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PRESS PREVIEW: SOUTHAMPTON

30 January 2018

Rex/Shutterstock
Southampton celebrate scoring against Watford in the Premier League.

Adam Leitch from the Daily Echo gives us the lowdown on Wednesday evening’s opponents at St Mary’s Stadium.

Two FA Cup wins but the last league victory was in November at home to Everton – assessment of the campaign so far? 

The results haven’t been at the level they would have hoped for – having finished in the top half over the last three years, having a relegation fight probably wasn’t on their minds. But that’s where they find themselves, so they have to get on with the task now.

They’ve got 14 games to go and it’s starting to focus minds slightly now when you look at the table. It’s a huge week because they’ve got Brighton and then West Brom on Saturday, and they’ve got a tough run in.

The majority of their away games are against sides around them and there’s a feeling that it’s imperative they pick up points this week.

What were the objectives of the side last year – finished eighth and got to a cup final so lofty targets to meet?

The objectives before the start of the season would have been about the same as the last few years. Everyone knows the top six sides will dominate the upper parts of the league and normal service has been resumed this year with regard to those sides. 

That’s where the expectation was at the start of the season, but even a couple of wins will put you in the top half because it’s a bit of a crazy table. 

Southampton have only won four league matches all year and that has to change for them – if they can get some momentum you wouldn’t rule out a top-half finish, but they have to start winning now. 

After arriving at the club in the summer – Mauricio Pellegrino’s time in charge so far hasn’t gone as smoothly as he would have hoped?

He’s a good guy and he’s popular with the players. He’s been a bit of a victim of circumstance in many ways with the sky-high expectations.

His predecessor was deemed to play negative football and when he was appointed it was said he was going to bring back exciting football, but he’s proved to be conservative in his selections.

But they were always going to have a difficult season at some point – they were winning year after year by finishing ‘best of the rest’ – not many sides have done that three years in a row, so the margins of the division are so fine and if you have even the slightest drop off, you can find yourself down the bottom and that’s what’s happened. 

Who’s the one to watch?

I’d say Dusan Tadic – he’s a very important player. He’s capable of scoring goals and even more capable of providing assists. He’s got good link-up play with whoever is upfront and when they get him on the ball he can make things happen for the side.

 

He’s quite creative and in recent seasons his work-rate has really improved as well – in some ways that creativity may have dropped slightly whilst the other has increased, but I think he holds a lot of the answers for the side if they can get him on the ball.

Will the side stay up? 

I think they will and I’ve thought that throughout this season. It’s so tight at the bottom of the table – I think they’ll pick up enough wins to keep their head above water in the latter half of the campaign. 

They have quality and a realisation about where they are and I sense an extra spirit and unity from the players – it may only be a small upturn but there has been one – if they can keep that going it will be enough.


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