Author Archives: Aidan Small

Match preview: Southampton vs Hull City

Southampton are coming off the back of two consecutive Premier League defeats, having faced Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. But with Hull City travelling to St Mary’s Stadium tomorrow afternoon, Southampton will be looking to right their wrongs of the last two fixtures. 

What can we expect from our upcoming opponents? I spoke with Rick, an avid Hull City blogger, to find out just that. 

Firstly, what are your thoughts on Hull City’s season so far?

I think to call it up and down would be an understatement. We’ve had times of utter despair, long runs without a win but also pulled off several shocking results and since the change of manager we’ve been on an upward trajectory.

A day before the season started, we had 13 fit players and no hope. Then we beat Leicester. A week before the end of the January transfer window, we’d sold two of our best players and signed no-one, then we brought in half of Europe on loan and we’ve played really well since. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster.

Who has been your player of the season?

Sam Clucas. We’ve had some really good performers this year, in spite of results, but Clucas has been the pick for me. We signed him from League One Chesterfield in the summer of 2016 and that was his third step up in as many seasons. He had a good year in the Championship and showed his was full of energy and versatile but he’s been outstanding this season. Playing at an elite level and showing the technical ability and composure he has in central midfield as well his usual determination and incredible workrate is exceptional. His goal last week is probably goal of the season too!

As an outsider looking in, what is your perception of Southampton this season?

It’s been a good season overall. To finish in the top half, which you should do, and reach a Cup Final is never a bad season for anyone outside the biggest 5 or 6 clubs. Some of the players signed in the summer don’t look up to your usual standard but Gabbiadini was a great buy. Going out of Europe from that group was a big missed opportunity and Saints probably could have finished higher up the league without being involved but not enough to make a difference.

If you could take any Southampton player, who would it be and why?

I’ll resist the temptation to say Shane Long, who I still adore, or Charlie Austin, who slipped through our fingers once upon a time. I think I’d go for Gabbiadini. He’s a funny looking striker but is intelligent and just has the knack of scoring goals. We’ve needed someone like that forever.

Just how big of an impact has Marco Silva had on your season?

Huge. Mike Phelan was a good guy and was let down by the owners but he was out of his depth and we’d be down already with him in charge. Silva is a breath of fresh air. He’s had an impact like Pochettino had at Saints and is making pundits look stupid in much the same way. Even before he made signings, he was getting excellent performances out of the team and certain individuals and has changed the way we press, how we squeeze up from the back and how we break at speed. Most impressively, he changes games that we’re behind in with his subs and tactical tinkering. That’s even a step up on Steve Bruce.

If you were preparing to face Hull City, what would your game plan be?

 Just play at home. The fixture list hasn’t been kind to Marco but we’re just a different team away. We counter attack well but don’t take chances and we make defensive mistakes that we don’t make at home. It’s utterly frustrating.

Do you think you have what it takes to beat the drop?

We probably need a result from one of our two home games but I think in giving ourselves a chance from an awful position – we’ve shown we’ve got what it takes. The fixtures are neither good nor bad so it’s in our hands. As usual with City though, it’s the hope that kills you.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Saturday?

Being ultra-optimistic, I think we’ll get only our second point on the road this year! 1-1.

Christopher Jullien joins Southampton’s centre-back shortlist

According to the Sun, Southampton are watching over Toulouse defender, Christopher Jullien, as a potential target for this summer transfer window.

Standing at 6 ft 4 inches, the 24-year-old plys his trade in Ligue 1, and has built up a reputation this season as a reliable and commanding centre back.

Despite this being the Frenchman’s first year in the top flight of his home country, he has missed just three game this season, featuring in 31 League fixtures – this has helped Toulouse climb up to 11th place in the table with four games still to play.

This season has been somewhat of a breakthrough year for Jullien, who prior to becoming a dependable first choice Ligue 1 centre-back, has been playing at a much lower standard.

Jullien started his senior career with Auxerre in Ligue 2, having fought his way into the first team through the academy. But after just two years with the club, the Frenchman was snapped up by Bundesliga side FC Freiburg on a free transfer. He failed to make an impact with the first team however, and went on to play 49 games for the second team, before being loaned to Ligue 2 side Dijon for the 2015-16 season. It was here that Jullien truly started to impress, and as a result, Toulouse offered him a four-year-deal in the top flight at the end of the season.

