Fan Focus: The View From St. Mary's With Chris Mann

Tom Dulat

Ahead of this Sunday's game against Southampton, we talked to Saints fan, former blogger at The Equaliser, and current Prozone Sport's analyst Chris Mann to give us the lowdown on his team's season.

The sacking of Nigel Adkins as manager earlier in the season initially seemed very harsh. What were you thoughts on the matter at the time?

Chris Mann: I thought his dismissal was unjust at the time (and still do), but the appointment of Pochettino tempered any anger I might have had. At the time I was simultaneously disappointed that Adkins had been sacked and optimistic about the hiring of Pochettino. It was a strange few days!

On the subject of Pochettino he's done pretty a pretty good job so far, and the players seem to have bought into his methods already. What have been the notable changes on the pitch since he took over?

CM: Under Adkins the team played good, positive football. However, as exciting as the performances were, they were often error-strewn. Pochettino has enhanced the style of play that Adkins put in place and we're now a more efficient passing side with a defence that can be trusted (most of the time). Under Adkins we were conceding two goals per game and that's fallen to 1.3 since Pochettino's arrival which tells its own story.

One man who Pochettino seems to be getting the best out of is Jay Rodriguez. He arrived in the summer for an eyebrow-raising fee, but just how much has he impressed of late?

The amount paid for Rodriguez was slightly surprising, but he's developed very quickly since joining the club. His opportunities were limited under Adkins, but Rodriguez has flourished since the hiring of Pochettino. A quick, tricky player with excellent finishing ability, it's been exciting to see him improve over the course of the season and eclipse bigger names such as Gaston Ramirez.

Seen as we're getting into Player of the Season time, which other players have impressed for the Saints this season?

Morgan Schneiderlin has been superb all season. The heartbeat of our midfield, his awareness and distribution are worthy of the very highest level. Jason Puncheon has also surprised me with just how effective he's been in the top flight, and Luke Shaw's been a revelation at fullback in his first full season with the senior squad.

Moving onto Sunderland, how do you rate Paolo Di Canio's chances of success, should he keep us up this season?

I find it very difficult to gauge how good a manager Di Canio is. I think he'll keep you up, and he could be a great success at The Stadium of Light, but there's always the fear of implosion with a guy like him at the helm.

Do Southampton have any major weaknesses that Sunderland can look to exploit this weekend?

Our centre-halves have improved during the second half of the campaign, but they rarely inspire me with confidence. They've proved particularly vulnerable when faced with fast counter-attacking teams such as Arsenal and West Brom.

Vice versa, what are the major weakness in Sunderland's side (and lord knows there are a lot of them) that the Saints could take advantage of?

If Sunderland try to defend deep like you did against Villa I could see the Saints getting some joy. Players like Adam Lallana and Rodriguez like to run with the ball and can cause serious problems if given the time and space to attack.

Finally, can we get a prediction for Sunday's match?

I imagine it'll be a fairly tight, tense affair with both clubs still looking to secure their Premier League status. I'd take a 1-1 draw away from home.

Big thanks to Chris for giving his time to talk to us. Be sure to follow him on Twitter HERE

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