The Southampton View
Ahead of the visit of the Saints this weekend, we had a chat with the lovely chaps from St Mary’s Musings to find out about their summer and season so far.
Q. What did you make of last season for the Saints?
Last season was a test of patience because we were dreadful in front of goal and, well, not much has changed through the first handful of games this year. I’ll stand by what I said all summer that finishing eighth was flattering considering just how bad the Premier League was outside of the top seven in 2016/17.
That said, we were a goal away from winning the League Cup, which included knocking Liverpool out of the competition in the semi-finals, so it wasn’t all lost.
Q. Another summer of upheaval as you bid farewell to Claude Puel. Was it the right decision?
Puel was the scapegoat for a pretty dreadful league campaign. He, however, nearly delivered our first major trophy since the 1976 FA Cup only for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to stand in the way. It seemed pretty obvious from the toxic relationship with the fans, and apparently with the players, that he wasn’t going to last the summer. Doesn’t mean he isn’t a great coach, it just wasn’t the right situation and I think he was set up to fail from the start due to the poor recruitment by the board.
Q. Early days we know, but is Mauricio Pellegrino the right appointment from the fans perspective?
Like you’ve said it is early days for Pellegrino, but at this point we could stick a traffic cone in the managerial seat and Southampton would still have the same issues as we had under Puel. He’s stuck with virtually the same squad that got Puel sacked, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to get more out of the players or end up with a similar fate. Because we got rid of Puel after just a season, I feel there’s more pressure already on Pellegrino to get results quickly. For that reason I feel bad for him because if we continue to struggle for goals, it’s not completely his fault.
Q. What impact, if any, has Pellegrino had on the club since he arrived and are there signs already that it will be a successful appointment?
Pellegrino has definitely put us on the front foot, whereas with Puel we were happy to soak up pressure, which drew a lot of ire from fans. I can’t say for certain if there are already signs that will make him a successful appointment, but he needs to find a way to motivate a squad that has just one competition to focus on until after the New Year.
Q. The situation Virgil van Dijk has found himself in has not been ideal preparation for the new season. What do the fans make of it all?
Depends on the fans you ask. Some are really miffed by the whole situation and would gladly let the boos rain down whenever he is, or if he ever is, out there for us, and some are just glad we put Liverpool in their place for once. Some are ready sweep everything under the bridge and get on with it if he gives his best. Though he didn’t cover himself in glory during his season debut with the Under 23 side on Monday. Result aside, he just doesn’t look bothered and the same can be said for Ryan Bertrand.
Bit cheeky, but if you’ve kept up with the results we’ve returned this season you can see why he’d want to move on – who wants to finish eighth year in and year out? He clearly has the talent to play for the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City and make loads of money, but let’s say we are doing him a favour when he moves to Barcelona next summer!
Q. How has the transfer window been for Southampton? Have the problem areas been addressed or are you expecting more action in January?
We brought in Mario Lemina, who will add some grunt work in our midfield and provide cover whenever Oriol Romeu accumulates too many yellow cards! I think Wesley Hoedt can make use of his time at Southampton to assert himself as a high calibre centre back, but he shouldn’t automatically replace the likes of Maya Yoshida in the line-up. Yoshida has taken full advantage of the void left by Jose Fonte’s departure and Virgil van Dijk’s injury. Sure, he still makes mistakes, but he’s the type of player that adds leadership out on the pitch, which is what a young and inconsistent team needs.
Southampton still have yet to address the attacking options or a midfielder to help link up the play, or to actually know what our forwards are going to do. There was so much talk about Sofiane Boufal being ‘like a new signing’ after getting in a good pre-season, but he’s been given little time in the squad thus far. Boufal got a full ninety minutes against Watford, yet still seems to be in this adaptation stage.
A lot of folks say that we’ve failed to replace Sadio Mane. That’ll be hard to do as £35million plus players don’t grow on trees nor are they available in our comfortable price range. But we’ve continually failed to find someone that can be what Graziano Pelle or Rickie Lambert were for the team – a target man, who can hold up the play. Dusan Tadic’s performances have suffered the most since Pelle left in January 2016, as well as our overall goal production.
So despite some fine additions, our overall recruitment hasn’t been that great as we still have the same problems.
Q. Explain in no more than 140 characters how the last ten years have been for the football the club.
Two words: Markus Liebherr.
Q. Name one player from EACH side that you think the opposition should consider a real threat.
Manolo Gabbiadini is our biggest threat if his teammates get the ball to his feet, which hasn’t been the case outside of our lone goal from open play this season. He’s been left largely frustrated like the rest of us!
It’s tough to say who we consider a threat on Palace considering they are struggling to find the goal just as much as Saints, but Christian Benteke is a physical player and as we saw last week against Watford, we aren’t totally comfortable with defending.
Q. Your prediction?
No Premier League goals and a sacked manager, meanwhile we’ve only scored three, which all came against West Ham, so Saturday is set up for greatness or a pathetic display. I’m going for 1-1, but wouldn’t be surprised if Palace won considering.
Q. And finally, please tell us all about your fan group along with any projects that you may currently be working on.
St Mary’s Musings loves a bit of banter with fans and fans of our opponents. So many take football so serious whereas we like having a bit of fun. No new projects but we’re always looking to add writers to contribute analysis and colour.