Unsurprisingly given his size, Jullien takes up a physical and combative approach to defending, often showing his greatest strengths through set pieces and aerial duels.

Jullien has also been known for his no-nonsense style of defending, showing no hesitation in clearing the ball at any cost, and having the ability to instigate attacks with long balls up to the forwards.

Jullien isn’t just effective in his own box either, as he’s managed to conjure up an impressive five goals in all competitions this season too – the same tally as both Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long!

But whilst many many be hoping that this transfer would be a nice ‘addition’ to the squad, the report states that Jullien would be signed as a replacement for Virgil Van Dijk. And whilst this may well prove to be typical gutter journalism to simply generate more clicks, my opinion of such as a transfer strategy remains unchanged; any centre-back shipped in this summer should be there to join Van Dijk, not replace him.

Southampton keeping close watch on Nathan Ake

With Virgil Van Dijk expected to be a wanted man this summer, it’s been reported that Southampton have their eyes on Chelsea’s Nathan Ake as a potential replacement.

Above: Nathan Ake wearing the Mansion sponsored AFC Bournemouth shirt – Mansion are the owner’s of the online casino platform Casino.com

Southampton Football Club aren’t expected to be alone in their pursuit of the 22-year-old however, with both The Telegraph and the Metro stating that AFC Bournemouth will also join the race for the Dutchman.

Ake’s 2016/17 season got off to a frustrating start, with his loan move at The Cherrie’s providing few first team opportunities for development – in fact, Ake failed to start in any of Bournemouth’s opening 11 League fixtures.

But with the AFC Bournemouth defence continuing to leak goals and results showing no sign of improving, Ake was called into the starting XI, and from here, their fortunes instantly changed.

Eddie Howe’s side were once again capable of playing their free-flowing football, with Ake operating as the main ball player in the back line. Better yet, results were on the up too, with wins over Stoke, Liverpool, Swansea, and Leicester, coming in quick succession.

Sadly however, just days after a thrilling 3-3 draw against Arsenal, Ake’s loan was cut short in the January transfer window, and since then, his season has come crashing down.

In the space of just a few months, Ake has gone from starting Premier League games week in week out, to becoming a third choice centre back that is yet to feature in a single minute of Premier League action. It’s safe to say that this career decision hasn’t gone to plan for Ake, and if this continues, he will surely be left with no other option but to seriously consider his future this summer.

If reports are to be believed and Ake is available this summer, then I personally would love to see Southampton make a move for the versatile defender. Not only is he strong in the tackle and mature beyond his years, but he also possesses great technical qualities that would allow him to fit seamlessly into Southampton’s back four.

When you consider that the Dutchman boasts undeniable technical ability and is also left footed, it’s worth noting that Ake could prove to be an extremely valuable asset with the recent trend of five at the back defensive systems. If Ake can reach his promised potential, then Southampton could certainly command a monstrous fee in a number of years.

One problem I hold over these reports though, is the suggestion that Ake would be Van Dijk’s replacement – let’s not forget that in January, Southampton sold club captain Jose Fonte, and failed to find a replacement. If Ake is shipped in this summer, then I would wish to see him line up alongside his fellow Dutchman come the start of the 2017/18 season.

Overview: Southampton vs Manchester City

 Claude Puel’s Southampton faced a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City yesterday, but whilst the encounter was frustrating, there is certainly no need to be worried. 

First and foremost some credit to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who quite simply, were exceptional. Whenever you leave a game following a defeat such as yesterday’s, it’s only natural to feel like you need something to blame. Of course, there were a number of factors that lead to our defeat, but sometimes, we just need to face the facts and realise that the opposition really were a class above us.

Any football fan can see the quality that Manchester City boast within their squad, and when a manager such as Guardiola is able to make those components tick, few teams are able to stop them. Right from the off, Manchester City’s midfield were free-flowing and effectively dominating possession, constantly on the hunt for dangerous pockets of space within our midfield.

