TLO: So...Virgil van Dijk?
SMM: So… Philippe Coutinho?
TLO: You can’t have him and neither can Barcelona! He’s OURS ya hear? OURS!… but how about now? Can we have VVD? Pleeeeeeease?
SMM: For £75-million at rock bottom value Virgil van Dijk is all yours - we honestly need the money to invest in an out and out striker.
TLO: Cool, glad that’s finally settled. After years of pushing knocking on the door of the Top 6 (and European competition), you're now mired in 13th with a -2 goal differential. What is going wrong so far, and what areas desperately need improvement?
SMM: There’s a handful of things going wrong and that has led to really uncharacteristic losses in the first half of the season. For starters, our manager is out of his depth. Don’t know what we’re paying, but if all it takes to manage in the Premier League is to throw on an attacking player in a 0-0 game when your opponent has brought on two defenders and you’re called a genius -- sign me up because I need the extra ego boost.
Yes, Mauricio Pellegrino makes the right decision eventually, but it normally comes five or 10 minutes after the fact, and that has cost us points, notably against Burnley when -- let’s face it -- we all had an inkling going in that it was setting up for a late 1-0 winner for them.
Whilst our attack continues to pose a problem, it is in goal where we’re having a huge confidence issue. Fraser Forster was pushing Joe Hart to be the England number one last season, but has taken a massive step backward and the slope has been slippery. It would be harsh to completely blame him, yet he’s our last line of defence and when he’s shown his quality he is one of the better keepers in the Premier League. However, when he doesn’t show that, you get soft goals and if feels like everything heading his way is going in.
So goalkeeping is a desperate need for improvement whether it be Forster getting his head out of his butt or bringing someone in to put pressure on him. At the minute we’re scoring less than a goal a game so if he lets one in you think the BEST possible outcome is a draw. Or the other way - if we score one goal, he’s bound to let a softy in and the BEST possible outcome is a draw.
We need to find points and find points fast.
TLO: Southampton have brought through an impressive array of managers to keep things ticking along in recent years (well, impressive until Koeman shat the bed at Everton, but I digress), did the club make a misstep in bringing in Pellegrino?
SMM: It’s hard to tell completely if the club made a misstep in bringing Pellegrino or if the board just didn’t give him the squad to be successful with. He basically has the exact same squad that got Claude Puel fired after just one season and the same issues are there. Whether it is personnel or the manager, there’s been a breakdown and the remedy is get someone in who can work with what he’s got or hope we make it to January out of a relegation battle.
Either way, it is evident that Puel is a far better manager than Saints seemed to have given him credit for. Look what he’s already done with Leicester, which includes a squad with a proper striker -- who might a bellend -- but knows where the goal is.
TLO: Only 9 goals in 11 matches so far. What do you have to do to start scoring? (Other than playing Liverpool every week?)
SMM: To be honest there’s not a lot of confidence going into Saturday if you read the diabolical SaintsFC hashtag. People are adamant that Liverpool will put three or four past us. We just don’t have anyone who looks like they’re going to score. The club bigged up Shane Long for coming and playing 15 minutes without a goal in the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers and that pretty much sums up our attack. Embarrassing and toothless.
The best case scenario is that someone catches fire -- not literally -- and starts hitting the back of the net. We’re at desperation stage and Charlie Austin needs to get a start because he offers us something completely different to Manolo Gabbiadini, who, despite two goals, just hasn’t replicated his magical run at the end of last year.
TLO: Speaking of our, and I'm only using this term loosely, "defense": who should we worry about from the Saints?
SMM: The cat that wanders Staplewood has a better chance of scoring than any of our players right now. … But in all honestly, I think Nathan Redmond could be a thorn in the side of whoever Jurgen Klopp starts. He proved in the League Cup last season that he’s more than capable of turning in a solid performance against Liverpool, and he’s had a decent last few outings, but just no end product. If he pinch a weak goal or set one up, then that’s gravy.
TLO: On the flip side, what's the best way to finally score a damned goal against you lot? Voodoo? Witchcraft? Actually converting a pen?
SMM: Best way to finally score against us? Hope that Forster remembered to pick up cement from B&Q on his way home from training -- I don’t think he’s run out, but an extra glob full and you’ll put a few past him.
TLO: With January fast approaching, will there be any movement either incoming or outgoing (eh-hem) players in the transfer window?
SMM: Van Dijk rumours are already flying about and we’re only in the middle of November. I expect someone to be brought in, but it’ll mean someone going out, and that someone could be a certain Dutch defender. To Liverpool? I doubt it, though I hope it happens so the SaintsFC hashtag can go into meltdown. I also hope Leicester finish above us with Puel so the SaintsFC hashtag can go into a meltdown. I’m just praying for a meltdown because it is far more entertaining.
TLO: We agree, meltdowns are fun. Which current Saints player will cause a meltdown when they’re inevitably donning Red in 2019?
SMM: Mario Lemina. The boy has made a great start to the season and has been a boss for us in midfield. Shame he’ll end up winning the Fans’ Player of the Year award … Two years running that would make it with a defensive midfielder winning it. What a life -- says a lot about our attack!
TLO: And finally: prediction?
SMM: I’ll also say 3-1 to Liverpool. It’ll be 2-1 and you’ll add a late goal.
TLO: A Liverpool clean sheet. Wise choice. Good luck after Saturday!
You can find the reverse fixture where I answer Allen’s question’s here.