The Saints View
As we renew our rivalry with Southampton who we seem to have played a lot in recent seasons, we had a chat with Allen Gunn from our friends at St Marys’ Musings to find out about their season so far.
Q. What did you make of last season for Southampton?
The board failed to recruit and it made for a slog week in and week out, and I honestly believe that Claude Puel overachieved in finishing eighth and reaching the League Cup final. We struggled for goals, something that’s carried over to this season, but we could defend so we knew a result was possible even if we arrived at it in the dullest fashion possible. I think we jumped the gun in sacking Puel as he hadn’t been given the opportunity to make his mark due to the lack of investment in the squad.
Q. What were your hopes for the new season before a ball had been kicked?
To be honest they were quite low, which was different from a lot of people’s expectations that I read within the social media landscape. Loads got caught up in what Mauricio Pellegrino was saying because it wasn’t coming from Puel. Some were also enamoured in Pellegrino’s claim to fame of beating Barcelona — when it’s a ‘what can you do for me now’ business. It was the opposite extreme for the initial treatment that Puel got upon his appointment.
Couple that with another summer of dreadful transfer business again failing to address our scoring issue and here we stand just two points above the relegation zone with one win in our last ten matches. In hindsight, settling for a dumbing victory of not selling Virgil van Dijk backfired when it was obvious he was going to Liverpool for a lot of money anyway.
It should be a given as an established top-flight club that we contend for a top-half finish and make a run in either the League Cup or FA Cup. Following Pellegrino’s appointment, I just hoped he would bring stability.
Q. How have fans taken to Mauricio Pellegrino?
At the start, exceptionally well. For a majority he wasn’t Puel and that was more than enough. Fast forward a few days and he’s public enemy number one. He’s clearly out of his depth and as a manager he’s not getting the best out of his players, which in my opinion is one of the manager’s main duties. He has a revolving door in his line-up and lately the teams he’s put out have made little sense – Shane Long hasn’t scored in 35 matches for club and country yet he’s somehow started the last two matches.
My growing concern is it’s January and he doesn’t know his best squad, he doesn’t understand the Premier League and it took him until mid-November to realise that Charlie Austin was his best option up front when the forward is the closest thing to the style that’s brought Southampton success. If he hasn’t figured it out by now, we can’t wait until we are back in the Championship.
Q. It has not been the greatest of starts for the Argentine so do you think he will last the season or should the club give him time?
I guess I answered this above in a roundabout way, but he needs to go. He should have gone after that embarrassing 4-1 display at home to Leicester. He should have gone after the loss to Chelsea to give the manager a chance against Huddersfield and even though we snuck a point from Old Trafford, it did help that Romelu Lukaku was only out there for nine minutes. We wish him a speedy recovery.
The moves he make come ten minutes too late or, in Fraser Forster’s case, three months past their due date. I thought Alex McCarthy did what was necessary to unseat Forster as it seemed the lads played with more confidence, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Forster back in the net on Tuesday.
Q. How was the summer transfer window for the club and were all needs addressed in the squad?
No. We didn’t bring in a striker when we know we have Long who doesn’t score goals, when we know Austin is injury prone and when it’s clear that Pellegrino doesn’t rate Manolo Gabbiadini. Wesley Hoedt has been a nice addition, but that’s not enough. Our board talks about depth in squad, we’ve got numbers but not necessarily the quality.
Q. Do you expect much business by the club in the January transfer window?
It’s hard to say as Southampton doesn’t give much away. That said, we are in need of players that we can plug in straight away and see an immediate return. We don’t have time to wait on them to find their feet at this point.
The rumours include Theo Walcott making a return to St Mary’s which would be a cute move, but not a necessary one, especially for the wages he would command. Daniel Sturridge is by far the hardest one to imagine. He’s injured half the time anyway and other than a loan (basically at little cost to none) it’s not worth the risk, neither is the £25million reported price tag. I do like the idea of Alfie Mawson from SwanseaCity. He is 23, fits our club ethos and can pinch a goal or two.
Our biggest needs, however, are at forward and defence unless Jan Bednarek has somehow made massive strides in his development. To address those we’re going to have to pay as teams know we’re sitting on big money so expect us to break our transfer record again.
Q. Explain in no more than 140 characters how the last ten years have been for the football the club.
A proper journey that’s been worth every minute.
Q. What do you make of Palace’s current predicament?
Despite being below us in the table, Palace are trending in the right direction whilst we’re trying to ‘figure it out’ still. Wilfred Zaha is showing the quality that United wished he had! It seems Old Roy has brought stability and belief back into the squad.
Q. Name one player from EACH side that you think the opposition should consider a real threat.
From Saints, Maya Yoshida. Yes, the defender. Yes, he’s only got two Premier League goals this season. But the man seems to knock on goal’s door every week. He’s still prone to a mistake at the other end, but I would pick him to score over anyone at this point.
Christian Benteke seems to have Southampton’s number. That physical defender causes us a lot of problems, especially for Jack Stephens so he’ll be a difficult test.
Q. Your prediction?
2-2. It’s a massive game for both sides, but each will be left wanting at the end.