Leroy Sane, in particular, was immense on the left wing, providing composure when working from deep and controlled flair when driving at the defence. Cedric Soares would be considered a rather pacey full back by many, but on numerous occasions, the sheer speed of the German International was just too much for Cedric to handle. On top of this, Sergio Aguero’s movement was typically flawless, whilst Kevin De Bruyne’s vision and final ball were just too much to counter.

Southampton’s game plan was clear from the start; they would sit deep, soak up the pressure, and look to break with speed through Redmond or either full back. And in all honesty, this makes sense. Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida have picked up form in recent fixtures, but to have played a high line against Sane and Aguero would have been defensive suicide.

For arguably the first 80 minutes, Southampton’s defence genuinely held a rather strong defensive line, and given City’s quality and pace in attack, allowed very few runners in behind. We sat deep effectively and certainly soaked the pressure too, however, our issue’s came with breaking. On the rare occasion that we would eventually win the ball back in a dangerous zone, our passes failed to truly penetrate City’s defensive lines, with Vicent Kompany and co alive to almost every loose ball.

Southampton failed to consistently break away, and much of this was greatly down to Guardiola’s demands of his City side, who are expected to recover the ball at lightning speed – a plan that was executed superbly yesterday by both the midfield and defence. It’s worth noting however that the absence of Oriol Romeu, Southampton’s main destructive midfielder, would have certainly gifted City more attacking joy, whilst also reducing the number of promising ball recoveries for Southampton. On multiple occasions this season the Spaniard has shown his tendency to initiate counter attacks with a smart interception or crunching tackle, and that’s exactly what we needed.

As the game came to a close, I started seeing more and more fans suggesting that we should have stepped higher up the field and pushed City further back to their box. But in all honesty, I couldn’t disagree more.

Firstly because Romeu’s absence would leave a gaping hole between the midfield and defence, and secondly because for City, this would have been a case of anything you can do, we can do better. By forcefully aiming to go on the front foot, Southampton would most certainly leave gaps in behind themselves, and whilst this may create a number of chances, players such as Silva and De Bruyne would no doubt occupy these gaps – something that no defender ever wants to handle. Without Romeu, such an approach to the game would be mindless gambling.

This was illustrated in the later stages of the game when James Ward-Prowse was replaced by Shane Long in the 60th minute, and consequently, Southampton naturally took up a more offensive approach to the game. We went from having a strong and structured team shape in the first 60 minutes, to creating pockets of space for City to exploit and charge at.

Whilst Ward-Prowse provided little attacking threat, he put in a mature performance that allowed Southampton’s midfield to hold their shape, which when playing a team of City’s calibre, is a very important quality to boast. Even more recently against AFC Bournemouth, the very same thing happened after Ward-Prowse was once again substituted. There’s a lesson to be learnt here – either Puel substitutes another attacking player, or Ward-Prowse is replaced by someone who can carry out a similar role.

Yesterday was an extremely frustrating game, and just like any other fan, I always want to see us win. All in all, however, I would say that yesterday was more of a reflection of Manchester City’s talent, rather than Southampton’s shortcoming’s.

We’ve dealt with far bigger blows since our return to the Premier League, and I’m certain that this won’t harm us during our final run-in to the season.

Maya Yoshida: from bench-warmer to first-team baller

Since signing for Southampton Football Club in 2012, Maya Yoshida has faced exceptional competition, brutal criticism, and countless hurdles to worm his way back into the side. But in this very moment, the Japanese International is in the finest form of his career, and one by one, is stealing the hearts of each and every Southampton fan.

The January transfer window was a hard pill to swallow. Whilst the club managed to solve it’s goalscoring woes with the acquisition of Manolo Gabbiadini, Southampton finished the January transfer window having failed to find a replacement for club captain, Jose Fonte.

But when one door closes, another door is opened.

Following the departure of Jose Fonte to West Ham and a season ending injury to Virgil Van Dijk, someone had to step up. Southampton’s defensive options had been stripped down to the bare bones, and they were left with no other option but to find a leader from within. That someone has been Maya Yoshida.

Since being handed the responsibility of leading the backline, Yoshida has well and truly flourished into a player that few Southampton fans would have ever anticipated. I’m sure I won’t be alone in thinking that Yoshida’s recent performances have surpassed all initial expectations.

