Fan Focus: The View From St Mary's As Sunderland Aim to Halt Saints' March

Claudio Villa

Ahead of this weekend's trip to the south coast we caught up with Ben Stanfield - Southampton supporter and Team Talk blogger - and got his take on their opening day success, new signing Osvaldo and more.

In contrast to Sunderland's faltering start against Fulham, Southampton got off to a flier with an excellent win at West Brom. Obviously I'd assume you were ecstatic with the 3 points, but what about the performance? Was it deserving of the win or like Fulham's at the Stadium of Light, a bit on the fortunate side?

Ben Stanfield: Saints indeed achieved a great win at West Brom on the opening day of the season which was made all the more special as it was their first 3 points on an opening day since 1999! On the whole I think it was deserved rather than fortunate.

Taking into consideration the season West Brom had had last year (during that time beating Saints twice as well without us even scoring!) it was refreshing to see us play so well. We had 3 Under-18 academy lads in the side and our two new signings, Lovren and Wanyama, both gave excellent performances as well.

There was a good flow to Saints play and, arguably, they could have been one or two-nil up at half-time. Second half West Brom came into it a little more and ultimately we had to rely on Rickie Lambert's last minute penalty to secure the three points.

After having had a very productive and consistent pre-season, in terms of both physical training and friendly matches, it was pleasing to really make it count when it mattered. That result now gives Saints a little bit of momentum to build on through the first 10 or so games of the season.

Are Saints likely to line up in similar fashion this weekend from a tactical point of view, or is Pochettino the type of manager to switch things around between away and home games?

BS: The good thing about the Saints squad now is that we have real strength in depth. We just about have two quality players competing for every position and that gives Pochettino the choice to freshen up or change tactics/personnel should he want to.

Having said that I would likely imagine that he is of the same theory of most of us around the World - you don't change a winning team!

Nathaniel Clyne, our young right-back who wasn't quite fit to start last weekend's match, is likely to be back in contention although Calum Chambers, who deputised, put in a very solid appearance.

Players aside we seem to enjoy our 4-5-1 when defending/4-3-3 when attacking formation and I would expect that to remain the same against Sunderland and for the season ahead.

But with players like Daniel Osvaldo, who has joined this week, and Gaston Ramirez, who isn't always a wise choice away from home, it will indeed be interesting for all parties to see what Pochettino does with the final starting XI!

England goal hero Rickie Lambert did what he does best to see West Brom off, but will the arrival of big money signing Pablo Osvaldo see his place under threat?

BS: I think its fair to say that Rickie Lambert has become an inspirational talisman for Saints over the past 4 years since he signed but he is 31 now and, as was shown at the end of last season, expecting him to play 38 games in a row, against quality Premier League defenders, is a lot to ask.

There has been no doubt that if we want to progress further as Club then a quality International striker (not including Rickie of course!) needed to be signed to support the workload but I'm not sure many of us Saints fans were really expecting someone of the calibre of Daniel (as he likes to be known!) Osvaldo to arrive.

Personally I don't think Osvaldo will be coming in to replace Lambert but I also don't think they will play much together - if at all - in a two upfront.

A couple of times last season Lambert was playing ‘in the hole' behind Jay Rodriguez and I can see the same happening with him in behind Osvaldo.

Having never really seen Osvaldo play I'm not 100% sure what his strengths are (i.e. could he play up front on his own at somewhere like Stoke away or suchlike?) and therefore whether some opposition will suit Lambert upfront more than Osvaldo but there is no doubting (from the reports I've read!) he is a lad who can look after himself when he needs to!

Ultimately I think both Osvaldo and Lambert will have significant game time across the season and I dare say any competition that does arise between the two of them can only be healthy for the Club.

Speaking of Osvaldo, what do you make of the signing and how much do you know about what he will bring to Southampton?

BS: I, like many Saints fans, was shocked when it was finally announced late on Sunday that he would be signing for us. It just didn't seem right that a player of his calibre, who had been linked with the likes of Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Inter and Benfica, would choose Southampton as his next career move. Maybe, as fans, we should appreciate now how far we have actually come and the player market in which we are competing.

Of course a lot of gratitude should be shown to Pochettino who, by all accounts, was in regular phone contact with Osvaldo last week to convince him that Southampton was going places and was the Club for him to join.

Having said that without the financial backing of the Liebherr family, for whom we are always grateful, and the commitment and dedication of our Chairman, Nicola Cortese, to push through these sorts of deals then Pochettino wouldn't even be in a position to encourage these sorts of players to come to our Club.

