Ahead of Saturday's game at The Hawthorns,
we caught up with Southampton fan Jack. He gives us his views on the Saints'
excellent season so far, Shane Long, Ronald Koeman, and more. You can follow Jack on
It's been a fantastic season
so far for the Saints and it's certainly come as a surprise to most neutrals,
especially given the loss of a number of vital players last summer. Just how
good has it been and did
Southampton supporters genuinely expect such a good season?
Never in a million years did we
expect to where we are but, as you say, it's been fantastic. We were in chaos
before Koeman arrived with no direction or assurances from the board and it
looked increasingly likely we'd be fighting for our lives this season with
whatever squad was remaining. When Ronald Koeman arrived however, he brought
calm to the situation and managed to do what the board couldn't - persuade key
figures such as Morgan Schneiderlin to stay. He then replaced all those that
left for half the price and we've never looked back!
excellent first half of the season, the club's form and results have dipped
recently. Any particular reason behind it and is it being viewed as just a
'blip' or are there concerns the downturn could continue long-term?
It seems to have coincided with
our second injury spell of the season. Important players such as Schneiderlin
and Alderweireld picked up knocks and the team lost it's rhythm. Sadio Mane
leaving for the Africa Cup of Nations, just when we were started to look a goal
threat again also didn't help. Shane Long, who's often come off the bench and
given us a different outlet going forward, punctured his lung and broke a couple
of ribs at the same time (ouch!) which left us with only one fit striker. I'd
say this was probably Koeman's only error since arriving - the inability not to
bring in another striker in the January window. Graziano Pelle has looked tired
and devoid of confidence (2 goals in 18 games) and the ball simply won't go in
for us at the moment. Hopefully, with the injured players coming back, we can
kick on again.
question... Can you secure a top four finish?
I have my doubts, especially as
our home form has been so poor recently. We haven't been playing well for a
while now. In fact, I'd say our last decent performance was probably back on New
Year's Day against Arsenal which isn't a sign of a side that's capable of
finishing in the top four. Manchester United, despite playing poorly, have been
getting results, as have Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool so if I had to call it
now, I'd say we're more than likely going to finish below at least two of
be delighted with what Ronald Koeman has done so far at the club, any fears he
will be tempted away as Mauricio Pochettino was?
Pochettino never seemed that
attached to us. He never once committed to the club during press conferences
when asked about his future and to be fair, Tottenham have finally got it right
in appointing him. Koeman has been superb though. He's used the Dutch market so
well to bring in some really decent players and stabilised us when we seemed to
be faltering so dramatically in the summer. He seems to have more of a plan B
compared to Pochettino, too. That'll be needed in the coming weeks with our
current tactics becoming a bit stale and predictable. Will he go? If the Dutch
national team comes calling, you could hardly begrudge him the opportunity but I
think he's here to stay for a while. What I have learned over the coming years
is that, no matter how highly you think of a player, and when you support a team
that isn't one of the 'big boys', never become too attached to a player or
a manager. They can soon depart just when you look to be moving up to the next
former Albion striker Shane Long done for you so far?
As mentioned before, he's only
just returned from a month or so out but when he's played, I've been impressed.
His pace causes teams a lot of problems. His finishing lets him down at times
though. If he was a bit more clinical and maybe added five goals or so to his tally
every season, he'd be playing for a top team. A great option to have in the
squad, of that there is little doubt.
of the season?
For us to have won at Old
Trafford and that not be the highlight of the season speaks volumes about just
how well we've done. The 8-0 win against
Sunderland has to be the number one moment. As bad as the Black Cats
were, we tore them to pieces with some great goals and flowing football. That
result really made the league stand up and take notice that we were serious
about competing with the best this season. I mean, EIGHT NIL. Wow.
game you would rather forget?
Sheffield United away in the
Capital One Cup was definitely the low point. It's still the only away game I've
been to this season, cruelly enough. We bowed out at the Quarter Final stage in
miserable fashion, despite playing a strong team. Four thousand of us made the
journey on a cold, wet Tuesday night in December and were 'treated' to the worst
showing of the season. Out-fought on the night, we resorted to the type of long
ball, scrappy football Sheffield United play and deserved to lose. At the time,
it was our 5th defeat in a row, too.
Jose Fonte has really stepped up
to the mark this season after Dejan Lovren's departure but in my opinion, Toby
Alderweireld has been superb. Rumour has it that Manchester City want to buy him
in the summer, so our chances of getting him permanently are slim unless we
secure a top four place. We have the option to buy for a bargain £6.8m which we
would undoubtedly like to take up, but it's just whether Toby would like to stay
with us or not. His ability on the ball, in the air, and overall reading of the
game has been a big reason (when he's fit and playing) why we have such a good
defensive record. In order, I'd say: 1. Alderweireld, 2. Fonte, 3. Ryan
None of the new signings have
been overly disappointing, but Dusan Tadic has blown hot and cold since his
blistering start to the campaign. Fraser Forster has been questionable over some
of the goals we have conceded but he's still only 26 and should get better with
more game time at this level.
What tactics and line-up can we
expect to see from Southampton on Saturday?
Personally, I'd like to see a
change in the formation to a 3-5-2:
Forster; Fonte, Alderweireld (if
fit), Yoshida; Clyne and Bertrand as WB's; Schneiderlin, Wanyama; Djuricic/Davis,
Pelle is desperate for support
up front and Mane playing off his hold up play worked well before the latter of
the two went off the to AFCON. Our bench is looking strong for the first team in
a while now, which is a real plus. Expect Long/Tadic/Elia to come on and make an
and prediction for Saturday's game?
Our away form is strong at the
moment but, as we're struggling to score and you guys are much better organised
under Pulis, I'm not expecting many goals. Optimistic me says 1-0 Saints, but
I'll go for 1-1.