Southampton och Liverpool har haft en del med varandra att göra de senaste åren, förutom möten i både ligaspel och cuper har man, som bekant, varit inblandade i mängder av transfers. Lambert, Lallana, Lovren, Clyne, Mané och nu senast Virgil van Dijk är alla spelare som vi hämtat från St Mary´s stadium. Den sistnämnde gör på söndagen sin första match mot sina gamla lagkamrater och det är nog ingen vågad gissning att han kommer att mötas av en hel del burop när han kliver in på planen. Inför söndagens heta drabbning mellan lagen har vi varit i kontakt med J.Hughes(@JJHughes_) från St Mary´s Musings(@StMarysMusings), han berättar här om hur han ser på sitt lag och på de spelare som tagit den numer ganska uppkörda vägen mellan Southampton och Liverpool:
1. You are currently in the relegation battle, what are the main reasons for you being where you are in the table?
Unfortunately so! This season has certainly been interesting and not in a positive way. The main reasons behind our struggles this season are hard to pinpoint exactly as I believe there to be multiple reasons.
Firstly, I think our squad isn’t anywhere near the quality it was as recent as two seasons ago. Before, we sold players to ‘bigger’ clubs (namely Liverpool!) for big fees and replaced them with a player, sometimes two, of better quality or dynamism – see Adam Lallana, who we sold and replaced with another playmaker in Dusan Tadic and a winger in Sadio Mane (who shortly followed Lallana to Liverpool, of course). Come 2016, Saints sell Mane to Liverpool and replace him with Nathan Redmond. The standard of player just isn’t as good and the transfer money being reinvested into the club isn’t near the money being brought in from player sales.
Secondly, our manager is proving pretty useless. Mauricio Pellegrino, another former Liverpool player, has consistently shown little sense in squad selection and tactical decision-making. He’s a big regression from our previous manager Claude Puel, who I feel was unfairly treated by the Southampton board and the Saints fans who were baying for his blood from the get-go.
2. What happened at your club during the transfer window, part from the van Dijk-deal, are you satisfied with the way the club acted?
In a word, no. For whatever reason, our summer transfer window was considered a success by a lot of fans and the club for keeping Virgil van Dijk, when in reality it had a negative effect on the team. It was also clear at the time that the squad’s deficiencies hadn’t been properly addressed during the transfer window – towards the tail end of the 2016/17 season, Saints were struggling for goals. Instead of buying a new attacking player, Southampton signed a midfielder and couple of defenders. Come January, we finally sell van Dijk for an astronomical sum of money and finally sign a striker when we should have done both months before. Very frustrating.
3. Virgil van Dijk is now a Liverpool-player, was it the right decision by the club to refuse to sell him in the summer? Are you satisfied with the deal?
As above, I don’t think it was the right decision to keep van Dijk for the good of our team with the benefit of hindsight, but then it was also important to hold Liverpool to account for illegally approaching our player. As for the reported £75m transfer fee, I’m happy with that number as long as it’s properly invested back into the squad. I won’t hold my breath.
4. If you could have on the players that has left you for Liverpool back, who would it be and why?
God. Where do you start? Can I pick all of them?! Nathaniel Clyne was a superb right-back for us, but he seems to be struggling with injury since joining Liverpool. Van Dijk has obvious qualities as a centre-half – big, strong, quick, good in the air and capable with his feet. Meanwhile, Mane and Lallana provide some real quality in attack, as does another ex-Saint in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. You can keep Dejan Lovren, though.
5. Who has been your player of the year so far and who has been the biggest disappointment?
Saints haven’t been good this year. It’s as simple as that. James Ward-Prowse, however, has added goals to his game which has been encouraging. Charlie Austin has also looked dangerous as ever when fit. At this stage, it’s hard to single anyone out as the biggest disappointment as the whole squad has largely struggled under what appears to be an inept manager. Nathan Redmond has been particularly poor this season, though
6. What kind of game do you think we will see between Southampton and Liverpool, do you think you will sit back and defend or will you go for a more attacking style?
You never know how Southampton will set up against the big teams under Pellegrino. We have managed to get positive results against Arsenal, Manchester United, and Tottenham playing with an emphasis on defence with three centrebacks. But then Pellegrino also decided to set Southampton up with a standard four-man defence against Tottenham away and we got demolished 5-2 at Wembley Stadium.
7. How do you rate Liverpool compared to the other teams in fight for the Champions League-spots?
Liverpool certainly aren’t boring. Whether it’s superb attacking play or ineptitude in defence, Liverpool are always fun to watch. If van Dijk can find form and help positively lead the Liverpool defence, I can see you comfortably finishing in the top four. However, I do feel like Tottenham could be Liverpool’s biggest competition to finish in the top four besides Manchester United and Chelsea, and at this stage I would say Tottenham appear the more balanced team. It will definitely be interesting to watch on from afar near the relegation zone as the season nears its end.