In seasons gone by, Yoshida has been the first port of call when injuries strike the first team, but truth be told, this was a situation that many fans would ultimately dread. He’s certainly not quick off the line, is no man mountain, is hasty in one v one’s, and when it comes to promoting an attractive brand of football, there are many players better for doing so in the Premier League.

This season however, Yoshida has a new-found confidence and is playing with more intelligence than ever before. In terms of his physicality and technical ability, little has changed from previous years, but the difference now is that Yoshida’s decision making and anticipation is that of an experienced Premier League defender.

When Yoshida would previously panic with the ball in tight and tricky situations, he would now remain composed and maintain possession in an effective manner. And in those moments when he used to gain a rush of blood and step too high out of the defence, he now holds the line and time’s his tackle.

Yoshida is a limited defender, but with staggering dedication and countless hours on the training ground, he has risen to the challenge of starting regular Premier League fixtures.

It’s also worth noting that whilst Yoshida has had to focus on proving his own worth, he’s had to take England U21 International, Jack Stephens, under his wing too. It’s hard enough trying to effectively make your own mark in a top flight side, let alone having to ensure that a youngster does so too.

And whilst yes, I do still believe that defensive reinforcements were required in January, that mistake from the club is now in the past. From February 1st, we could only work with what we have, and given those circumstances, Puel, Yoshida, and Stephens have done a fantastic job.

Let’s not get carried away, there is still plenty of room for improvement, and this current partnership is obviously levels below the Fonte/Van Dijk duo of last season. However, how can’t you be delighted that we are showing defensive solidarity with what would have been our third and fourth choice centre backs at the start of this season.

Yoshida’s development has been thrilling, and not least because we now boast an extremely dependable third choice centre back for next season. For such a role, a player of Yoshida’s current qualities are incredibly useful; he never struggles with fitness, is a valuable member within the squad, is understanding with squad rotation, and as proven in recent months, can be trusted over the course of 90 minutes.

When this summer comes around, Southampton Football Club’s main priority in the transfer market should still be finding a partner for Virgil Van Dijk. But through Fonte’s departure and Van Dijk’s injury, Yoshida has been presented the opportunity to earn himself a new contract and an important role within the squad, and my god has he grabbed it with both hands.

Southampton youngster Gallagher in high demand

According to the express, Sam Gallagher will prove to be a wanted man this summer, with Aston Villa reportedly interested in lodging a £3m bid.

Steve Bruce won’t be short of competition for Gallagher’s signature however, with Sunderland, Sheffield United, and Cardiff also rumoured to be in the race to sign the 21-year-old.

Gallagher has been in fine form so far this season, netting 10 goals in 35 Championship appearances, placing a number of experienced players out of the the Rovers starting XI.

This goal record is made all the more impressive when you consider that this is only Gallagher’s second pop at the Championship, and he’s doing so in a relegation dog fight. Many would suggest that in such a situation, experienced players are the ones you should turn to, but Gallagher is certainly proving to be an exception.

During a recent interview with Rovers playerHD, Rovers boss Tony Mowbray heaped praise upon the young talisman’s performances in blue and white. 

“The supporters won’t necessarily know his personality but he looks you right in the eye and he wants to work hard, he wants to be a better footballer, he wants to listen and try and improve every day.

“They are fantastic qualities for a young guy to have really, he knows he’s not the finished article, he’s not sure about when to play deep away from defenders, when to use his physicality up against them, and when to use his speed.

He’s got some fantastic attributes that are going to make him a hell of a footballer in a few years time. A guy who can do everything, out-strength you, out-run you. Hopefully he can become cleverer with his movement, he is going to be some player.”

Mowbray even went on to praise Southampton’s handling of the youngster, stating “I think his club have done right in letting him go and play games, otherwise the development is not as fast in the Under-23 league. So we are delighted we’ve got him.”

The bottom line however, is that Gallagher is obviously still a Southampton player, and therefore, there is a big decision to be made this summer.

Southampton Football Club prides itself on it’s youth development, and if they had their own way, then Gallagher would of course be successfully eased into the first team. But Gallagher can only be as good as the opportunities handed to him, and with a current frontline of Manolo Gabbiadini, Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez, and Charlie Austin, opportunities would certainly be arriving at a premium.

