I don't know if you knew this, but Villa have a football match to play on Wednesday. Amidst all the chaos over the weekend, the midweek Capital One Cup fixture with Southampton completely slipped my mind, resulting in even more chaos as I scrambled to find a Saints blog willing to help me on such short notice. My worry was for naught, however, as Jake from SBNation's Southampton site, St. Mary's Musings, was willing to help me out. So look upon his answers with envy as he describes what it's like to support a functional, winning club.
10 games into the season, the Saints sit in 8th place with 14 points. What's the ceiling for this club? Can they challenge for a top-4 finish? Or is a Europa League spot more realistic this season?
SMS: It's really hard to tell right now. While there has been a sense of optimism around the club since solid wins over Swansea and Chelsea, throwing a two goal lead away against Leicester (much like yourselves) helped bring back a nasty dose of reality.
While we do look like a tough side to beat, we did lose three key players in Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne and Toby Alderweireld in the summer and I'm still not overly convinced that we replaced them with players close to their caliber.
Saying that, I think a Europa League spot is within the realms of possibility for this season. But, with Leicester and West Ham unrelenting, along with Everton looking strong this season, it will be much tougher to earn a Europa League spot compared to last season. Hell, maybe Chelsea will be battling it out with us for one as the season wears on!
I honestly have no idea what to expect from caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald on Wednesday. He could use this game to give some youngsters a run, he could bring in some older faces who've been repeatedly left out by Sherwood, or he could even go with a standard first-11, in an attempt to bring some much needed stability to a club in chaos. With all that said, what should we expect from Southampton? Are we going to see a first-team line-up, or will Koeman use it as a chance to rotate the squad?
SMS: Koeman has really utilised the League Cup as a tool to build up some much needed momentum by playing the 8-9 first team regulars in the cup.
This was used to good effect last season, earning a spot in the quarter finals, and I can't see Koeman changing tact now. Southampton were looking a bit shaky before thumping MK Dons 0-6 with a strong squad and we went on to beat Swansea and Chelsea in our next two games.
Year after year, it seems like Southampton are continually able to overcome the loss of key players, whether through the transfer window or through their academy. Over the summer, Villa lost our two best players, and haven't been able to bounce back the way the Saints do. How do you do it?
SMS: I just think it's a mindset fully embedded within the club by now. Saints are at the stage where as long as we have a competent coach, our club will always carry the same mindset and approach to playing football. That's not to say Koeman isn't playing an important role - we are a lot more effective under Koeman than we ever were under Mauricio Pochettino.
Southampton aren't ignorant to the fact that they're not the biggest, most prestigious club - nor can they pay the wages most of the league's teams can. With that in mind, there is always a plan B and our scouting team and tools for player recruitment are in overdrive throughout the season.
We've been used to losing our top prospects in the last decade with Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leaving in the Championship/League One days. Time has helped us grow accustomed to persevering and spending the money receive wisely.
There's been a number of impressive performers this year, but who's been the stand-out player so far for Southampton this season?
SMS: Graziano Pelle runs him close, but it's got to be Sadio Mane. Luckily for you, he's suspended on Wednesday due to his stupid sending off against Liverpool on Sunday! In my opinion, Mane is the first real, uncompromising gamechanger Southampton have had since Matt Le Tissier and that's saying something considering the talent we've seen come and go at St. Mary's.
If you could take one Villa player and bring him over to the Saints, who would it be?
SMS: I know he's not playing particularly well right now, but I've always rated Brad Guzan as a top 'keeper. I recall his contract looked like running out a couple of seasons ago and I hoped he would join us before renewing his terms at Villa.
I also thought we missed out on a coup in signing Micah Richards on a free like you guys did. But, I couldn't honestly tell you if he's been any good at Villa this season!
What's your take on the whole Sherwood/Villa mess? I've heard about it from every Villa angle, but I'd be interested to see what an outsider has to say about it.
SMS: I think it's a shame, to be honest. Villa are one the England's traditional "big" clubs and I think Randy Lerner's apparent insistence in trying to find suitors for the club ahead of taking care of the important things has really let Villa fans down.
I couldn't stand Sherwood when he was at Tottenham, but I quite liked his spirit at Villa and was impressed at how well he did to keep the club up from relegation last season after Paul Lambert's reign of terror. It's an unfortunate situation Sherwood was left in - he had two key players sold from underneath him in Benteke and Delph and I seriously doubt he had a hand in the players Villa recruited in the summer. I hope he finds employment at another decent club soon.
Once again, all the thanks in the world to Jake and his crew over at St. Mary's Musings. He also asked me some questions in return, such as, "Uh..what's new with Villa?" and, "Why are you crying?", so head on over to check out my answers!
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