Equal Time: It’s Southampton’s worst season since 1994 but next 5 fixtures provide hope
Southampton suffered a 2-0 defeat home to Liverpool on the weekend, leaving Mauricio Pellegrino's side in the unsaintly position that is the final relegation place. One point adrift of safety with 11 games remaining, Pellegrino, who was appointed manager last summer, finds his position under threat along with the club’s top-flight status. That said, the Saints can be hopeful of ending the season outside of the bottom three due to their favourable remaining fixtures.
Southampton is 18th with 26 points from 27 games. It's their worst top-flight campaign since 1994, two dozen years ago. The club finished 18th that season even with Matt le Tissier leading the line. Alan Ball took over for Ian Branfoot in January but couldn't prevent disaster.
In 2017/18 the South Coast club has picked up just one league win since November. Pellegrino’s men are in real trouble. They've won the second fewest games, scoring one or none in 21 of its 27 outings. It’s clear where Southampton’s problem lies. They could use a time machine to fetch Le Tissier the younger. Pellegrino has been unable to find a more realistic remedy, making relegation a strong possibility.
Despite his squad's quality, results have been woeful since November. One league win in three months isn’t good enough to retain top-flight status or employment. That eight Premier League managers have already been sacked, leaving very few alternatives to the Argentine, may be the So'ton boss' saving grace.
Fans are starting to turn on him. So is Oscar Cole. Looking at the club's next five games, though, there is reason for hope.
A new spring
Southampton have over two months to haul themselves from the relegation zone. Pellegrino should fancy his team's chances in the coming weeks. Here are the opponents it will face on the next five Premier League Saturdays.
|24 Feb||3 March||10 March||17 March||31 March|
|@ Burnley||v Stoke||@ Newcastle||@ Swansea||@ West Ham|
Burnley may be seventh but their vaunted home record has recently gone to pieces. The Clarets have lost three and drawn one in their last four league outings at Turf Moor. They've only scored twice but it's the seven conceded that ring the alarm. Even though it earned a 1-0 win at St Mary's, Sean Dyche's Burnley is beatable for Southampton right now.
Stoke City are one place below Southampton. New boss Paul Lambert has been saddled with the worst defensive record in the division, with a mind-boggling 53 shipped. When you're letting in roughly two per game it's no surprise you have the Premier League's joint-most defeats, at 14. The Potters have managed just one win from their last eight. Southampton did lose 3-2 to Stoke in September, however. That's beginning to be an alarming trend in this particular analysis.
Newcastle will be more of a challenge, particularly at St James’ Park. Rafa Benitez has managed only one win and a clean sheet in the last five, but it came last time out against Manchester United. The two sides drew 2-2 in October. That's a little more optimistic.
Swansea City is the best-performing side among the five in this run. Carlos Carvalhal has coaxed three wins and two draws from the Welsh outfit's last five league games. The Swans are still struggling to score, though. Overall, they've only found the net more than once on four match days. The two sides drew 0-0 in August. A result will probably be more difficult this time.
Lately, West Ham has also been picking up points without racking up defeats. David Moyes' squad just isn't hammering draws into wins. The Iron has managed only one victory in its last four. it has posted the fourth-worst defensive record in the league. Southampton beat them 3-2 back in August. Hey, how about that?
To remain a Premier League club Southampton must do better than the five points they picked up from this quintet in the corresponding fixtures. That said, results against three of the five provide proof the job can be done.