It’s also worth considering the fact that Gallagher has thrived upon regular competitive football, which is something that he is highly unlikely to receive at Southampton. Returning to his parent club may in fact stunt his development.

On top of this, with Claude Puel’s need for a more technically able striker in the side, Ryan Seager may well be the preferred option in Southampton’s current system.

When this summer arrives, I simply hope that Southampton can find the greatest path for Gallagher to continue his recent development – something I know that our club will whole heartedly be behind.

Analysis: James Ward-Prowse’s latest role under Claude Puel

An England call up, a goal at the weekend, and arguably in the finest form of his Southampton career so far – like so many other academy graduates before him, James Ward-Prowse is truly starting to turn potential into performance.

Following a 3-1 defeat to West Ham on the 4th of February, Claude Puel opted for a 4231 system ahead of his side’s visit to the Stadium of Light – a decision that would see Southampton play with organisation, bravery, and attacking flair, in a promising 4-0 win away from home. It was clear for all to see that Southampton now had a platform to build upon with this change in system, and consequently, this formation carried over into the League Cup final against Manchester United.

Southampton ensured to play their own style for large quantities of the game, having the confidence to effectively dominate possession and counter against a robust Jose Mourinho set up. Southampton had proven that they weren’t phased by the occasion, and left each and every fan proud at the final whistle, despite going on to lose 3-2. Just six days later however, a spirited Southampton side once again returned against Watford, removing any doubt of cup final heartbreak with a 4-3 victory.

As for last weekend, Southampton tasted defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, but not for the want of trying. Puel’s side put in a stellar second half performance and asked all kinds of questions from a team that hasn’t lost at home since May 2016; any guesses for who that defeat came against?

But whilst Manolo Gabbiadini’s goals have obviously taken the headlines, the balance and creativity that Ward-Prowse currently offers has been vital to this season changing form.

Quite simply, Claude Puel has identified Ward-Prowse’s greatest strengths on the field, and is aiming to utilise them as much as physically possible.

Operating as the right-sided midfielder in a 4231 system (right), Puel is able to make the most of Ward-Prowse’s greatest skill sets; his wide passing range, his crossing ability, and his reading of the game.

When playing as a central midfielder in the Premier League, Ward-Prowse would often lack the physicality and intensity required to string together a number of consistently strong performances. But in this particular role as a right midfielder, Ward-Prowse’s need for physicality and a high intensity is greatly reduced, allowing him to play in a system that is better suited to his natural strengths.

Within the frontline, each player has their own tailor-made responsibilities. Gabbiadini’s role is to find space in the box, Tadic is the sides main creative outlet, Redmond is there to ask questions of the defence with his pace, whilst Ward-Prowse is there to distribute and create effectively.

Puel doesn’t want Ward-Prowse to try any fancy tricks, or even aim to beat his man. Instead, he wants Ward-Prowse to receive the ball in high and wide areas that are ideal for his immense deliveries. Simply take a look at the image below from Southampton’s Cup Final clash against Manchester United – Ward-Prowse hunted for space in a wide area and is now setting himself up to play a first time cross into the feet of Gabbiadini.

This is a series of play that I expect to become a regular feature in Puel’s Southampton side, especially with Gabbiadini’s illusive movement.

Using pass maps from the excellent 11tegen11, we are able to see Ward-Prowse’s average position on the ball, number of touches in comparison to teammates, and the number of passes to fellow teammates.

As shown on the right, Ward-Prowse’s average position on the ball in the game against Sunderland is extremely advanced. In fact, he is level with our centre forward, Gabbiadini. This reinforces my assumption of Puel’s demands from Ward-Prowse, as clearly he is being instructed to initially receive the ball in dangerous advanced areas.

If we once again look to the pass map, we can also see that Ward-prowse and Cedric Soares are exchanging passes and connecting on a regular basis (as illustrated by the larger arrows between one another). Given that the full backs are a vital attacking component in Puel’s system, this is extremely encouraging.

