By James Mackney @JimMackney
The problem with this season is last season…
The Saints did extraordinarily well last season. Highest points total ever in the Premier League, joint highest finish with the only bleak point being dumped out of the FA Cup to Sunderland with a whimper. We played exciting, attacking and prolific football that cemented the football club as everyone’s favourite second team much like Swansea had done a couple of seasons previously.
Then it all went a bit pear shaped.
Pochettino, the man who some believed would lead the club to domestic and European glory (I mean, seriously?) decided that he would leave as his best mate Nicola was no longer in charge and off he went to his spiritual home of Spurs. He didn’t say this but he probably meant to.
Then it got worse…
Shaw left and it was obvious why, £31m for a young but not perfect LB is fantastic money. Lallana left and conducted himself poorly and then tried to make amends by placing a photo of himself in the local paper… Lovren left and somehow managed to do an even worse job of maintaining professional conduct; I can only hope that the rest of his body has followed his head to Liverpool. Chambers left for Arsenal for £16m after playing a total of 24 first team games for the club across two seasons. Yep. Crazy. Sadly, we also let go of our chief talisman Rickie Lambert who left with a heartfelt goodbye from both parties, enjoy Liverpool Rickie you deserve it.
After taking stock…
But through all of this, we’ve actually done pretty well. We replaced Pochettino with Koeman who had done well with limited resources at his previous club Feyenoord and has achieved an over 50% win average at every club he has managed aside from Valencia and AZ. This has given him a total percentage of 55.84% after 514 games as a manager. Not bad.
In came Tadić for Lallana and Pellè for Rickie. Two signings, if they pay off that could easily be seen as an absolute steal for their relative cheapness, £10.9m and a rumoured £8.8m respectively.
Tadić struck me as an interesting buy. I will admit that I knew and still know little of him as I have spent next to no time watching the Eredivisie however the stats of each player last season were interesting.
Tadić played 33 times for FC Twente last season and on average created 4.03 clear goal scoring chances per game. Lallana notched up 38 games and averaged 1.79 chances per game. Now of course there will be an acclimatisation period for Tadić when he arrives in the Premier League but it would be odd to see Tadić’s abilities drop by two chances per game to be in-line with Lallana’s, the player after all will not lose the abilities he already possesses by just playing in the Premier League.
The starting XI against Liverpool…
I am heading to Liverpool early Sunday morning for a game where frankly we will either win in shock circumstances or we will suffer a drubbing. After watching Liverpool’s game against Borussia Dortmund my thoughts strongly favour the latter.
Here’s my predicted starting XI against Liverpool:
Looking at this team there is a strong spine running through it, with the exception of Yoshida but he should not be discounted. He is good just not quite good enough for a regular starting place. I have placed Cork there as I do not feel unless he has an almighty change of attitude this week that Koeman will give Morgan Schneiderlin his starting place back just yet. Cork is more than capable and shone at times last season in the role. Wanyama stops other teams from playing in a way that I have not seen in a Saints side for many years and his influence will be crucial if we are to stop the likes of Philippe Coutinho from cutting us wide open. I have also placed Forster in goal as a punt, this is an area where I am not sure on whom Koeman will decide but whomever he picks, Boruc or Forster, it is a position of great depth and strength. Isgrove could also replace Davis in this formation but I we’d need an experienced head to cover that position against Glenn Johnson.
We will need to play well to beat Liverpool but this seasons transfer window negotiations have lent the match a slight needle and we should look to use this to our advantage. However my score prediction is: 3-1.
The rest of the season…
Aside from Robbie Savage’s Twitter prediction vendetta that is bordering on the absurd, no one is particularly writing us off for relegation and frankly neither am I. There will be an acclimatisation period for the new players but with more incoming this week (hopefully) in the form of Steaua Bucharest CB Florin Gardos and also the heavy rumours of signing Argentinean international Marcos Rojo I feel there is a need to be optimistic. Jay Rodriguez will also return from injury and at times last season he was utterly unplayable but I do think we should also look to add another striking option to our ranks as we could well end up too reliant on Pellè otherwise.
Overall Finish Position prediction: 10th.
Closing Point: We will not be as good as last season but we have done some very good business in the transfer window and frankly I think we will be better than most of the other teams in the division. You could say we will be the worst of the top half but hey, I’ll take that. COYR!
P.S. I really want to win the FA Cup this year, Koeman don’t do a Poch.