Friday 30 September 2016

Ronald Koeman inspired by Leicester's title push

Published 11/03/2016 | 13:11

Ronald Koeman takes Southampton to Stoke on Saturday
Ronald Koeman takes Southampton to Stoke on Saturday

Ronald Koeman says Leicester have given clubs like Southampton the belief that they too can break into the top four next season.

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Saints threatened to gatecrash the Premier League's established order last term before eventually finishing in seventh place.

But Leicester are showing no signs of tailing off and their extraordinary march to the top of the table has not just got the so-called bigger clubs thinking.

"The difference between Leicester this year and Southampton last year is that they have kept the level and kept the spirit," said Saints boss Koeman.

"For us last year it was more difficult. It gives everyone a good feeling because it shows it's not all about money. And that's good to know.

"Maybe that's also good to know for the big clubs. It's a tough competition and if you are not really focused you can lose.

"There is one team showing that regular high level, and they are first in the table. Maybe we can learn from them."

Saints are currently ninth and travel to Stoke on Saturday looking to climb back above the Potters.

If they are to match last season's feat of qualifying for the Europa League, Koeman needs his strikers to start firing.

With Charlie Austin out injured, Shane Long is the only one of Southampton's fit frontmen to have hit the net this year, with Graziano Pelle having failed to score since November.

"We know we can keep clean sheets," added Koeman. "We need to keep that and improve in our attacking, to create more. What the strikers can bring makes the difference in our ambition until the end of the season.

"We need the goals from Pelle, we need the goals from Shane Long, we need the creativity of Dusan Tadic, the quality of Sadio Mane. We need that because it really makes the difference.

"It's always difficult for strikers if they don't score for a long time, maybe they are under a little bit more pressure. But Pelle is experienced enough. He had a similar period last season and after that he showed how to score goals.

"That's football. You have good periods, you have bad periods. You have chances, you miss chances. It's up to the whole team to create and when you get a chance you have to be clinical. We have to improve, we know that.

"We need another good result this weekend because it's a big game. Stoke are two points above us in the table and both teams have a lot of ambition to grow, and it's always very close between us."

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