The facts are with Osvaldo though that he scored something like 15 league goals in 29 games for Roma last year - in a league that is notoriously defensive - and has scored 3 goals in 9 appearances for the Italian national team. He clearly knows where the back of the net is and I guess that's why Saints have paid the money they have for him.

The technical ability is unquestionably there, I guess the question that all Saints fans are asking themselves is whether the temperament is as well! Time will tell I guess but I think he will definitely bring a bit of suave and charisma to Southampton and hopefully, more importantly, plenty of goals!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that makes it just three signings for Southampton this summer, all arriving for big fees. How do you rate the business done so far and were you impressed with Lovren and Wanyama after their debuts this weekend?

BS: That's correct; we have just signed the three players this summer. To be honest though we didn't need an overhaul of our squad like maybe, with all due respect, Sunderland felt they did.

We already had the core of a strong, young team and it was simply a case of needing to add some quality to the spine of the team - which is what we have done.

I didn't know much about Lovren before he signed for Saints but he looked very composed against West Brom last weekend and has been with the squad for the majority of pre-season - which is good from both being able to understand how the team plays and also from a team bonding point-of-view. He is an International defender for Croatia who should hopefully bring some assurance to our young defence over the course of the season.

Victor Wanyama is more well known in the UK, having spent a couple of years with Celtic, and had been rumoured to be attracting the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal before eventually joining Saints for what was, prior to Osvaldo, another Club record signing.

Wanyama is a real powerhouse. A player that gets up and down the park quickly, can tackle but also pick a pass. He can score goals but ultimately is there to break up opposition attacks and get Saints on to the front foot again.

Like Lovren, Wanyama has been with Saints for a large part of pre-season and has settled in nicely. He also had a very confident debut last weekend and I think will prove to be one of the signings of the season in the Premier League.

With Osvaldo now on board as well I think we may well be done in adding to our squad. We have a lot of talented players already here and I think it's been very much a case of going with ‘quality rather than quantity' in this summer's recruitment drive.

Who should Sunderland supporters worry about this weekend, one of the new boys, or an old favourite like Lambert?

BS: I may sound bias here but I genuinely think Saints are now lucky enough to boast an array of talent that will give many opposition managers and fans sleepless nights ahead of playing us.

I'm not arrogant enough to think we have instantly become World beaters but when you look at the likes of Osvaldo, Lambert, Lallana, Gaston Ramirez, Adam Lallana, Wanyama, last season's Player of the Season Morgan Schneiderlin, Jay Rodriguez, Luke Shaw, Nathaniel Clyne and Jason Puncheon etc. there really are players all over the pitch of high quality.

Osvaldo is very likely to play some part in the game and I'm sure will be keen to impress his new fans and team mates, as well as a certain Italian cult-hero in the opposition dug out, but I think the one Sunderland fans should really keep their eyes on next weekend is Luke Shaw.

Shaw, who will definitely become England's left-back in the future I believe, loves to maraud forward - as was shown with him winning our 90th minute penalty last week - and creates a lot of chances and crosses for the strikers.

He has a subtle change of speed and is very much an attacking full-back who sees defending as the more boring part of his game than the other way around.

He is a very bright talent and, whilst there are plenty of other players who could cause Sunderland worries, I'd pick him!

In contrast to Saints, its been all change on Wearside, is there anyone amongst our squad who you think could do some damage?

BS: There have been a lot of players coming into Sunderland over the summer and, whilst QPR tried the same thing last season and failed, I guess time will tell on how quickly they can all gel together and achieve success.

I think the player that caught everyone's attention when he signed was Giaccherini and he'd probably be the player that I'd be most worried about.

Again, a bit like Osvaldo, I don't know much about him but I am aware he has arrived in England with a strong reputation and we will need to be on our guard at the back to keep him quiet!

Sunderland, somewhat surprisingly, won at St Mary's last season. What's your prediction this time around?

BS: I was at the game last season when Sunderland won 1-0 and it was a rare poor home performance from Saints. Sunderland got their goal via Fletcher just before half-time, and second half we didn't really come anywhere near to equalising.

This time around it should be different. Southampton is buzzing as a City, due to a mixture of the new signing's and the opening day result, and I think fans have expectations of an exciting season ahead. There is definitely a ‘wave of optimism' as they say.

But there is no such thing as an easy game in the Premier League and I fancy Saints to just nick it 2-1.

The good thing for Sunderland fans is my predictions are normally woeful so you've got every chance of winning the game now!!

Thanks to Ben for the Southampton view ahead of Saturday. Check out his writing over at TEAMtalk.

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