Southampton are 13th in the Premier League table at the time of speaking, having reached the magical 40-point total with four games to spare. What have you made of this season, on the whole?
I think it has been another really inconsistent season. If you go back to the beginning of the campaign, they were defensively solid. They were not picking up wins – they went their first seven or eight games without one – but they were picking up points against good teams and then went on that run after the first international break, where they beat all of the teams you would expect them to and really started climbing up the table. Over Christmas and into February, they only lost once in 10 games in the Premier League and were given a chance to really push on and achieve a top half finish. But the wheels fell off and a really terrible run followed, which they are still recovering from now. It looks like the players are on the beach and that is how it has appeared in the last couple of weeks. They bounced back from the 6-0 defeat to Chelsea against Arsenal, but that was not a great performance by any stretch of the imagination.
It looks as though this will be the fifth straight season the club has finished in the bottom half. With the new ownership in place, has there been any indication as to what they will be targeting next term?
Southampton see themselves as a top half club and they want to market themselves as that, so the target will very much be finishing 10th or above. That was their target this season and I fully expect it to be the same under new ownership next season, too.
Further to that, in which areas do you think they need to be recruiting this summer?
In the goalkeeping department, certainly. Alex McCarthy has signed a new contract and it looks as though, as it stands, Fraser Forster is going to be leaving as a free agent, so they will need to bring in another goalkeeper to provide support for Alex. The Athletic reported that they are going to make signing a central defender a priority, which I think is an obvious one because they have been fairly weak at the back at times. But I would also like to see them target some forward players. Shane Long is going to be leaving, we all think, as he is not signing a new contract and Armando Broja is probably going to go back to Chelsea. So they are going to have to sign up front, but I would like them to bring in someone to play just behind the strikers in that No 10 position because the players who have played there this season just have not been good enough.
Which player should Brentford players be keeping an eye on on Saturday?
I would say James Ward-Prowse (above), but to be a bit different, lets go for Kyle Walker-Peters, the right-back. He was recently called up to the England squad and made his senior debut in their most fixture. He will probably be playing on the right-hand side against Brentford, given Tino Livramento’s injury, so he will be back in his favoured position. He has really developed this season in terms of being an attacking threat, as well as his defensive play. He is very good at getting forward, putting in crosses and taking the odd shot here and there.
How is Ralph Hasenhuttl likely to set up at the Brentford Community Stadium?
I would imagine they would stick with their preferred 4-2-2-2 system. I can’t see why Ralph would want to go to a back three with wing-backs against Brentford; he didn’t do that in the previous game where Southampton were very good value and won comfortably.
As you said, the last meeting back in January resulted in a memorable 4-1 win for Saints down at St Mary’s. What’s your score prediction for this one?
It is the end of the season and everyone is on the beach… so I will go for a 2-2 draw!