In scoring two goals against both,
But not if the team keep giving away sloppy goals. A certain naivety has characterised their defending, most worryingly in losing at home to Wigan. That’s obviously an area Adkins will have looked at in preparing to face yet another heavyweight. Talk about a tough baptism.
Saturday's trip to
The fact that a more organised-looking Arsenal have yet to concede a goal only adds to the challenge at the Emirates.
That said, Southampton have played without fear so far. They have gone at their opponents with purpose and belief to create plenty of chances in the penalty box. Could they do that again to cause an upset? Could they come away from London with their first points?
Well, maybe. But they’ll have to find a way of negating an Arsenal attack orchestrated by the clever prompting of Santi Cazorla. Stop the little Spaniard and the visitors have a chance. Let him pick passes and the going will be tough.
Set plays need careful attention, too, after United were gifted two free headers for two of their goals. The part-zonal marking system Southampton deploy, when three players line up along the edge of the six-yard area for corners, contributed towards Robin van Persie getting far too much room.
Arsenal are a much taller team these days and work a lot more on set-piece routines. If Southampton defend like they did two weeks ago, they could be in trouble again.
Going the other way, Lambert has scored a few goals under Adkins by pulling away to the far post to isolate a fullback not quite as big as him. In fact, he managed it against United by easily outjumping Rafael to open the scoring.
If the cross is right and the powerful Lambert gets a run at the ball, he’s very difficult to stop. Given the chance, he could try this tactic again, perhaps against the smaller Kieran Gibbs.
Adkins has also devised one or two innovative routines for attacking corners. Against United, one very nearly worked as well, when Jose Fonte, the centre half, starting from around the penalty spot, makes a run towards the ball.
The idea is to clear the space for Lallana who, standing at the far post, drifts away from goal, curving his run to position himself behind Fonte, who then leaves the low cross for his team-mate to attack.
Of course, you can’t use this kind of routine every week because the opposition will be ready. The Arsenal scout at the United game, for instance, will have written the move down, meaning Arsène Wenger’s players should be well briefed.
What they might not be so prepared for, however, is the introduction of one or two new faces, captured by Southampton just before the transfer window closed.
Gaston Ramirez, a 21-year-old playmaker from Bologna, and Maya Yoshida, Japan’s Olympic captain and a strong centre half, have only been in the building a day or so.
Throwing them straight in would therefore constitute a risk but one Adkins might be prepared to take if he thinks they can add something different, improve the team.
And for all their impressive work so far, Southampton do need to improve as a defensive unit. This afternoon, the diligent Adkins will have a game plan designed to counter Arsenal. He will have worked on it this week as much as the international matches allowed, shaping the training to suit the challenge.
What that does to Southampton’s goal threat we will have to wait and see. You couldn’t blame them for being cautious, at least to begin with. Yet this team are happier when they are attacking. The early season entertainers look for some reward.
WHO WOULD BET AGAINST OWEN?
One bookmaker is offering odds of 10/1 that Michael Owen will return to the England fold now that he has joined Stoke City. An interesting bet. Because whether or not he faces Manchester City today, I reckon Tony Pulis will find Owen quite handy.