Written by: Daniel Ghorbal @danghorbal
Liverpool’s first away game of the 2019/20 campaign takes place on the South Coast with the reds facing Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton side this Saturday afternoon at 3pm. The hosts come into the game on the back of a 3-0 opening day defeat to Burnley, one which will worry all Saints fans ahead of their encounter with the European Champions. Prior to the second half in that fixture with the Clarets, Southampton looked fairly comfortable and had chances to break the deadlock through Che Adams and Nathan Redmond but an Ashley Barnes double and a fantastic Johann Berg Gudmundsson strike sunk Hasenhüttl’s energetic young-side.
After a spell of terrible form towards the latter stages of 2018, Mark Hughes was sacked by Southampton with fears that they had a considerable threat of relegation which needed acting on immediately. Ralph Hasenhüttl, a man who guided RB Leipzig to 2nd place in the Bundesliga was Hughes’ predecessor and inflicted several changes to the side, giving Southampton a new-looked, pragmatic style of play. Upon his arrival, Hasenhüttl switched the formation of the side from 4-3-3 to 5-2-1-2, with the likes of Yan Valery, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond cherishing under Hasenhüttl’s philosophy, one in a which a high-press is required to execute the German’s masterplan to perfection. Southampton ended the season with an identity, and with the new season just getting underway, I see them as being a surprise package in the league, despite such a disappointing result against Burnley.
In my opinion, Southampton’s business in the summer transfer window was very good, signing players in key areas but not spending excessive amounts of money. In through the door was Che Adams from Birmingham for £16 million, Danny Ings (who’s move was made permanent from Liverpool) and Kevin Danso from Augsburg, an up and coming centre-half with vast amounts of potential. These 3 players will contribute massively to Southampton’s new philosophy, and Che Adams is someone who I think has the potential to tear it up in the Premier League. He is a fast centre-forward with a terrific work-rate and a tendency for putting the ball in the back of net. He scored 21 for Birmingham last season, in a side which didn’t even create many chances per game. Southampton aren’t Manchester City or Liverpool but if Adams and Ings are given service, they both have potential to score 10-15 goals each, without doubt.
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As mentioned earlier, Hasenhüttl likes to operate with a 5-2-1-2 formation, with 3 central defenders and two wing-backs offering vital width. In goal for this game will be Angus Gunn, a Norfolk born keeper they bought from Manchester City. Gunn impressed Hasenhüttl on his debut for the club in a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge last season and has kept his place in the side since. The 3 centre-halves for this game in my opinion will be Jannick Vestergaard, Maya Yoshida and Jan Bednarek. Maya Yoshida, the experienced Japanese international was left on the bench against Burnley however Saints’ fans appear to be unhappy with the form of Jack Stephens and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him dropped for this game.
The wing-backs will undoubtedly be Ryan Bertrand and Yan Valery, the latter a young French-man who broke into the side last season and looks like a promising package. His goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford encapsulated what the youngster is all about. Surprisingly, Southampton’s captain towards the end of last season, Pierre-Emile Hoijberg was left on the bench last weekend in replace of Oriol Romeu, and I suspect the Pole will regain his place in the side this weekend, a box-to-box midfielder with energy that would prove vital against what is an energetic Liverpool side. In addition to this, James Ward-Prowse will start alongside either Romeu or Hoijberg. Ward-Prowse was arguably Southampton’s player of the season last year, scoring 7 goals, 3 of which were free-kicks, his prize asset to say the least. His delivery from set-pieces is arguably the best in the league and is an avenue to goal that Southampton will look to explore on multiple occasions this season. In front of the midfield 2 will be Nathan Redmond, Southampton’s best player in my opinion.
At the ripe age of 25, Redmond’s end product is improving season upon season and his pace + power is electric. Redmond provides a good link between midfield and attack and has a work-rate that suits Southampton’s pressing style to a T. And finally, the strike-force will most probably be Che Adams and Danny Ings. At this stage of the season, any more than 2 or 3 changes would disrupt the flow of the side and although Shane Long may provide good competition, I suspect Adams and Ings will lead the line, with Ings’ coming up against his former club for the first time, as he was ineligible to play in both fixtures against Liverpool last season.
Burnley’s comprehensive victory on Saturday will certainly give Liverpool a lot of confidence heading into this game, but I am sure Hasenhüttl will erase that game from his memory and start fresh here against Liverpool. The reds will need to be wary of the threats that Southampton pose and I’m sure it’ll be a tougher game than many expect. My prediction is Southampton 1-2 Liverpool.
Written by: Daniel Ghorbal @danghorbal