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Watt View - Upcoming fixtures will provide indication of progress
Friday, 16th Oct 2020 12:25 by Matt Watts

Ahead of a tough trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Frank Lampard's Chelsea, Matt see's it as being a barometer of the progress we have made, do you agree with his view ? Give you comments in the box below.

After a successful transfer window and the international break providing further match fitness for a number of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s squad, the next two games will give an indication of how where things are at for Saints.

The 2-5 defeat to Tottenham on 20 September now seems a distant memory in these particularly strange times - but it was the last time Saints were pitted against one of the bigger players.

On that occasion there was a lot left to be desired as the Spurs attack ripped through the defensive high line and Saints capitulated in the second half.

However, the nature of the performance and its timing presented an opportunity to effect meaningful change in good time.

Now, a month on, Saints look in very different shape. Ralph’s decision to drop centre-back Jack Stephens in favour of Dane Jannik Vestergaard was necessary and has proved fruitful so far - and summer signing Mohammed Salisu provides further options for the Saints boss going forward.

Having secured back-to-back victories - one away and one at home - against Burnley and West Brom with clean sheets and solid defensive showings in both, confidence is growing that the disappointing and concerning start is behind us.

However, Chelsea, up next tomorrow, and Everton, next Sunday, will be different propositions and will provide the first real test of Saints’ progress since the punishment handed out by Spurs.

Chelsea were the biggest spenders in the transfer window with the signings of Kai Havertz (£71m), Timo Werner (£48m), Ben Chilwell (£45m), Hakim Ziyech (£36m) and Edouard Mendy (£22m) on top of an already very valuable first-team squad.

Everton, meanwhile, look a transformed club under the guidance of the distinguished Carlo Ancelotti and currently sit top of the Premier League with four wins in four and seven wins in all competitions. Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is joint-top of the scoring charts with six goals and summer signing James Rodriguez looks every bit the player he was on his arrival at Real Madrid.

However, Frank Lampard’s Blues have not been without their troubles already this season - take the 3-3 draw with West Brom for example - while the Toffees will come into the game against Saints off the back of the Merseyside derby against the reigning champions.

Given Hasenhuttl’s clear ability to learn from difficult circumstances, the confidence-boosting wins over the Clarets and Baggies and some astute business in the transfer market, I feel effective action has been taken to provide the best platform for the upcoming challenges.

The arrivals of Ibrahima Diallo and Theo Walcott definitely add quality and much-needed strength-in-depth to the squad, as does Salisu at the back and Kyle Walker-Peters has largely been a revelation at right-back since his arrival with his assured displays and commitment to the cause.

Facing up to the challenges of the Premier League always brings excitement and now seems like the perfect time for Hasenhuttl’s Saints to make a statement about how they have bounced back from the early disappoint and can maintain a drive to improve on last term.

Photo: Action Images

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