HomeFootballFootball: Battlestations! Southampton continue Premier League freefall

Football: Battlestations! Southampton continue Premier League freefall

If you are a Southampton fan, you will have every right to be concerned.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side was haplessly beaten by Leeds United on Tuesday night, a loss that condemned the club to an eighth successive Premier League game without a win.

The Saints were last victorious against Liverpool on January 4, a win which saw them climb as high as sixth in the league standings. However, Hasenhuttl’s side has plummeted towards the foot of the table in the weeks since, picking up only one point from eight games.

During that barren run, Southampton were thrashed 9-0 by Manchester United, yet any hope of the result inspiring them to rediscover their best form has since been quashed.

A challenge for European qualification may well have been on the cards a mere month or two ago, but the picture now is entirely different. The 3-0 defeat at Elland Road leaves Southampton in 14th place, just eight points clear of 18th-placed Fulham.

Southampton Redmond

Such a dismal run will take its toll on the confidence of any team, and Southampton should tread carefully in the coming weeks not to get swallowed up by a relegation battle.

We have seen much better performances by Southampton this season, and they have been edged out in high-scoring games on a number of occasions. But they have also been guilty of missing golden opportunities in front of goal, not least in two early chances spurned by Jan Vestergaard and Nathan Tella on Tuesday.

With their position in the league now under increased scrutiny, Southampton simply cannot afford to miss those chances. They might need a few decisions to go their way too. Nevertheless, if you examine the relegation picture, there are teams worse than Southampton. It’s their form that’s the problem, not any lack of outstanding quality.

Even with relegation specialist Sam Allardyce at the helm, you just can’t see 19th-placed West Brom staying up. Sheffield United, who are 20th, have probably left themselves too much to do to pull off a miraculous escape.

As for Fulham, they are steadily improving and you can see them lifting themselves out of the bottom three in the coming weeks. Brighton, Burnley, Newcastle, and now Southampton, will all be looking over their shoulder.

Crucially, two of Southampton’s league fixtures next month are against such opposition – a trip to Sheff Utd on March 6, and a visit from Brighton on March 13.

Southampton Minamino

They later face Burnley, West Brom and Crystal Palace in April. Tougher ties against Everton and Man City, for example, will also need to be negotiated, but those other fixtures are where Southampton’s fate will be decided.

Southampton have at least achieved valuable wins in the FA Cup, eliminating Shrewsbury, Arsenal and Wolves in quick succession. They face Bournemouth in the next round on March 20, but they’ll need to translate that winning formula back to the Premier League.

Any calls for Hasenhuttl to be sacked are also a bit farfetched. Yes, the manager has yet to find a solution to their winless streak but he has had bad luck with injuries.

The former RB Leipzig boss has demonstrated a desire to improve Southampton, despite the continued lack of investment higher up within the club. He’s not without faults, but there is a promising future with him at the helm; so long as they can stop the rot.

The cutthroat nature of Premier League management means few are afforded the luxury of time to reverse a decline, though Southampton should persist with their ailing chief.

To put it simply, Southampton hasn’t been nearly as bad as the scorelines in their defeats have shown, but with each defeat, the threat of relegation looms large. A full-strength Saints are good enough to avoid the drop, but this is a depleted side – both in talent and confidence. Fear the worst.

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Matt Farr
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