Cedric has received plenty of praise in recent weeks, and perhaps Ward-Prowse’s availability off the ball has helped him to attack so effectively. Ward-prowse has the option to either send Cedric down the line to deliver a cross, or to whip the ball in himself from a Cedric cut back – both of which have proven to be consistently threatening in recent fixtures.

This pass map isn’t an anomaly either, as my analysis also fits into the narrative of the Tottenham Hotspur and Watford pass maps too.

When needed, the 22-year-old is even able to slot into the midfield with Oriol Romeu and Steven Davis, for those particularly tough periods in a game when midfield dominance is key.

And of course, with Ward-Prowse now starting most games, there is also the added benefit of being able to utilise his sensational set-piece deliveries. Within the Premier League, only Kevin De Bruyne and Christian Eriksen spring to mind as being superior in that department.

For the first time in his Southampton career, it appears that Ward-Prowse is having the system altered to his game, rather than altering his game to the system. It’s a promising change that with continual support and guidance from Claude Puel, can hopefully take one of England’s brightest young talents to the next level.

Q&A: Tottenham Hotspur vs Southampton

The introduction of Manolo Gabbiadini has sparked Claude Puel’s side into life, placing confidence into each and every Southampton fan. Having spent much of the season ruing their missed chances, Southampton now find themselves in free-scoring form – striking the back of the net 10 times in their last three fixtures. But when your upcoming opponents are sitting 2nd in the League and have scored an impressive 13 goals from their last three clashes, Southampton sure do have one hell of a challenge on their hands.

To find out more about this weekend’s opponents, we spoke with Nikhil Saglani – a Tottenham Hotspur fan and writer for Yahoo Sport.

Firstly, what are your thoughts on Tottenham’s season so far?

It’s been very mixed! Both European competitions were a disaster – and whilst many use Wembley as an excuse, it can’t take the full brunt of the blame. However, the league campaign has been markedly better. We’ve only lost three times in the league – all away at top six sides – but are unbeaten at White Hart Lane, which will give the squad and fans a lot of confidence going to the game, even without Harry Kane!

Who has been your player of the season?

It’s a toss up between Kyle Walker and Victor Wanyama. I’m going to say the former purely because he’s been a tad more consistent. Walker has put in numerous outstanding performances from right back and right wing-back, a position in which he’s taken his game to another level going forwards, but defensively too.

As an outsider looking in, what is your perception of Southampton this season?

It seems like it’s been a really disappointing season in the Premier League and Europa League, but I’m sure the cup final and the day at Wembley will be a great memory – despite the result! I can’t say I’ve watched you incredibly closely but I know Claude Puel’s not had the immediate impact that Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman had when they first joined, but it seems like things have improved recently, especially after the signing of Manolo Gabbiadini.

If you could take any Southampton player, who would it be and why?

This is a tough one as I’d say Virgil Van Dijk is most probably your best player, but our biggest problem position is up front – where I’d like another striker. Having said that, I’ll go for Van Dijk as he’d slot into our back three seamlessly, adding an extra bit of experience and depth to the side.

What have you made of former Saint, Victor Wanyama, during his first season?

When he joined us in the summer, many thought he’d be a strong squad player behind Eric Dier but he’s forced his way into the side and been incredibly solid – improving our incredible defence from last season and taking it to the next level. He’s also been a key reason in why we’ve transitioned so well into the 3-4-3 formation, putting in excellent shifts next to both Mousa Dembele and Harry Winks. And he’s also chipped in with three goals; without getting sent off!

How does a team typically need to play in order to beat Spurs?

Stop us playing. Manchester United and Manchester City did it perfectly at their own grounds. If you get in our faces and stop the likes of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Dembele and the full backs from getting on the ball, you will enjoy some success. However, that’s far easier said than done. With Kane out, I’d expect Heung-min Son to step in in a ‘false nine’ role and he’s arguably more lively than Kane, always moving between the lines and out wide too. His footwork is incredible and, more often than not, he has a lethal strike on him. Kane being out is a huge blow, but with the goalscoring form of Alli and Son, we may be able to cope okay.

What would make for a successful end to the season?

