Ask The Opposition - Southampton vs Manchester City (w/ TheSaintsView)
Manchester City made it four wins from their first five games since top-fight football’s resumption following a resounding victory over Liverpool on Thursday night. Having inflicted the joint highest defeat on a Premier League Champion, many will hope that City can take that momentum into Sunday’s game on the South coast where they meet Southampton.
Ralph Hasenhüttl has revolutionised Southampton over the past nine months, with his sides 3-1 win over Watford at the weekend taking them to that significant 40 point mark and seven points clear of the relegation dog fight With a top half finish still on the cards, and ahead of Southampton welcoming City to St.Mary’s on Sunday evening, we spoke to Dan from the Saints View to get his thoughts and feelings on all the necessary questions pre-match...
Firstly, thank you for joining us! Southampton have seen some big improvements ever since the humiliating defeat to Leicester, but what changes need to be made this summer in terms of personnel, tactics or other aspects, to drive this squad up the table?
There's clearly a project in the works at St.Mary's which all Saints fans are excited about. Handing manager Ralph Hasenhuttl a new four year contract was a major statement of intent and getting star players on new deals will hopefully follow. There is a handful of players that a team can be built around, but the major issues lie in the defence. Only West Ham, Aston Villa and Norwich have conceded more goals at the time of play than us, which tells the whole story. Home form is also a major issue that needs to be addressed, with Saints having the worst home form in the division this season.
Concede fewer goals and pick up more points at home next season and Saints may not only make a push for the top half, but maybe even a push for the top eight and Europe!
One player who is in fantastic form at the moment is Danny Ings - do you worry that the striker could be sold this summer if you received a big enough offer for him?
Not in the slightest. There will be protests on the streets of Southampton for weeks on end if Danny Ings was sold this summer. It's clear that Ings has no intent of departing St.Mary's this summer; he's finally settled at a club. Ings is a boyhood Southampton fan which makes his connection with the club even stronger and, having already played at a top club and struggled, I'm sure he's in no rush to depart.
Who have been the players that have improved the most under Ralph Hasenhuttl?
Going back to last season, James Ward-Prowse is probably the player we've seen the most improvement with during Ralph's year-and-a-half with the Saints. The midfielder was weak in the middle of the park, would go missing and really only had his excellent set piece taking abilities to his name; but under the Austrian, he's developed into a huge presence in midfield and the frequency of his goal involvement has sky rocketed. I'd also give Stuart Armstrong a mention. The Scotsman had to be patient for a place in the team but was finally starting matches around December time and the midfielder has been one of our best players in 2020 - scoring four goals in his last nine appearances.
In hindsight, was the 9-0 defeat to Leicester as humiliating as it was at the time, or in fact beneficial to your season on the whole?
Nothing about losing 9-0 is beneficial! In all seriousness, seven months on and it still hurts and will be a stain on our club forever, however, the turnaround since then was nothing short of magnificent. It can be used as a turning point to some extent, however, it wasn't until a few weeks later when we performed marvellously at the Emirates and then beat Watford and Norwich at home in the space of four days where I think the tables turned. I think the major positive from the 9-0 defeat was that it made Hasenhuttl resort back to his old formation and to tinker his selection slightly which has proved dividends.
What’s gone wrong for Angus Gunn? A player bought from Manchester City not long ago for a relatively substantial transfer fee!
I personally like Gunn but am amongst a minority of Saints fans saying that. He came into the side almost randomly midway through last season - Alex McCarthy hadn't been performing badly. He looked great for the most part of the final 15 or so games of the 2018/19 season and produced some excellent saves but also one careless error on the final day against Huddersfield. He started 2019/20 relatively well too in the first five games, keeping two clean sheets, however he hasn't kept one in the league since September and individual errors and a weak influence on his back line were major factors as to why he was dropped.
Also, when you let nine goals into the back of your net in one game, your confidence is going to be at ground zero. There have been mentions of a loan move in recent weeks which could do him some good, but I'd also have no objection to giving him some game time during the rest of the season now that we've hit 40 points and are essentially safe.
How do you see this weekend’s game going, and can we get a predicted starting XI and score prediction?
It's a game I've tried hard not to think about in all honesty! The prospect of facing a Manchester City side who have looked back to their best (bar the Chelsea game) since the restart at home where we've only picked up 14 points all season is incredibly daunting. It's much easier said than done, but if we play with the aggression and confidence as we did in the wins against Norwich and Watford then we could pull off a shock, however having seen how badly we struggled against an out of form Arsenal does give me little confidence. I think we'll compete at times but ultimately I think City will comfortably win 3-1.
As for the team, I'd go with; McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Armstrong, Redmond, Adams, Ings
Make sure you follow our guests on Twitter here: @TheSaintsView
You can follow our author on Twitter here: @harrywinters16