).
"What is a big team? The competition is very competitive and you have to play good and you have to be good to win against everybody.
"Sometimes the name of the club means a lot but, between the lines, it can be difficult against everybody and you have to prepare yourself to play well against everybody."
Many have tipped Southampton to struggle to replicate last season's best-ever eighth place finish given the sales of several key players.
Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren all moved to Liverpool whilst Luke Shaw signed for Manchester United and Arsenal came in for Calum Chambers.
But Koeman has re-invested much of that money and his new-look side were unfortunate to lose at Liverpool, with Daniel Sturridge scoring a 79th-minute winner for the hosts.
Having come close to taking a point from last season's runners-up, Koeman believes his players will be able to draw on that experience.
"It was frustrating," he said about the defeat.
"I thought we played at a good level with an amazing second half and the result was not what we deserved.
"It was good for the confidence because maybe everyone was afraid about how we would start the season. We showed our qualities and showed we are a team who can be very competitive against everybody.
"We know this Saturday it will be different, maybe more difficult because everyone expects the same level at home and we have to dominate more than we did against Liverpool. The belief is in the team and in the players and everyone is ready for Saturday."
Head coach Alan Irvine has warned West Brom that Southampton's summer fire sale has not torched the Saints' threat.
They host the Baggies in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday after losing their opening game under Koeman, going down 2-1 at Liverpool.
But Irvine has told his side the Saints, who have spent £10.9million on Dusan Tadic from FC Twente and £8million on Graziano Pelle from Feyenoord, are still dangerous.
"Having been at Anfield last Sunday and watched how well they played and watched how many chances they were able to create at a really difficult place I think they can more than survive," he said.
"I think they could have a very good season. They have spent the money very wisely and replaced very good players with very good players.
"I was very impressed with how they played at Anfield. Not many teams go to Anfield and make it go quiet but that certainly happened during periods of the game.
"They deserved something out of the game last week and I believe it will be a very tough place for teams to go this season."
Koeman has replaced Lambert with former Baggie Shane Long in a £12million deal from Hull.
The Republic of Ireland striker only joined Hull from Albion in January, scoring four goals in 15 games, and Irvine is aware of his threat.
He said: "He's a very good player for a start and is going to be an important player for them, sometimes former players come back to haunt you.
"We have just got to make sure if Shane does play from the start that we are ready to cope with the threat."
James Morrison and Joleon Lescott have resumed training but are not fit after knee injuries while new signing Georgios Samaras is not in the squad after signing on Friday.
Irvine added: "The good news is when we started training on Thursday, every player in the squad was there. That included Joleon, though he only did the first part of the session which is what was planned for him and then went and joined the fitness coach."