We have to finish in the top four, because we need to keep achieving Champions League to attract a better level of player to White Hart Lane. We’d all love to win the FA Cup too, but it won’t be an easy task with Chelsea in the semi-final and Arsenal/Manchester City in the final! If we get both, it’ll be an incredible season. But even just one of them will be impressive. This side, and Pochettino, need a trophy – but it’d be a shame to miss out on the top four now.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

If we had Kane, I’d have said a very comfortable Spurs win. We’ve been on fire at home in 2017, scoring 26 goals in eight games at the Lane since the turn of the year. In the two games he didn’t play, albeit, against Wycombe Wanderers and Millwall (where he played five minutes), we scored 10. Despite our main man not being there, I’m going to say 2-0 to Spurs.

One lion in and one lion out?

We may have over three months until the summer transfer window officially opens, but rumours are already circulating regarding two England Internationals – one reportedly coming to St Mary’s, and the other departing.

According to numerous sources – including the Sun – Southampton are plotting a move for England’s number one, Joe Hart, in the event of Fraser Forster leaving the club this summer. And whilst this is a report that lacks little substance at the minute *cough* The Sun *cough*, It’s certainly an interesting topic to debate.

It goes without saying that over the course of the season so far, Forster has been far from impressive. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he’s been our most disappointing player over the 2016/17 campaign.

On multiple occasions this season Southampton have dominated the match, finally snatched their reward, and then just moments later, witnessed it crumble before their very eyes. Time and time again, Forster has failed to step up in those all important game-changing moments, and quite frankly, it’s cost us dearly this season.

With the acquisition of Hart however, I strongly believe that those problems would be no more. Since 2006, Hart has made 266 top flight appearances for Manchester City, proving himself to be one of the Premier League’s top keepers in recent years. He’s received two Premier League winners medals, has won the golden glove on four occasions, and has been voted into the PFA team of the season twice over. 

Admittedly, Hart has shown from time to time he is prone to a howler, and he did have a horror show during the Euros of 2016, but his countless game saving performances of the past can’t simply be forgotten. The 29-year-old has certainly bounced back to form with his loan move at Torino, too. 

On top of this, Hart has shown great professionalism during his saga with Pep Guardiola, and a quality such as this would certainly be welcome at Southampton.

It’s also worth noting that Dave Watson, Southampton’s goalkeeper coach, was part of the England staff from 2012 to 2016, so has personally worked with Hart over each International break. Such a figure could be helpful in recommending Hart to Claude Puel, whilst also recommending Southampton to Hart.  

At this moment in time, Forster boasts the lowest save percentage for any goalkeeper in the Premier League, and if this form continues, then we will be left with few other options than to sign a replacement this summer.

Between now and the end of the season, I would love nothing more than to see Forster once again strike confidence into the Southampton defence. But if this isn’t the case, how can we possibly be expected to not swoop for a player of Hart’s pedigree?

Gabbiadini on his start to life in the Premier League

It’s fairly safe to say that since arriving on the South Coast on January 31st, Manolo Gabbiadini has flipped Southampton’s season right on it’s head.

Having scored six goals in just four appearances, the Italian International’s influence on the side is clear for all to see, but he’s done far more than just put the ball in the back of the net. With thanks to his attacking intelligence, Gabbiadini has removed the previous lethargic and lacklustre style, and replaced it with a fluid and expressive front-line.

At this moment in time each and every Southampton fan is in cloud nine with their clubs new talisman, and judging by his latest interview with Sky Italia, it seems that Gabbiadini is rather happy too…

“I didn’t expect (to start this well) either!” said Gabbiadini.

“I’ve completely changed brand of football. Everything is completely different here – the city, my teammates… I didn’t think I’d start like this. I have to thank all of my teammates and the coach, who are fantastic, and they’ve all gone out of their way to help. The difference with Italy is it’s all fun here both for us and the fans whether you win or lose. What matters is giving 100%, that’s the only way you can make the supporters happy.

“I couldn’t go on living that life and constantly being on the bench. Come full time, I’d go home and I was always down because I didn’t feel a part of it – I felt horrible. When I left, I told myself that I had to make a fresh start and prove to myself that I could still play football. It would have become really hard had I waited another six months.”

Well, Manolo, I can assure you that you wont be returning to the bench anytime soon.