Southampton v Liverpool: Enemy Lines – Is League Cup Success The Antidote To Saints’ Crisis?

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AHEAD of Liverpool’s visit to St Mary’s, to face Southampton in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final, we spoke to Freddie from Southampton fanzine The Ugly Inside to get the lowdown on The Reds’ upcoming opponents.

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Firstly, tell us a bit about The Ugly Inside

The Ugly Inside is the longest serving Southampton FC fanzine since 1988, operating under the objective to give Saints fans a voice. We’re now continuing to give Saints fans a voice through our YouTube channel.

Originally the fanzine was sold outside the old Dell back in the ‘80s and ‘90s at 50p, giving an irreverent and satirical look on things while offering an alternative to the mainstream programmes and forums. We’ve since moved in to the 21st century, going online in 2000 to our forum and are actively still publishing articles. Last year we launched our YouTube channel which has allowed us to reach new audiences.

After a hit and miss start to the season, the Saints have lost three of their last four games, are the fans disappointed by the team’s performances?

Of course the fans are disappointed, some pockets of fans even want Claude Puel out of the football club.

It’s the manner of the performances that we’re most bitter about. We’re controlling games with possession but we lack any penetration or potency up front and have massively missed out by not replacing our top goal scorers from last season, in Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane.

The fans are very frustrated at the moment, though there’s an argument as to whether we’re expecting too much or if the manager is actually to blame.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 19, 2016: Southampton's manager Claude Puel during the FA Premier League match against Liverpool at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What do you think the team’s poor form is down to?

The poor form seems like it’s a combination of everything on the pitch and off the pitch. The results and manner of the performances are draining the players’ confidence. Certain individuals are not living up to their expectations, making individual errors and making the wrong decisions.

It seems like Puel’s methods have not gone down too well recently with the senior players and the rotation policy on the pitch is certainly a big factor. Every week is a guessing game, he makes a minimum of five or six changes every week and the impression that I get is that he does not know his best 11.

We’ve had a challenging season already with the Europa League and the squad has been stretched to its limits and I think some of that stress has been filtered through to the players because of the expectations to deliver.

Off the pitch, it seems senior players are in disagreement with the manager, notably our captain Jose Fonte wanting out of the club.

After years of seeing big players leave it must be a huge blow to see that Fonte has handed in a transfer request, what did you make of the news?

You could say Jose’s request was coming. Watching him return from the success in the summer with Portugal it seemed like his attitude had changed. There’s suggestions that his agent, who he shares with Jose Mourinho, had encouraged him to move away from the club and could get him a better deal elsewhere. Southampton had given him the opportunity to sign an extension, with a wage increase, but Fonte had turned it down.

He has been a great servant to the club and is the last remaining member from our League One squad and, in my opinion, deserves some kind of testimonial. Unfortunately, this won’t happen now because the situation has turned sour.

On the face of things, Southampton’s policy is not to invest too much into our ageing stars and to allow players to leave for the right money, like with Rickie Lambert. If Fonte were to leave this window he will only leave if the money is right and if the club has a replacement ready to come in immediately.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 19, 2016: Southampton's captain Jose Fonte arrives ahead of the FA Premier League match against Everton at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What have you made of Liverpool this season?

Liverpool look like scoring goals for fun and have had some exciting games this season. Personally, I think they will be challenging for the title come the end of the season and with no European football there is no pressure.

Ironically though, one of the only games you failed score was the game away to Southampton in November. It’s going to be difficult to have a repeat performance this time round because I understand Jürgen Klopp is taking this game seriously, having made wholesale changes against Plymouth in the FA Cup, so I expect it to be a competitive game.

Are you surprised by the form of your former captain Adam Lallana?

Lallana seems like a player reborn under Klopp and has been given the freedom to roam, similar to his role at Southampton. Give him a free role and he will flourish.

We’ll be looking to frustrate him tomorrow night by attempting to man mark him and keep him quiet.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 31, 2016: Liverpool's Adam Lallana in action against Manchester City during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Are you confident about your chances of going all the way in the cup?

Based on recent results and everything off the pitch, not at all. We weren’t confident going into the Norwich FA Cup game so we will not be confident about beating a strong and organised Liverpool side.

However, the fans would certainly love cup success and this is probably our best chance at European football next season, so we need believe we can do it. The fans mood right now would certainly not be one of belief, though.

Finally, can we have a first leg score prediction?

Having said all that, I am hoping we can frustrate The Reds on Wednesday and, ultimately, keep you from scoring.

If we play for a 0-0 we’re playing with fire. Similarly, if Liverpool score an away goal we would need a reaction from the team, to pick ourselves up and really go for it which could open it up to be an entertaining game.

I would hope we have a gameplan to keep Liverpool out so I’m going for a 1-0 home win – Virgil Van Dijk to score.

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