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Q&A inför Southampton borta

Matcherna duggar tätt så här under inledningen av säsongen, knappt har vi hunnit fira segern i Supercupen innan det återigen är dags för match. Liverpool ska bege sig till Southampton för att försöka ta sin andra raka seger, motståndarna däremot ska försöka skaka av sig en inledande bortaförlust mot Burnley. Allen Gunn(@a_gunzy) och J.Hughes(@JJHughes_) jobbar båda för St Marys Musings(@StMarysMusings) och följer klubben noga, de berättar här om hur de ser på säsongens lag:

1. You sacked Mark Hughes halfway through last season and under Ralph Hasenhuttl you steered away from relegation. What are your thoughts on your last season?
AG: It was a season to forget up until we sacked Mark Hughes. There was no excitement and it was more of a chore to keep up than it should’ve been — Ralph Hasenhuttl has been a revelation to this point. Yes, we still have faults but there’s more of a positive vibe around the club.
JH: Last season is one we’d like to largely forget. The only highlight was the fact Southampton somehow managed to appoint a manager of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s calibre and reputation. We were heading down and fast with Mark Hughes in charge and Hasenhuttl somehow kept us in the Premier League by the skin of our teeth. Under Hughes, our football was bland and had little identity if it had any at all. Hasenhuttl came in and quickly managed to get Southampton to play more intense, attacking football to the best of the squad’s limited ability and that was positive. All in all, a season to forget but at least some hope remained after it was over thanks to our manager.

2. How would you describe the way Southampton plays under Hasenhuttl?
AG: I think we’re all still trying to figure it out as he will play three CBs one week and then revert to a back four the next. There is a strong workmanship that he requires of his players in retaining the ball. It’s definitely a hybrid of what we saw under Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman to me.
JH: Under Hasenhuttl, Saints play with a high press and are usually quite an attacking team. Obviously, Southampton do not boast the players Liverpool do so we can’t compare the two clubs on a quality level, but Hasenhuttl is of the Jurgen Klopp mould and wants his teams to be energetic and relentless. Quick passes on the ball, break with pace. Unfortunately, our defence isn’t the best at the moment but it’s been that way ever since a certain Virgil van Dijk left for some other team…

3. What do you expect of the team this season?
AG: I expect us to finish somewhere just below the middle of the table. I think we’ve done just enough to avoid a relegation scrap, but breaking into the top half is still a ways away.
JH: Being realistic, I hope – rather than expect – Southampton can have a bit of a restart under Hasenhuttl and begin a trend of continuous improvement each season. When we returned to the Premier League following two promotions in two seasons, we finished 14th, 8th, 7th, 6th under managers Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman. If we can improve on our 16th-place finish from last season and avoid a relegation battle, I’d be very happy with that.

4. You have many good goalkeepers, who do you think is the best of them?
JH: I think Hasenhuttl is correct in playing Angus Gunn as Southampton’s main goalkeeper. He’s young and has potential, though he has the odd mistake in him like all goalkeepers do. Fraser Forster was brilliant for Saints for a long time but was never the same after returning from a nasty knee injury, while Alex McCarthy isn’t all that convincing as a Southampton number one in my opinion.

5. Which players will be most important for you this season?
AG: Our strikers and centre backs … Names not really important as to what the group is able to bring. We didn’t do anything well last season so to find consistent scoring and then limiting our mistakes defensively, where we are weak, will be huge for the overall success.
JH: Nathan Redmond, Danny Ings, Che Adams, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Ryan Bertrand. Our defence largely isn’t up to it, though we hope new signing Kevin Danso can be the difference maker there, so we need our attack to be ruthless in front of goal to make up for any shortcomings at the back. Bertrand and Hojbjerg are Saints’ former and current captains and they need to be on hand to help organise the defence and midfield to ensure we’re keeping shape and playing smartly. 

6. Yan Valery was voted your young player of the year last season, what do you expect from him this season?
AG: A bit of a second-year slump. He was new on the scene last year but I think opposition players will know how to play against him. I think it will be fun to see how he navigates that.
JH: Like with our season, I just hope Yan Valery continues to improve. I think he surprised everyone last season and it’s encouraging that Hasenhuttl is willing to give young Southampton players the chance to shine. Portugal international Cedric has returned from his loan spell at Inter Milan, but it looks like Valery will continue to own Saints’ right-back position, so I hope we get to see Valery grow with a full season of Premier League football

7. Youve played one game in the League so far, what did you think of your performance?
AG: Awful. Leave it at that. Burnley ran us all over the park. If we concede first then I think we’re in for a real struggle, so scoring first will be massive for our confidence.
JH: Our one game of the season was a shocker. Southampton lost 3-0 to Burnley away and it was a bit of a stunning result – not in a good way – to be honest. You should never look at results in pre-season and see them as indicators of the season ahead, but we genuinely looked a good side in our friendly games before the season’s start. Against Burnley, we were arguably the better team in the first half. Unfortunately, the creaking Southampton defence fell apart in the second half, conceding three goals in 12 minutes. Not good enough.

8. How do you think you will line up against Liverpool?
AG: I expect us to play with three CBs like we did against Burnley. I don’t expect us to get anything out of Liverpool, but as long as we put in a performance to build upon that would be a good day.
JH: Despite the result against Burnley, I expect to see pretty much the same Southampton side line up against Liverpool on Saturday. The only changes I see happening are Kevin Danso slotting in the Saints defence, most likely replacing Jack Stephens, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg returning to centre midfield in place of Oriol Romeu. Unfortunately, Hojbjerg missed a lot of the game against Burnley as he fell ill on the journey up to the match.

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