With the international break finally over, Premier League football returns to St Mary’s this weekend, as Southampton prepare to face Watford.
The two sides drew their first game of the season and went on to win their second, before both were held to a goalless draw by a newly promoted outfit. The similarities don’t stop there either, as both Southampton and Watford have made managerial changes since they last met in the 2016/17 season. Mauricio Pellegrino is of course in charge of the Saints, whilst Marco Silva – once reportedly wanted on the South Coast – is the boss of the Hornets.
During the pre-Watford press conference, Mauricio Pellegrino confirmed that Virgil Van Dijk has returned to training with the first team, whilst Matt Targett has also recovered from his injury troubles. This means that the entire Southampton squad currently boasts a clean bill of health.
But in order to find out more about our upcoming opponents, I spoke to The Golden Pages – a Watford FC fanzine produced by the fans, for the fans.
It’s very much early days, but what have you made of the season so far?
It’s been a positive start. The opening day draw against Liverpool was an unexpected point and I don’t think many had us down to win at Bournemouth. The draw to Brighton was disappointing, but we can put that down to Britos being sent off because of an idiotic challenge.
How did you rate Watford’s dealings in the summer transfer window?
Fantastic. I’d go as far to say we had one of the best windows of all clubs in the Premier League. Nathaniel Chalobah at £5m may well be the bargain of the summer, while Will Hughes and our new winger Richarlison also look like excellent acquisitions at very reasonable prices. The only criticism may be that we didn’t strengthen our defence enough, but hopefully the late arrivals of Molla Wague and Marvin Zeegelaar are up to the job.
Once upon a time Southampton also had Marco Silva on their watch-list; what have you made of the boss so far?
It is early days, but he’s showing good signs. We seem to know exactly how we want to set up our team, and we have signed many of the players we need to play this way. Silva’s rapport with our fans has already surpassed what Walter Mazzarri managed in a year, helped hugely by the fact he speaks the English language.
Who do you expect to be your key man this year?
Abdoulaye Doucoure in the centre of midfield has been a beast so far, and I would put my money on him to be our player of the season. However, Richarlison’s flair coupled with his ability to get stuck in will almost certainly make him a key player for us going forward.
Where is the weak point in your side? and how do opposition teams typically find joy against your defence?
Our defence has struggled for some time. We have a lot of capable defenders, but very few great ones, and for this reason we often get caught out. We pick up plenty of injuries too, meaning we rarely have the same back four play together for an extended duration, and our full-backs seem to enjoy going forward more than actually defending.
What would make for a successful season?
This year we will be hoping to avoid relegation again, and that has to be viewed as an acceptable season. But with the squad we now have, and Silva in charge, we will be looking towards mid table rather than a relegation dog fight.
Which player from this Southampton side would you take to join the Hornets?
Virgil van Dijk would be more than welcome. Some top clubs were in for him this summer and we could really use a top defender at the back.
And finally, what do you think the score will be this Saturday?
I think we could get a result if we set up the right way. We’ve got goals in us but we still can’t defend. I’ll say 2-2.