The Opposition View - Southampton
1) In a nutshell, sum up your season so far?
After what was a bright start in terms of our commitment, drive and determination, even though results weren't going for us, we seemed to lose some of that and in many ways started to play with less commitment against sides that we could well have got results from - with the same commitment one or two losses may have been turned into draws. But thankfully that spirit seems to have returned of late and we've picked up a couple of good wins, or ensured we got a point from a game we could well have lost had it came a few months back.
Despite all that, it's a learning curve for us and we do seem to be learning now, but the important thing is we are only a point or two away from climbing out of the bottom three, so we have kept ourselves within touching distance of some of the clubs above us, which hopefully we can capitalise on in the coming games.
That wasn't quite a nutshell, so simply, the negatives have probably outweighed the positives so far, so whilst everyone is disappointed there's a belief we can turn it round, and as I've said along, surviving by goal difference would be enough for us this season in my opinion.
2) Who are the player/s to look out for in your side?
We're a team of obvious players when it comes to this question. Jason Puncheon is really finding some form and making a nuisance of himself. Lambert speaks for himself in terms of how he can change a game and the damage he can do. Lallana is probably the player who has improved the most during our recent run, and of course the big money Gaston Ramirez is now starting to find his feet and some good form, and showing himself to be a real potential danger for the opposition.
Also worth keeping an eye on James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw who for their ages, are showing themselves more than capable in this division, and I suspect they will both have good careers ahead of them.
3) As we approach the half way mark in the season, where do you think you will end up?
I think ultimately we are destined to end up below 15 place at best. I don't see a late charge up the table unless we invest in some good experienced players in the January window who can bring that Premiership savvy onto the pitch to help us nick more wins, or play cleverly when we are ahead to shut down the opposition - but Adkins has his ethos on how a team should play football and that sort of savvy (running the corners, timewasting etc) would be very much against how he wants us to play.
All that said, I think there is enough about us to finish outside of the bottom three even if goal difference is the defining reason.
It sounds obvious to say but we are in that daft position where even a season's experience in the league could see us automatically gain 2-3 league placings if we had our time over again, which is why it's imperative we remain in the league to continue building.
4) What are your strengths and weaknesses as a team?
Strengths are our spirit when the boys literally go to war for each other to ensure both the performance but also the result. Our main weakness is still inexperience, dodgy decision making and given our position a subtle lack of confidence where you see players wasting chances that you know full well last season they'd have probably buried with their eyes shut.
5) Who has been your best signing in the summer and why?
For me I'd go for Nathaniel Clyne simply because he's slotted in arguably with the most consistency. Ramirez looks good and will be a big player for us, but he's still bedding in after injury interrupted his adjustment to the league, and the likes of Yoshida are starting to show their quality but it's been a bit of a time coming. Clyne to me seems to have adjusted very naturally, albeit he hasn't been free from errors himself.
6) What position would you like to strengthen in January and any players names that spring to mind?
The names that spring to mind unfortunately are players I don't see us being able to attract until we've at least shown we can compete and survive in the league, so I would hope we continue to scout for youngsters from the lower leagues whilst also looking sensibly in Europe for players we can attract based on being in the league itself. Positionally I'd be all for another experienced centre half to help guide our youngsters but also the older players who are new to the league, so they can fully adjust a touch quicker. Maybe a more typical midfield general would also serve us well to give us that experienced option when we are trying to hold a game.
7) If you could offload any player from your team, who would it be and why?
At the moment I wouldn't shift anyone. I think everyone will have their part to play as the season progresses, and those not in the team at the moment, Hooiveld for example who's had a bit of a nightmare start with own goals, I can see being called on again but having learnt a hell of a lot from the experience so will come back stronger.
Assuming we survive, the summer would be the right time to look at who we'd let go, based on whether we can get a higher calibre replacement, but at the moment we need everyone.
8) What Reading player do you rate the most and why?
Now he's returned I have to plump for Nicky Shorey. I think he's been a touch unfortunate in shifting around clubs in the Premiership because whilst he's not a spectacular player, I think he's a very steady one who rarely let's you down. He does the basics and does what you expect him to with few frills and without really catching the eye normally.
9) Expected line up for the game?
I'd expect the same team mainly as what started against Liverpool. I do think Adkins might make one or two changes, maybe Davis for Cork for his experience, and then maybe Rodriguez for Lambert thinking your defence will be drilled in dealing with Lambert and might catch you on the hop.
10) What's your prediction for the game?
Before the United match I was quietly confident that this would be another game where we clicked properly so would've have gone for 3-1. But seeing how you performed and pushed United I think it's more likely that you'll have taken a hell of a confidence boost from that so really will be up for getting the right result this time round.
Head says we might well cancel each other out so 0-0 with both sides not wanting to open up too far for fear of being punished and maintaining a 100% loss record for December.
Heart however hopes we can capitalise on an error and sneak the game 1-0.
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