The Opposition Opinion is back for another week as we take on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s in-form Southampton side at St Mary’s.
This week, we caught up with Saints fan Andrew Metzelaar (@AndrewMetzelaar), with him giving us the lowdown on all things Southampton and his views on Newcastle United in the build up to tonight’s 8pm kick off.
Here’s what he had to say in response to our pre-match questions:
Q1 – To start off, what short of shape are Southampton in coming into the game? Keen to know what you’ve made of your start to the season and recent performances…
“We’re in good shape coming into the game.
“We have a settled team, real confidence and happiness within the squad is high.
“Expectations were higher this season so two defeats to start with was deflating but have bounced back well.
“We played our best game for many years for the first 60 minutes in our last game at Villa, but seemed to switch off at the end…probably because we are not used to being 4-0 up!”
Q2 – I see star man Danny Ings has been ruled out with a knee injury. Just how much of a miss will he be?
“He’ll be a massive miss.
“Ings is one of the best players in the league and links up our play fantastically.
“I expect Walcott or Long to take his place.
Q3 – Without him, give us your key players, a few ‘ones to watch’ and any weak links we could look to exploit tonight..
“Our best players apart from Ings are Armstrong and Walker-Peters.
“Armstrong when he plays adds a box-to-box element to our game and runs himself into the ground.
“Walker-Peters has been a great addition and looks for balls in behind for Adams often.
“Walcott has enjoyed a good start under us and is looking back to his best.
“If Romeu plays well we are tough to beat, but he can often give the ball away cheaply
“Bertrand is injured so if Valery plays he always has a mistake in him. He attacks well but defends awfully!”
Q4 – As a team, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this Southampton side?
“We press well and stop the opposition having the ball.
“Last year we would play on the counter more but this season we like to keep the ball a lot more so expect that.
“Our weakness over the last few seasons has been the defence, but recently that has improved too.
“Also, without Ings our other strikers are very poor at converting chances.”
Q5 – Seven games in, what have you made of this Newcastle side and our start to the season under Steve Bruce?
“I have watched a few of your matches and the opening game at West Ham must have been pleasing for fans as most of the new signings played their part.
“I saw the Wolves game too and it felt more like last season with very defensive tactics and setting up not to lose rather than win.
“I quite like Bruce and think you will have a good season, albeit maybe uninspiring.”
Q6 – Who do you see as our best players, the big threats and our weak links?
“From watching the games I have your best player by far is Saint-Maximin. He creates chances out of nothing and scares defences.
“Wilson is clinical and will punish you if he gets the chance too – a definite upgrade on Joelinton!
“As for weaknesses I feel your midfield might get overrun a little as we play 4 in the middle, and I’m not a big fan of Shelvey!”
Q7 – What’s the Southampton XI and formation Hasenhuttl is likely to go with tonight? I see Danny Ings isn’t the only Saints player who’s been ruled out..
“We always play the same formation, 4-2-2-2, with the strikers pushing out wide and inverted wingers coming to the centre, so expect Adams and possibly someone like Long or Obafemi to move to the wings with Redmond/Walcott and Armstrong moving to the centre.
“Ward Prowse and Romeu will play in the middle and work well together. Romeu will sit and Ward-Prowse will push a little further forward but not significantly.
“With Bertrand out, the back 5 will be Bednarek, Vestergaard, Walker-Peters and possibly Stephens as a make shift right back.
“Our back-up LB Vokins is also injured which is a shame and Bertrand is a big miss…he has been back to his best this season.”
Q8 – What sort of game are you expecting this to be and how do you see it panning out? Give us a prediction..
“Southampton will have most of the ball and control the game, it just remains to be seen if our better defensive displays will continue or if we revert back to making silly mistakes.
“Without Ings we could easily be wasteful so I am expecting a 1-1 with us missing quite a few chances.”
Q9 – Where do you see our two sides finishing in the 2020/21 table and which three teams are you backing to go down?
“I feel we will both be around the same place at the end of the season.
“Saints will finish possibly 9th and Newcastle 12th.
“For the drop I can see West Brom, Fulham and Burnley going down.
“They have a lack of quality and Burnley seem to have lost their spirit and belief this year, with Dyche also unhappy.”
Q10 – Hypothetical of course, but if you could sign any two players from NUFC, who would you like to see Hasenhuttl go for?
“I would take Saint Maximin straight away as we always seem to be a winger short and Redmond often fails to deliver.
“I’m struggling to pick another after that as we already have good strikers, but if I had to I would pick Jamal Lewis as we currently lack back up in his position and he will only improve.”
Q11 – Finally, if you had our two squads to choose from and were asked to pick the best possible side, what would you starting 11 be?
“My joint XI would be…
(4-4-2): McCarthy – Walker-Peters, Schar, Bednarek, Bertrand – Fraser, Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Saint Maximin – Ings, Wilson…with Hasenhuttl as manager of course!
“I actually think that would be a really strong team!”
A big thanks as ever to Andrew for answering our pre-match questions.
Next up we’ll have the thoughts of a Chelsea fan ahead of our trip to Stamford Bridge the week after next!
About Olly Hawkins
Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.