We kick off the new season with one of our more popular features where we have a good chat with opposition fans to find out their thoughts on the season ahead, the match and much more. With the visit of Southampton to Selhurst Park kicking off the Eagles eighth Premier League campaign in succession, we caught up with our friends at ST MARY’S MUSINGS.
Q. Now that the dust has settled on a lengthy 2019-20 campaign, how are you feeling ahead of the new season kicking off?
With regards to just having a season, at least the Premier League has figured out how to navigate a pandemic to give us some entertainment on the pitch. So from that standpoint you have to be happy that they have a working formula to keep the players safe.
Q. Looking back, how did Southampton fare last season and were you happy with it in general?
Compared to where we were in November/December, I’m glad we got it figured out and played up to our potential rather than away from it, which we did for the first few months of the year. Plucky is a dreadful word, but Saints are a plucky little side and when we play in that blue collar manner, we tend to have a lot of success. I hope for our sake, the pundits have moved on from one particular result as I’m sick of hearing about it all match. It’s such lazy journalism/research.
Q. How have the Saints made the best of the shortened close season and how much of an effect do you think it will have on the season ahead?
I think we can take a lot more from the way we finished the season since there’s such a short gap between the end and beginning of the next – if it was months rather than weeks, I don’t think there’s much carry over, but we looked strong at the finish, arguably one of the better in form teams league wide. I hope we can bottle some of that confidence and actually take advantage of the first few games. It is a big ask as we never start well so maybe we start a new trend.
Q. Have the Saints been very active in the transfer window? Are there areas that still need attention before it closes?
Well we’ve basically sold off all of our midfield options outside of James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu so I expect us to dig back into a thin market for a midfielder. I’d love to see us get a younger talent that can hopefully build a partnership with Ward-Prowse for a few years to come – it would fit the Southampton model, though we missed out on a few names if the rumours are anything to go by. We added Mohammed Salisu to our defensive options, where we were quite thin after Jack Stephens and Jan Bednarek.
Q. What can we expect from Southampton this season?
This is the year we push for the top half. I’m not saying Europa League, but we should be pushing for the top half comfortably. We’ve had the tendency to get in our own way in doing that the last few years, however, it is where we belong. I firmly believe that – we just happen to be so frustrating at times.
Q. We are keen to see young players coming through the ranks here at TEB so is there anyone that we should keep an eye on who could make the breakthrough into the Saints first eleven?
Will Smallbone made some cameos for Saints last year, often coming on for Stuart Armstrong. He’s a raw player and I think Ralph Hasenhuttl is still trying to figure out where he works best within the system, but he has all the potential to make an impact as early as this season.
Q. Let’s have some predictions from you for the season;
Premier League Champions – Liverpool
Champions League spots – Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United
Relegated – Leeds, Fulham, Aston Villa
Surprise package – Sheffield United (they will prove it was no fluke finishing in the top half)
FA Cup – Chelsea
League Cup – Manchester City
Q. What are your thoughts on the return of fans to games this season?
I think it is still too early. Unless they’re going to ban the consumption of alcohol to those attending… Otherwise, they aren’t going to be able to control social distancing as easily as sad as it is to say it!
Q. How important is it to have a local rivalry in the same division or would you rather see such teams languishing in lower divisions?
Genuinely not fussed. After our own turmoil, it is nice to see us have some sustainability at Premier League level. Whatever happens to Pompey, happens.
Q. What do you make of Palace ahead of the new season?
I bet Palace would’ve rather the season not restarted the way they finished and I’m not sure it is going to get better. I haven’t seen enough in the transfer market to convince me otherwise that they will make an immediate jump in performances. I think you’ll do enough to stay up, but it’ll be a tough battle down at the bottom of the table.
Q. Name one player from each team that you believe will be a threat to the opposition in this match.
Danny Ings. He’ll find the scoresheet and hopefully hit the ground running again! I always get nervous with the likes of Andros Townsend out there – on his day he can hit one that hurts us!
Q. …and finally, your all important prediction?
2-0 to Saints. We somehow manage a win on opening day. … Cue a 1-1 draw now.