Wolves are back in action again this weekend – with Southampton coming to town. We spoke to Southampton writer Dan Hargraves to get his lowdown on all things Saints.
How has the start of the season gone for you?
I don’t think any Saints fans can complain about our start really. Seven points from five games with three of last season’s top six in there as well as a Leicester side full to top players and a Leeds team who have started well. Our new players have all gelled instantly and we look like a solid team who will be hard to beat this year.
Are you happy with the transfer business that’s been conducted by your club?
I’m happy, but a statement signing would make me delighted. It’s been the first summer under our new ownership Sport Republic and although we haven’t got crazy money available to spend, we’ve purchased players who fit our ethos whilst next to no players have left (yet). The only criticism I’d have is that we’re yet to break our transfer record which, in modern terms, is pretty low at £20m, with us in desperate need of a top striker, although that could change in the final days of the window.
What is your opinion on your manager?
I’ve always liked Ralph Hasenhuttl as a person but there were plenty of doubts at the end of last season that he was the man to take us to the next step. Instead, the club opted to change the backroom team and it’s looking to pay off. I will always want Ralph to succeed at Saints but he has been known to struggle to break bad habits whether that be team selection, formation change or in-game management. It’s been a good start but let’s see if he’s finally learned his lessons in a couple of weeks.
What is your team’s typical formation and style of play?
Generally, a 4-2-2-2 has been trademark with Hasenhuttl but we’re currently playing with a 4-3-3 that can be moulded into a 4-2-2-2 or a bit of a 4-2-3-1 mid-game. He experimented with a back-five throughout pre-season and in the first two games of the season but it clearly didn’t work and the new set-up has earned us our seven points.
Which player do you tip to have a big season for your team?
There are a couple of our new signings who have looked excellent but I’m going to back new defender Armel Bella-Kotchap. At just 20 years of age, the German has been an absolute monster at the back alongside Mohamed Salisu and has seriously impressed early on in the season. Leaking goals has been a major issue for Southampton for a number of seasons now and it’s a habit they’ll need to break to progress. Let’s see if he’s the long-awaited solution.
How do you think you will do this season?
Despite a good start and an impressive transfer window, I still think the league is ridiculously competitive and a top-half finish will be a real achievement if we were to reach it. It’s not impossible, but I don’t think we’re there just yet. As long as we steer clear of relegation danger throughout the campaign I’ll be content. Let’s say we’ll finish 12th.
What are your thoughts on Wolves?
I have to be honest, I still worry about where the goals are going to come from for Wolves. I was also shocked to see Connor Coady depart on loan but Nathan Collins has looked excellent from what I saw of Burnley last year and Wolves this. The winless run since April is also a concern for me. I think it’s a typical situation where once they’ve got that first victory they’ll kick on and start ticking and become the competitive outfit we know they’re capable of being. Hopefully, that doesn’t come on Saturday!
Who from Wolves are you worried about playing against?
Despite the lack of goals for his standards last season, Raul Jimenez is always a worry given his good record versus Saints. The same applies for Pedro Neto. Nathan Collins also scored against us last season! It’s also going to be about how we break down what is a solid defence because I don’t see this game having many goals in it.
Score prediction for our game?
When you’ve just beaten Chelsea at home for the first time in nearly ten years, you’re bound to be confident for a game against a side that could well end up close to us in the table throughout the season. We’re yet to win at Molineux in the league since Wolves came back up but something’s got to give eventually right? I’m expecting a tight game but think that Saints will edge it 1-0.