Ahead of Saturday's game at The Hawthorns, we
spoke again with Southampton fan Jack. He gives us his views on the Saints'
start to the season, their Europa League exit, the club's prospects for the current
campaign and more. You can follow Jack on
It's been a
steady if not spectacular start to the season for the Saints results-wise, how
have performances been?
It’s not been too inspiring so
far, if I’m honest. The win and performance against Norwich in our last outing
was the type of showing we’ve come to expect but the league games before that,
and the early exit from the Europa League showed we’ve got a lot of work to do
to get up to the consistent levels we reached last season. Hopefully we can kick
on now we’ve got our first league win, starting at The Hawthorns on Saturday.
supporters' expectations prior to the start of the campaign? Is a repeat of last
season's success a realistic target?
I think if you’d have asked most
Saints fans before we started, a top ten finish and a good run in the Europa
League was realistic. Obviously the latter disappeared pretty quickly but it
could be a blessing in a way - we can now focus on the Premier League and
pushing for the top 7 again. It’s hard to read at this stage but Swansea and
Stoke appear to be a our closest challengers for that spot. As for repeating
last season, I think we can given time. We’ve a fair few new players,
particularly in defence (which shows by the amount of (poor) goals we’ve
conceded so far), so it’ll be a slow burner but I think we’ll improve as the
season goes on.
club's Europa League exit being viewed, a disappointment or a 'blessing in
Overall, very poorly. I think we
all, the players and fans included, underestimated FC Midtjylland and thought,
especially after cruising against Vitesse, that we’d see the job through and at
least get to the group stage. The away performance in Denmark was very hard to
stomach. Going there as the Premier League team and then changing the way we
play because they were a bit physical played into their hands perfectly and, in
the end, we deserved to go out. Although I put forward the ‘blessing in
disguise’ argument in my last answer, having at least 3 more away trips to new
locations within Europe would have been brilliant for the fans. Hopefully next
time we qualify (because I’m sure we will again some time soon) we’ll be more
prepared and can learn fro the negative experience this time around.
happy with the club's summer transfer dealings? Was there anything else you
would have liked to see the club do?
Overall, yes. We all expected
our best player - Morgan Schneiderlin - to depart the club and so he did. After
throwing his toys out the pram the previous summer when we blocked a move to
Spurs, he rightly stayed on and got a deserved move to a bigger and better club
where he can play Champions League and International football on a regular
basis. Nathaniel Clyne leaving was a disappointment because it really did
seem for a short while that he was going to sign a new contract. Their
replacements in Oriol Romeu and Cedric Soares respectively have shown promise so
far considering the big shoes they have to fill. Maarten Stekelenburg hasn’t
really been tested but looks solid enough until Fraser Forster returns from
injury. Having just signed Virgil Van Dijk, we won’t see too much more of Steven
Caulker, not at least on a regular basis. He’s a no nonsense defender which is
pleasing at times but it doesn't really suit our style of play. Our centre-backs
play out from the back so Van Dijk should fit in perfectly. Elsewhere, Jordy
Clasie will have a big role to play when he returns from injury but I worry,
having read about his time in Holland, that he's a bit injury prone. Young
Spanish striker Juanmi has barely featured so it's too early to make judgement
on him just yet.
look back at last season, plenty of highlights I'd imagine but was there one
that stood out?
We had some fantastic wins. 8-0
against Sunderland and 6-1 against Villa but the one that stands out for me was
the 1-0 win at Old Trafford against United. It wasn't a thrilling game but to
limit United to not a single shot on target considering how dominant they
usually are at home, and also considering how poor our record is at their place,
was a great moment in our season and at a time when we were realistic top 4
Jose Fonte was superb. He had
two or three CB partners throughout last season but continued to inspire the
team, as captain, to a remarkable defence record come the end of the season. He
was quite rightly named in many people's team of the year.
for Southampton's season?
8th. I think a slow start will
hinder us in pushing for that top 7. If we can start scoring away from home
again, the confidence will undoubtedly grow amongst the players. Sadio Mane
looks to be carrying on from where he left off last season and Graziano Pelle -
such a key player in our system - is looking very sharp so if we can keep those
two fit and firing, we'll be there or there abouts in challenging for a Europa
for Albion's season?
Mid to bottom end with maybe a
relegation fight thrown in - sorry! To be fair, you’ve had some very tough games
to start the season and your run of fixtures coming up looks in comparison to be
a bit kinder. I think your success will very much depend on if you can get
Rondon firing. He looks a real handful and with Berahino's head all over the
place, he's got a great chance to become your talisman. You’ve got players from
midfield in Brunt and Morrison that will score goals so he should get
enough support from them to ease the burden.
It’s hard to look past Man City
at this stage. Chelsea have stalled, Arsenal failed to buy that elusive striker
they desperately need and although United have spent a lot of money, they still
look years away from challenging for the league. City to win it by mid April.
Sunderland somehow survive every
year despite being absolutely abysmal but surely there's not enough teams worse
than them this year for them to do it again?! As for the others, Norwich and
Watford look as if they’ll play nice enough football but lack that cutting edge
and ultimately enough goals to keep them up. That's my three picks.
line-up and tactics can we expect to see from the Saints on Saturday?
After flirting with 5 at the
back in an attempt to stop leaking goals, we've reverted back to the trusty
4-2-3-1 that has brought us so much success in recent years. I'd expect the same
team to play as did against
except with Van Dijk coming straight in for Yoshida and Wanyama back in maybe.
Whether Wanyama is in the right frame of mind yet to play is anyone's guess. I
suspect it’ll be a game too soon for the soon-to-be-returning Clasie and Ryan
Bertrand. So as follows basically....
Stekelenburg; Soares, Fonte, Van
Dijk, Targett; Romeu, Wanyama; Tadic, Davis, Mane; Pelle.
and thoughts on the game?
It's my first visit to The
Hawthorns so hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable one. We've had mixed fortunes
against West Brom since promotion so it's a tough game to call. I’ll go
1-1 with Shane Long scoring an equaliser for us off the bench.