After all the excitement of the cup it is a swift return to league action with a trip to take on Southampton, so TEB had a chat with our pals at St Mary’s Musings for their views on the game and the season so far.
Q. How has the season been for Southampton so far?
Southampton’s season made a turn for the better when Ralph Hasenhuttl came on board. It’s evident Mark Hughes was the wrong option – something I believed from the start. It was too easy of an appointment and he really didn’t do much, despite keeping Saints up, to prove he should be a permanent hire.
I know, I know. He kept Saints up, but with one win. It helped other teams were just as poor because if they hadn’t been then we would not be talking right now.
Hasenhuttl has moulded Southampton into a fierce team that can frustrate the best of them – see Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He’s not afraid to throw a youngster into the deep end and I like that confidence and swagger he has brought. He really changed the season on its head and everyone is looking past what happened under Hughes. For most, it feels like the season really began when the Austrian was appointed.
Q. What did you make of the game at Selhurst Park earlier in the season?
Two goals and a clean sheet has to be one of the two all-time highlights under Hughes’ management. That and at Swansea when Manolo Gabbiadini helped us secure our status in the Premier League. It was the last league win before a stretch of like three months without one so it is remembered fondly.
The team is definitely going to look miles different from that day, where Danny Ings and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg scored, so it’s hard to take any stock from what happened.
Q. What are your hopes for the rest of the season?
I think it would be a great morale boost to not only the players but the fans to see Southampton finish comfortably away from the relegation zone. I’m not saying we’re going to be top 10 – nowhere close – but away from battle would be a perfect result on the back of a few turbulent years. It would give Hasenhuttl a chance in the summer to build the squad the way he wants with hopefully the extra cash from climbing a few extra places going towards that.
Q. The appointment of Ralph Hasenhüttl has gone very well but what did the fans think of it initially after recent manager recruitments?
Regardless of what people say because everyone seems to feel they’re an expert on everything football and they knew what he’d bring, that’s just not the case. That said, people were pleased with what he’d accomplished at RB Leipzig. You just don’t know how that success is going to translate in a toxic situation, but he’s really hit the ground running and even defeats and draws there seems to be a positive spin about them.
Hasenhuttl is more of what we’re accustomed to in terms of style of play that we saw under the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman, which produced a tremendous amount of success, so we’re back to picking up results in a blue collar way. It may not always be pretty, but that’s much more fitting of the club’s dynamic.
Q. Who has been the stand out Saints player?
Hojbjerg has thrived this season under both managers to be fair to Hughes. He’s really improved in all aspects of the pitch, despite his temperament to do something stupid every now and again but it seems he’s turned the corner and become the player that Pep Guardiola raved about at Bayern Munich.
I think Nathan Redmond would also be in with a shout, as well as James Ward-Prowse. The latter more so under Hasenhuttl’s reign.
Q. Do Southampton have any needs ahead of the transfer window and how active do you think they will be?
We really seem to be shedding players – on loan unfortunately – so it doesn’t seem like cash is ready to be spent unless we shift someone permanently. There’s reports that Charlie Austin could be shown the door and that would leave us thin up front with just Danny Ings, Shane Long, Michael Obafemi and Sam Gallagher to pick from. All have had their fair share of injuries this year so the gamble would be massive.
A capable centre back would be a great addition to compliment Jan Vestergaard and Jan Bednarek. Jack Stephens has shown he is capable, but someone who is further along in their development would not hurt.
Q. If you could pick one Palace player for Saints to sign in January, who would it be and why?
The obvious pick is Wilfred Zaha but I’ll do my best to be unobvious and go with Andros Townsend. He’s capable in front of goal, as well as picking out a pass. When we struggle to score it’s because we lack a cutting edge to make that final delivery towards go and Townsend would alleviate that, as well as produce a couple of goals.
Q. Name one Southampton player and one Palace player that you believe will be a threat in this game?
I think Danny Ings is always dangerous on his day. He’s come up empty his last few outings, but he’s always willing to put in a strong shift to try and set someone up. If he’s back to firing like he was before his latest spell on the side line then he could pose a real problem because he can score in a variety of ways.
Townsend has been a smart player for Palace this season and has shown he can fire in a screamer. We give up a lot defensively when we make errors and it feels like he could the one to take advantage of that.
Q. Perhaps you could share your opinions on Palace so far this season?
Palace has turned in what I see as a mixed bag of results. Really pressed Liverpool for everything they’ve got and then lose at home to Watford. Two wins on the bounce, however, including in the FA Cup, and it sets up for a great match on Wednesday.
I find it amusing how we’re both in the same position – 22 points, just the one win splits the two – but fortunes have been different from when Palace have picked up their wins.
Q. Your prediction?
2-1 to Saints. We’re on a bit of a run at the moment.