This Saturday, Arsenal return to the location of the nadir of their 2014/15 season. A lot has changed for both clubs since that point. Here to discuss some of those things is Jake Hughes from St. Mary's Musings. Check out my answers to his questions over here [LINK TO BE PROVIDED SHORTLY].
TSF: Two seasons ago, Southampton were the darlings of the league, just barely missing out on a European spot. Last season, they built on that success and qualified for the Europa League while boasting the fifth best goal differential in the Premier League. This season, they're languishing in 12th with the same goal differential you and I have. Where has it gone wrong for Southampton this season?
Oh, that's an easy one. Our record-breaking season (highest Premier League position and record points haul) and the corresponding positive goal difference was largely due to an impermeable defence, while games like our 8-0 win over Sunderland and 6-1 drubbing of Aston Villa papered over the cracks somewhat.
In essence, we really struggled to find the net for most of the season and were heavily reliant on our defence - the second best in the league last season only behind title winners Chelsea. The summer came and we lost three key defensive units in Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne and Toby Alderweireld (he counts!), replaced them with considerably cheaper players with no Premier League experience and it hasn't worked out for us this time around.
Meanwhile, we didn't improve our attacking options in the summer, relying on the returning Jay Rodriguez who has since suffered further injury. So we're stuck with the same, toothless attack and a weaker defence. Not a good combination! It's no wonder Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham's defences have improved since those aforemention three players joined those clubs respectively.
TSF: Do you have any hope that Southampton can turn it around this season? And what would you say qualifies as a "successful season" for the club at this point?
I do hold some hope, but I do think that's heavily reliant on an active January transfer window to inject some life into the final third. We're really struggling to find the net these days and those players have no competition for their spots on the team. Luckily for us, the league is still heavily congested and we only have to win a couple of games and we're back in with a shout of finishing comfortably in the top ten again.
For me, Premier League survival and some nice midtable mediocrity will suit me fine as a successful season this time around!
TSF: How has Ronald Koeman done since taking over for Mauricio Pochettino? Do you blame him for this season's struggles or has he been undone by player sales?
Ronald Koeman is still beloved at Saints for last season alone. There have been a few Southampton fans who have bemoaned his selections and/or tactics. But, he deserves time and patience to turn things around given what he did under such difficult circumstances last season. As mentioned before, I do think those players leaving us in the summer has really affected the club's fortunes so far this season - and that's not really Koeman's fault. However, I would like our play to be a little less predictable. There's only so many aimless crosses you can keep pumping into the penalty area with no reward.
TSF: What advice would you give to Leicester City and Watford on how to maintain their current levels of success (or in Leceister's case, close to it) over the long haul as small clubs overperforming expectations?
That might be hard to answer as a Southampton fan as this time last year we were second in the league, before performances started to drop off significantly as the season petered out.
We simply did not have the squad to compete with the big boys as injuries started to take their toll, losing the likes of Schneiderlin and Alderweireld for weeks at a time as they were ran into the ground. Fraser Forster was key in between the sticks for Saints before being ruled out for the season with a serious knee injury in March - relying on the inexperienced Paulo Gazzaniga and an ancient Kelvin Davis really didn't help matters.
I'd recommend Leicester to make some further signings to bolster their squad in January to help with any potential injuries in the coming months. As for Watford, they seemingly signed a whole new starting XI in the summer so probably don't need to buy any more players in January.
TSF: What do Southampton need to do to duplicate their result from the corresponding fixture last year?
Simply, Southampton need to start playing with confidence again. We're not currently playing the nice football we're known for and look either desperate or laboured when closing in on the opposition goal.
We played the perfect game against Arsenal last time around. We were in your faces, not allowing any Arsenal player to have time on the ball. The only time I've seen that desire this season was in our 3-1 away win at Chelsea this season. Hopefully, there'll be a repeat on Saturday.
TSF: Finally, speaking of last year, how's the visitors' locker room holding up? Cigarette smoke is notoriously hard to get out. How is that cleaning process going? Are you sad Szczesny won't be between the sticks for us Saturday?
After seeing some of Szczesny's (I hope I spelled that right!) Champions League performances for Roma this season, I am gutted he isn't in the Arsenal goal this time around.
As for the cigarette smoke situation, I heard there has been some smoke alarms and flame-retardant shower curtains installed to prevent any further mishaps. Seriously, though: what professional footballer is stupid enough to smoke, let alone indoors with the manager not too far away? Bet you lot miss him!
TSF: What's your prediction for the match Saturday?
Oh man. I have no idea how Saints could possibly beat Arsenal given our latest performances. But, I'm hopeful Koeman will give them a kick up the arse and the team grab a well-earned 1-1 draw.