We got the lowdown on our opponents from long-time season ticket holder David Cowlishaw, who contributes to the Stoke City podcast the Wizards of Drivel, and whether we should expect a goal fest or not.
St Mary’s Musings: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your interest in Stoke City and any projects you are currently working on.
David Cowlishaw: I am a 23-year-old Stoke fan living in Lancashire. I'm the founder of the Wizards of Drivel Podcast and also run 'Who Are Ya?' podcast. Supporting Stoke was my dad's fault, but I've been a season ticket holder since 2001.
SMM: Stoke has had a decent amount of turnover with the departures of Jonathan Walters, Marko Arnautovic and Glenn Whelan. Did the club adequately replace these players during the transfer window?
DC: Yes and no. Arnautovic leaving was a big blow, but we found Eric Choupo Moting and Jesé to fill the void somewhat. Whelan was substantially upgraded with Darren Fletcher and we made some good additions at the back. So our business was okay, but we really could have done with additions in the wing back and centre forward positions.
SMM: Stoke has had a few surprise results so far this season — a win and draw against Arsenal and Manchester United, respectively — but seemingly made a slow start otherwise to the Premier League. What changes when playing the so-called ‘smaller clubs’?
DC: I think it's an issue about breaking teams down. Against Arsenal we had our lowest ever Premier League possession but still won, so I think playing on the counter suits us. So we found West Brom and Newcastle difficult. I think we need to get a win against a lesser side under our belt soon.
SMM: What are the expectations of fans in regards to league finish and a potential cup run? How are the extra competitions viewed?
DC: I think there's a real disappointment we've once again gone out the League Cup early, and with a terrible performance to boot. For a perennially mid table club, the cups mean a lot and there was a lot of anger after that Bristol City cup game.
SMM: Aside from the notably insane weather around the bet365 Stadium, what makes playing at Stoke such a hard task for opponents?
DC: We used to have a real raucous atmosphere but that has really died down. I think part of it is just reputation now, it's not the fortress it once was but it can be now and again — as it was against Arsenal. We struggle to raise ourselves for the smaller teams.
SMM: Mark Hughes is a familiar name to Saints followers — what do fans make of his tenure as manager at Stoke?
DC: Last season saw a lot of fans lose patience with him after what was really a season of regression after three 9th placed finishes. He's been given another go this season, so there's a fair degree of expectation because if this season is like last campaign he might not survive. He has done incredible things in the past but he needs to have a little bit more faith in his own abilities, you feel.
SMM: Likewise with Saints, it seems Stoke has had difficulty finding goals. What has been the reason for the Potters’ struggles?
DC: Lack of a real centre forward is one. We have three out and out strikers — Mame Biram Diouf (now deployed at wing back), Peter Crouch (37) and Saido Berahino (Berahino). But also, we've found consistently creating chances to be an issue.
SMM: Who is a Stoke player Southampton fans should be wary about?
DC: Xherdan Shaqiri. He's been the leading light for me this season and has become the main man with Arnautovic's departure. His ability is unquestioned, and can create the spectacular out of nothing. We're hoping he can add consistency this time around, and the early signs look good.
SMM: Which Southampton player will have the attention of Stoke fans?
DC: Mario Lemina was a player we were rumoured to be interested in so it will be interesting to see the extent to which we missed out. Southampton have good players going forward but for one reason or another they haven't shown it for a while.
SMM: For football fans that may not know much about Stoke, what is something unique to the club?
DC: Oldest club in the Premier League, inadvertently invented penalties and extra time. Try a Staffordshire Oatcake if you're paying us a visit.
SMM: How many times should our travelling support be expected to be called ‘duck’ on Saturday?
DC: If thay cos kek a bo agen a wo n yed eet tithee bosts, then yes.
SMM: Finally, a prediction for the match?
DC: Think it's a big game for us, so I'll optimistically go for a 2-0 Stoke win.