Opposing View: Southampton
How have you fared this season vs. your hopes & expectations?
The club have long talked about European aspirations and pushing the club back to the very top, but I think there aren't many fans who had their eyes on anything more than surviving relegation this season. Just staying up had to be the hope, the aim and with how we spent in the summer, the calibre of player brought in, it would be fair to say - without implying arrogance - that survival was and is expected.
Still doesn't matter if it's survival by a single point, or even goal difference, but with how we have performed throughout the season, and some of the results we've gained I do think it would be fair to say that fans will feel somewhat disappointed if we don't finish in and around our current 14th place finish, but again, as long as we aren't in that bottom three and we have the opportunity to strengthen further, improve the squad and continue to push forward, I think a point would still be enough for most to celebrate.
In terms of how we have fared, it's been very mixed really.
Our sheer effort, work ethic and determination sort of had us explode on the Premiership and I point to the games we gave the Manchester's a real run for their money, and we then had somewhat of a dip in our belief and confidence, before clawing it back. But even then there have been other games - thankfully not too many - like Albion recently where you can forgive fans for wondering how the hell we got promoted in the first place.
Very much a mixed bag, but in some ways you can maybe put that down to making the step up, and the squad learning about the league and what is required game in game out.
Was sacking Nigel Adkins the right decision & how has Mauricio Pochettino done?
I'm still not honestly sure. Nigel had us coming back to our best, and you could more understand the decision from Nicola Cortese had it happened earlier given our form mainly and results, but we seemed to be getting back to our best in terms of mental strength and determination so it did take most by surprise.
Until very recently, you can't argue that performances and results have again improved further since our Pochettino has come in, and recently we've had some results (Albion aside if I'm honest as that performance could've seen us concede more) go against us, but there is always that 'what if' - could Nigel having got us improving again equalled the same?
We'll never know I suppose, but with hindsight it looks like more of a correct decision long term, than a wrong decision so far.
Can Southampton hold onto young homegrown stars such as Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse
I can find many ways of answering this question, but it's been a long day and I'm tired - therefore.
The days of Southampton financially needing to sell players when good money has been offered for them are long over, and of course the club is now and should be next season, in the top flight and with us - you may not know we have a stated aim of hopefully having a match day squad comprised of 50% home grown talent in time - the players named are more likely to get good game time than they would by moving to many other clubs.
The only clubs really capable of giving them the match time they are guaranteed here are clubs in and around us, so there's no step up for them - it would be a sideways move.
Saints, as referenced above, are also very ambitious and if the wind blows right over the next 2-3 season and we invest sensibly in the transfer market, whilst it can't be guaranteed, we are aiming to be hitting the top six, so again somebody like JWP or Shaw could move to a Chelsea, take a good wage increase, spend their days playing in the U21 squad or sitting on the bench, OR, they can stay with us, get good game time, be rewarded financially as they improve and as the club improves and help us reach the level they could move to.
Of course that means down the line a big move could still be on the cards for them, but at least they would be moving into the first team of their 'big club' and not the bench.
Even down to Adam, he still has to prove he can develop at this level and be consistent and shine for more than one season, so I'm going to be more concerned this time next year about players leaving that we want to keep, than I am at the moment.
Are you staying up?
Yes I believe so. There are enough games left for a few twists and turns, and although the performance against Spurs in our last match was much more what we expect from the squad, we haven't won in four games so I am expecting us to drop a few more places - however Swansea's victory tonight over Wigan should provide us with that buffer that we shouldn't get sucked back really into it.
Who will be the key man for Southampton?
The good thing about Southampton this season is we have obvious players to answer this question. Lambert, Rodriguez, Davis, Lallana, Ramirez...
And in many ways, yes it does depend on which of those players fires on the day, but with the likes of Cork and Schneiderlin, if you mark our front two out of the game, we have a midfielder than can take the win - although we haven't lately.
Jay Rodriguez is potentially the most improved this season though, so if I had to put money on it, I'd say he'll nip in whilst your defence is occupied by Lambert.
One Saint you'd drive to his next club?
We have a number of players that with no disrespect meant to them, especially as some have served us very admirably over the last few years, just aren't cut out for this level.
We will be looking to offload a number of players in the summer, and those we sent out on loan in this half of the year were basically to put them in the shop window as far as most fans are concerned.
So I give you within reason anybody not in our match day 18.
One Sunderland player you'd poach?
I can't profess to really know your squad that well to be honest but I'll try and stay away from the obvious of saying Fletcher as we have Lambert, and Sessegnon as we also have similar players.
I quite like Colback as he always seems gutsy to me and I think he'd be good cover for Cork.
And from his Ipswich expoilts, I'm still surprised Connor Wickham hasn't made more of an impact for you but at least from what I can tell since joining you he's never really received a good run in the team, and been given the time to adjust properly in many ways.
We've in mixed form currently, and you no doubt feeling better after the Stoke result, especially coming from 1-0 behind with ten men, so I think it's going to be tight.
A loss wouldn't work for either, but I can see a potential 2-2 draw here.
Cheers Vital Saint. Click here to see how I answered Vital Saints' questions.