Tottenham Hotspur still have some work to do before closing the book on the 2015-2016 Barclay's Premier League season. With the title race officially over and Champions' League football guaranteed in some way, the goals now are simple: Lock up the group stage qualification for the Champions' League and finish above our North London neighbors. On Sunday, Tottenham can do just that with a victory over Southampton. The Saints are still fighting for a spot in Europa League so they aren't going to come out with nothing to play for. Ahead of Sunday's match, I sat down with Jake Hughes at St. Mary's Musings to find out just how things have gone under year two of the Ronald Koeman regime.
CFC: There was a lot of optimism for year two under Ronald Koeman. Are you satisfied with the way things have gone this season?
SMM: It's arguable if there was a whole lot of optimism given another summer of change, losing the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne.
But, yeah. I am satisfied with the way things have went this season. We have had nothing but continuous improvement since our first season in League One back in 2009/10. There were many (myself included) who thought that continuous improvement would come to an end this season. But, we find ourselves just three points off matching last season's points total (which is a Southampton record) and you can't realistically be too down about that.
What I will say is, though, Southampton missed a trick this season. If you look at the inconsistency of the so-called 'big teams' this season, could have really been our best chance to make a real effort in breaking into the upper echelons of the league. We've beat the likes of Chelsea (3-1 away), Manchester City (4-2 home), Arsenal (4-0 home), Manchester United (1-0 away) and Liverpool (3-2 home). But, we've dropped points against the likes of Aston Villa, Norwich City, Sunderland and even Tottenham! (I kid!)
Simply it's been a good season tinged with a little bit of frustration at what could have been.
CFC: Building upon this, do the expectations remain the same for Koeman’s third season?
SMM: I'd say so. I can't see Leicester competing like they did this year - especially with the additional pressures of the Champions League. We'll probably end up losing a few players again, we'll rebuild and have a similar season. The cycle repeats.
CFC: We always hear a lot about Southampton’s youth academy and how outstanding it is. Who is the next great young player in the system that could breakthrough soon?
SMM: It's really hard to say as it looks like the youth machine has dried up somewhat. Both Harrison Reed and Matt Targett have looked good whenever given the chance in the Southampton first team. But, for whatever reason, Ronald Koeman doesn't appear to be totally sold on them.
I am not the most read up on him, but our young midfielder in Callum Slattery opted to stay at Southampton ahead of moving to Arsenal after those North London vultures were circling. He's meant to be the real deal.
CFC: If there was one player on your squad that you could upgrade, who would it be and who would you realistically like to swap him with?
SMM: I'd love to have Toby Alderweireld back at St. Mary's. I love the guy, but I'd happily swap Jose Fonte for him if Daniel Levy was keen for whatever reason!
CFC: How confident are you that you can keep ahold of players like Mane, Tadic, and Wanyama in the offseason?
SMM: I think Mane and Wanyama are goners. For much of the season, it's looked like their heads are somewhere else.
Mane started the season well amid all the transfer rumours swirling around him. Then he was very quiet - in fact, he was poor and I'm a big fan of him. He's now found his form again... Just ahead of the summer transfer window. I'll let you be the judge here!
As for Tadic, I couldn't care less if he left. He played really well against Manchester City last weekend but he's very, very frustrating to have him in the Saints starting XI. So much so, Koeman has left him on the bench for a lot of the season.
CFC: We know last season there was a little bit of drama regarding the transfer of Toby Alderweireld. Has there been any lasting animosity towards Tottenham or Atletico Madrid from Saints supporters?
SMM: To be honest, I think Alderweireld has come out of the summer transfer wranglings between Spurs, Saints and Atletico relatively unscathed.
There is some animosity among Southampton fans towards Spurs, but this is largely down to Tottenham "stealing" (in the loosest sense of the word) the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Gareth Bale, Glen Hoddle, Dean Richards, coaching/scouting staff etc.
It's not a sentiment I necessarily hold, but there is a general sense Spurs, like Liverpool, are one of those English clubs who poach the best from smaller English clubs because they can't work things out for themselves.
CFC: I give you the option of either a brick wall with enough space on either side for 1.5 footballs to fit into the net or Fraser Forster. Who are you taking?
SMM: I like Fraser, but the wall sounds like it'll be pretty effective with some good defending. Could you not keep two defenders on each side, blocking the gaps? Haha!
Saying that, it's worth noting Fraser Forster hasn't kept a single clean sheet since his great run of six consecutive games of not conceding.
CFC: How do you expect Southampton to approach Sunday’s match tactically?
SMM: It's hard to predict as Koeman likes to change it up from a 3-2-2-2-1, to a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 on whim. I think we'll try and keep it tight at the back against a Harry Kane that's bang in form and try and hit you on the counter with the pace of Shane Long and Sadio Mane.
CFC: What’s your prediction for Sunday?
SMM: Despite everything that's went on with Spurs this week, I still feel Southampton won't be able to get the job done. After all, you're the only Premier League club we haven't been able to beat since getting promoted! 1-1.
We'd like to thank Jake for taking time out of their schedule to do this Q&A! We did the same for them over at SMM, so when you get a chance hop over there and read it!