Opposition View – Southampton

Saints fan George Galpin gives us the lowdown on Claude Puel’s men ahead of Sunday’s game at St Mary’s.

It was another summer of upheaval at St Mary’s with Ronald Koeman, Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle all departing. How disappointed were you with the departures?

The player departures have hit Saints hard, but none of them were really surprising. Mané had two years left on his contract, so when a big offer came in it made sense to let him go, rather than have him have a tantrum and let him go a year later for far less. Saints had offered him a new contract, but it’s been suggested he wanted “big club” wages, so it made sense.

Both Pelle and Wanyama had one year left on their contracts, and getting £13m up front for the former with him over 30 is good business sense. We do miss all three, but especially Mané as he could be world class on his day as he is showing at Anfield.

Koeman going to Everton was a shock, however, as I thought he may have stuck out another year to go to somewhere like Arsenal or Barcelona. Having said that, there were numerous players willing to leave because of him, and perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that he had gone even if it may not look like it on current form.

Claude Puel is the men man in charge, what are your early impressions of him?

I must admit I did not really know much about Puel when he joined, but having read about him afterwards he seemed a very good fit. It seems like the process of appointing the manager was much more about finding the right fit, rather than a big name.

Having said that, his preferred diamond formation has left us looking blunt going forward. The strikers end up going wide, and it needs more work. I don’t think it is as bad as some have made out, however.

Were you happy with your summer signings? Did you strengthen the correct positions and bring in the necessary quality?

The players we signed have all strengthened positions we needed to. The record transfer Sofiane Boufal hasn’t played yet, so perhaps he will be the man to fill the gap left by Mané.

However, we do miss a striker. Long, Austin and Rodriguez all have question marks against them, and a striker would make a difference in converting the chances that so far we have failed to take.

Last season you failed to make the group stage of the Europa League, how excited are the fans about you being in it this time?

It’s absolutely amazing. The league has got to the point where playing Man Utd, Chelsea etc aren’t as big events anymore, so seeing the likes of Inter Milan on the fixture list is huge.

Southampton aren’t as big a club as some of their fans think, and raising the profile of the club is important in going forward. A good run in Europe could really help that!

What are your expectations this season?

Finishing 6th last season means that finishing any higher would be an almost impossible task, barring a Leicester-esque run.

So, top ten and a cup run, domestic or continental, would be what I would like for this season

What do you make of Swansea recently?

A bit like Saints really, going in a different direction in style and management. But I think Borja Baston and Llorente will give Swansea the goals they missed last season.

Predict the score and where both teams will finish

Having got off the mark against Sparta Prague, I think Saints may just edge it 1-0 on Sunday but it’ll be tight. Think Saints will finish somewhere between 8th-13th depending on how far in Europe they go, and Swansea to finish not far behind.