RONALD Koeman believes Southampton can no longer trade on the element of surprise after landing September’s Premier League manager of the month award.
Graziano Pelle has capped the week where he scored on his Italy debut by being named Premier League player of the month too, in a double reward for Saints’ impressive early-season form.
New boss Koeman has shaken off widespread pre-season jitters to guide Southampton to third in the league, all after a summer clear-out with top stars following manager Mauricio Pochettino out of St Mary’s.
The former Holland defender has warned against complacency, admitting top-flight rivals are now “awake” to his side’s threat.
“Maybe everybody was a little bit afraid, didn’t expect the way we would play in the beginning,” said Koeman, ahead of tomorrow’s home Premier League clash with Sunderland.
“But all the changes in the team, we had to bring in a lot of new players, and then the team was working well.
“Maybe the people were surprised about that and maybe that’s the reason that I’ve won this prize.
“The rest of the teams are now not surprised about our way of playing, they are not surprised about our qualities.
“Maybe they are more prepared to play against us than in the beginning.
“Maybe Liverpool were surprised in the first match of the season, but after that, everybody knows that still Southampton has a very good team and can beat every team in the Premier League.
“So I told my players we must start again this week – all our opponents are awake now, and it’s not easy.
“It’s not ‘oh, we’ll see what happens’ any more – the people expect now, a good Southampton team on Saturday.Koeman brought his former Feyenoord striker Pelle to St Mary’s in one of his early transfer moves on the south coast.
The 29-year-old has struck four times in seven league appearances, his acrobatic volley in the 2-1 win over QPR bound to contend for the goal of the season prize.
Pelle claimed the winner as Italy edged past Malta 1-0 in midweek, before now landing the player of the month gong.
Pelle has previously admitted he was too hot-headed working under Koeman at Feyenoord, but the Saints boss will not seek to quench his forward’s natural fire.
“He’s an emotional guy, we are normally in Holland maybe a little bit cooler than Italian or Spanish people, and okay, that’s a good mix,” said Koeman.
“And if I think he’s doing that the wrong way, I’m the coach and I have to tell him what isn’t good.
“We know each other very well, and if I have any doubts about that then I will speak to him, and speak to any player, not just Graziano, because we must know that we have to work hard to be successful.
“These awards mean that we, not me but we, did a good job in September.
“It’s a compliment for me as manager, for the technical staff and for Graziano as the player.
“But it’s only the start of the season, and what’s behind doesn’t count any more.”
“And that’s more pressure, that’s more pressure for everybody.”