Why have Southampton struggled so far this season? Why do all of their best players want to leave? Why do they keep wanting to buy the same central defenders as Norwich? Dan Brigham finds out from Southampton fan and Sport360 journalist Barny Read
Dan: Hi Barny. So, Southampton. Not the best of starts so far. No wins, European distractions (which came to an end last night), players linked with moves away... is there a sense of unease among Saints fans?
Barny: Not the best starts at all, but as a Saints fan used to relegation battles and the increasingly common theme of the St Mary's exodus a new season wouldn't be the same without unease or concern. I don't think we'd have it any other way.
Dan: There was a bit of a downturn at the end of last season, and that appears to have carried on into the start of this campaign. It's now one win in nine in the Premier League for Southampton. What do you think isn't quite clicking for the side? Seems to me that Graziano Pellè isn't quite the goal-machine we saw before Christmas?
Barny: Thanks for the reminder! Pellé’s goals certainly dried up at the tail-end of last season but he has looked bright again at the start of this campaign and finally he has some competition with Jay Rodriquez back. I think our problems truly lie in our defence.
We'll always create chances with the attack we have but at the back we look incredibly vulnerable. MayaYoshida is not a Premier League defender and José Fonte all of a sudden looks lost without Toby Alderweireld, who moved to Spurs. A nice easy fixture like Norwich is just what we need though...
Dan: Ooooh. See what you did there. This is free-scoring (sort of), chances-galore creating Norwich you're talking about. Ronald Koeman changed it to three central defenders against Watford didn't he? Has the way you play changed a little as well because of that? Should Norwich fans be expecting a cagey approach from Southampton on Sunday?
Barny: Free scoring is pushing it, isn't it? Saying that, they've made a great start and finally Nathan Redmond is showing what he can do.
Yeah, Koeman changed it up a bit and I'm not sure why to be honest. It was probably to try and negate the over-zealous ambitions of our full-backs but I don't think we need a change in approach, more personnel in key areas. I'd expect him to go back to a normal setup at home and with it being at St Mary's we should be positive. That said, expect our full-backs to bomb on and be left exposed by Redmond and the like.
Dan: Well our full-backs spend more time level with the opposition penalty area than defending their own, so this could be the Battle Of The Full-Backs at St Mary's.
So tell us a little bit about your new signings – Cuco Martina, Jordy Clasie and Oriel Romeu. They don't seem to have featured all that much yet? Are any of them likely to start against Norwich?
Barny: Martina has come off the bench a couple of times but it seems Big RoKo is unsure of using him from the start. Clasie pulled a hamstring on his competitive debut so has been sidelined and Romeu has only just joined. Romeu could be in line to start. Of the new boys it is Cedric Soares who has impressed the most. He is Nathaniel Clyne's replacement and is a constant threat going forward.
Dan: So, what are your hopes for Southampton this season, and how much do those hopes depend on Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama staying? Norwich and Southampton also seem to be forever linked with the same centre-backs, so I assume how your season goes may depend on how well you strengthen there?
Barny: Did you have to mention more departures? Mane is definitely key and Wanyama would also be a loss but one not as keenly felt going by his performances so far this season. I'd be surprised if either went with the club sending out a pretty strong message that no more players would leave. They did the same with Morgan Schneiderlin last year and are pretty adamant.
It's all getting a bit tiresome being linked to a plethora of centre-halves, isn't it? We could definitely do with one more in which may prove decisive but some of the players linked aren't the most tantalising of prospects. Would you really be happy to spend nearly £10m on Virgil van Dijk? I'm not so sure.
Dan: Powerful defenders who don't make many mistakes seem to be getting rarer and rarer, and therefore more and more expensive. Don't think you can pay anything less than £10m for a really quality centre-back these days. Maybe we could share Van Dijk for the season? £5m each, you get him up to Christmas and then we take him off your hands.
Right, let’s finish this off with three quick questions:
Where do you expect Southampton to finish this season?
Where do you expect Norwich to finish?
Score prediction for Sunday?
Barny: Sounds like a great idea. Lovely little job share for Van Dijk!
I said at the start of the season that a top-half finish would be good for Saints and stand by that. Everyone around us is getting better and better so I expect the gap to close between 12th and 8th this year. As for Norwich, Alex Neil is doing sterling work there and I'd back them to stay up. It must be the ambition first and foremost, with anything above 17th a bonus.
As for this weekend, I have to back the boys and think we will win at home but it will be far from comfortable. I'll go for a 2-1 win in our favour.
Dan: Cheers Barny. Got a sneaky suspicion Southampton will be better off now there’s no Europa League to stretch their squad, so I think 8th to 12th sounds about right for you guys.
I’m going 1-1 at St Mary’s. Lots of good play without a cutting edge from either side.