Liverpool avslutade ett oerhört starkt år med två mycket svaga insatser, en rejäl bättring kommer att krävas under måndagskvällen då man tar sig an Ralph Hasenhüttls Southampton. Här berättar Allen Gunn(@a_gunzy) om hur han ser på Saints säsong hittills.
1. We are almost halfway through the season; how do you rate your teams performances so far?
Well up until the festive fixtures, we were really, really strong with our identity. We had some great results in games we’d normally either drop points or get nothing from in previous years. I was in no means considering us title contenders because that level of play was always going to be hard to maintain for an entire 38 games. Lately, I think having to play five games in 17 days has really stretched our thin squad. As much as Ralph Hasenhuttl should get credit for our success of late, his one strike is not utlising the bench. That has a lot to do with not having trust in the depth and the issue is then with the clog in fixtures, meaning our core group of guys are tired.
2. How would you describe the way you play under Hasenhüttl?
We’re a press first team and when we get on the ball we move it about looking for the one-two combination to break down the defence. Theo Walcott has been pretty crucial since coming back to St Mary’s on loan this season and has picked out some great passes on his day. Danny Ings and Che Adams are certainly our most potent players from open play and their ability to pick out the other creates our chances deep in the attacking third. As far as formation goes, we’ve thankfully not deviated from using a 4-4-2 since our upturn in form last December. In my opinion, our midfield duo of Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse is the most important part of our team and it is what drives us towards results.
3. James Ward Prowse has started this season really good, how important is he to your team?
He’s been unbelievable. I think our reliance on him to either pot a free-kick or set up someone from a set-piece is getting into a dangerous territory, but his impact on and off the ball has been the best it has been since he broke into the first team back in 2012. He has developed some teeth into his game, meaning he gets stuck into tackles and makes his presence known to the opposition, and I think that’s helped elevate his production as a true number eight. The partnership he’s formed with Romeu has been great to watch and is reminiscent of what gave us success in the past.
4. You have only scored one goal in your last four games, why do you think goal scoring has become a problem for you?
I think we’re just lost with our attacking options. If we can’t break a team down with the one-two stuff like we normally do, then we aren’t really assured in what to try. Like I mentioned, we’re becoming reliant of Ward-Prowse to pinch a goal from a free-kick or to set one up from a corner kick. I also think this stretch of fixtures has been tough on the fitness of the squad going off our intense style of play. We see a lot of the ball – we had 63 percent possession against West Ham – but have lacked a lot of intent in the final third. To our attack’s credit, we’ve had three goals ruled out for offside and hopefully we can hold the line a little bit longer to turn those opportunities into goals.
5. Jannik Vestergaard will be out for a while with an injury, how big of a loss is he?
From what we’ve seen from Jack Stephens coming in, he’s deputised pretty well considering he’s only made six league appearances this season. Without Vestagaard, we certainly lose his threat in the box on the offensive end of the pitch and on the back end, he’s really commanded his area well – a knock on him previously. He’s a loss, but much like how he stepped up his game, it gives Stephens a chance to do the same alongside Jan Bednarek, who has been just as critical to our defence.
6. The January window is about to open, do you expect any new signings?
I never expect any January signings from Saints. That being said, we brought in Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand in during the January window, both loans, but it is rare to see us dip into the market. The last time we did we blew £19-million on Guido Carrillo and we all know that didn’t work out at all. Hasenhuttl’s refusal to use the bench to impact the game, leaving substitutions until late, however, is a sign he doesn’t trust the youngsters on the bench. Even if we bring in an experienced loan option that would be great.
7. What kind of game do you expect against Liverpool?
I fully expect Liverpool to control the match. Until they’re knocked off their perch, Liverpool is the team to beat in the league this season. You’ve scored a league-leading 37 goals and that attack is scary, so if we can keep it respectable, then I’m happy.