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Know Your Opponent: an interview with a Southampton supporter

Can Spurs turn around their recent dip in form at Southampton? Let's speak to a Soton blogger and find out!

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A trip to St. Mary's Stadium to take on Southampton isn't the most pleasant of experiences under the best of circumstances. That's a testament to how good Soton has been since their promotion to the top flight in 2011. Far from becoming a yo-yo club, Saints have flourished under managers Ronald Koeman, Mauricio Pochettino, and Nigel Adkins to become a regular in the top half of the table and a club that has the potential to challenge for the Champions League.

That said, there's just a little bit of history between these clubs the past few years. That comes, no doubt, from the somewhat contentious transfer of Toby Alderweireld to Spurs. Plus there's the little matter of Mauricio Pochettino leaving Saints in 2014 to come to White Hart Lane. So while this isn't a derby, there isn't a whole lot of love lost between these two sides.

Spurs have yet to lose to Saints since their promotion, with five wins and a draw in their last six matches. Can Saints nick a result at St. Mary's this weekend? To answer this and more, we turned to JJ Hughes, managing editor of St. Mary's Musings, SB Nation's Southampton blog. In return. I answered some questions for them.

CFC: 18 months into the Ronald Koeman era, how's life with your Dutch manager? Would you dump him for Mourinho given the opportunity?

SMM: Wow. This is a tough one to start off! I, like 99% of Southampton fans, absolutely adore Ronald Koeman. But, you'd have to go with Jose, wouldn't you? An opportunity like that for a club like Saints would be too hard to pass up.

As for how we're doing under Koeman so far, we have hit a poor patch of form which doesn't seem like it will stop any time soon (I hope I'm wrong). But, I'm not sure Koeman is to blame for that - moreso the players.

However, I think it would be silly to forget our great 2014-15 season just because of a poor run of games. Koeman is still loved in the city.

CFC: After the a very good season last year under Koeman where they contended for Champions League honors, Southampton seems to be off the boil a bit lately and are winless in their last five matches. Why do you think that is?

SMM: There was always going to come a time when selling off/losing your stars will come back to bite you and I think we may experience that this season.

Saints were very reliant on their defence last year - the equal best in the Premier League.We lost Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne and Toby Alderweireld (he still counts) in the summer and ridding the squad of three key defensive components at once was perhaps short sighted.

We're still having trouble finding the net and now our defence is significantly more porous - this is also not helped by the absence of Fraser Forster. But, that combination is not a good one.

CFC: What were your preseason expectations for Southampton this year, and what do you think is a reasonable position in the table for Saints at the end of this EPL campaign?

SMM: Southampton fans have enjoyed nothing but continual progression since the League One days. However, it was clear that would come to an end at some point and I thought it would be this season so I'm not overly surprised at our recent struggles. I just wanted to be in the top half of the table and I think we can still achieve that with all the teams bunched up in the league.

However, I was confident/hopeful of a good Europa League run and perhaps getting to the League Cup final. But, unfortunately for us, that wasn't to be for us Saints fans on both counts.

CFC: Considering the recent history between Southampton and Tottenham (i.e. Spurs poaching their manager, head scout, and on-loan defender within the past year), do Saints fans feel like this is a rivalry game? Do you hate us?

SMM: Hate is a strong word but you'll find plenty of Saints fans who look at Tottenham as a club they don't particularly like. But, that's understandable, right? Saying that, I think the dislike is more aimed at Mauricio Pochettino for his lack of loyalty and Daniel Levy for some supposed underhand things going on between the two of them while Poch was still at Saints.

There's a lot of "Spurs can't work things out for themselves and have to nick other clubs' staff/players/systems" talk which I think isn't totally untrue. However, I'm sure there is plenty of envy influencing those thoughts.

CFC: What's the deal with Koeman benching Tadic at what feels like random intervals throughout the season? Is it injury? Attitude? Tactics?

SMM: Quite simply, he's not very good. He is fairly good on the ball but is slower than a week. He also can't cross the ball, and given our penchant for lumping the ball to the wings for a cross, this is beyond frustrating.

If anything, I think Tadic has been given too much pitch time to try and prove his ability to perform in the Premier League so far this season. Not that I'm totally writing him off just yet...

CFC: Much digital ink has been spilled concerning Saints' vaunted youth academy. Who's the next big star that's going to emerge from Southampton's youth ranks, and can you hold onto them?

SMM: Can we hold onto them? Probably not. Koeman himself said Matty Targett is the best-equipped Saints player to make the transition from youth football to the first team and why wouldn't we trust him? Saying that, Targett has featured for Southampton a few times towards the end of last season as well as the beginning of this season in the absence of Ryan Bertrand and he looked out of his depth. We'll see!

CFC: You're Ronald Koeman. Your job: beat Spurs this weekend. How do you set up tactically? Who do you target?

SMM: Oh god. First of all, double up on Harry Kane. Though, if you do that, it could give the likes of Son and Lamela to flourish. Oh god!

We are unlikely to sit back and defend in a home game so I'd like us to keep possession and try to frustrate Spurs' pressing game. Don't be predictable and play it straight to the wing for an aimless cross Toby can clear with ease. Be patient and try to work Mane into the game. If he can find his early season form then he could win any game for Southampton.

CFC: Finally, let's have a score prediction.

SMM: It may look like I'm sitting on the fence, but I can't see Southampton winning and I can't possibly admit to thinking Tottenham will beat us at home. Therefore, I'll go with a dull 1-1 draw between two evenly matched sides.

Thanks a million to Jake Hughes, managing editor of St. Mary's Musings, for the interview. You can read my return interview with that lot on their website. Give Jake a follow on Twitter for all your Southampton football needs.