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Can Southampton Avoid the Drop?


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Last updated 29/05/2024

Can Southampton Avoid the Drop?

Southampton currently sit at rock bottom of the Premier League with only 12 points to their name in 17 games. The Saints have three wins, three draws and 11 losses, but are only two points away from safety. But how did it get so bad for Southampton and can they turn it around to avoid relegation?

The Rise: Mauricio Pochettino & Ronald Koeman

In Mauricio Pochettino’s first managerial position in England, the Argentine revolutionised Southampton, making The Saints one of the teams to watch in the 2013/14 Premier League season.

Coming in after the unfavourable sacking of Nigel Adkins partway through the 2012/13 campaign, Pochettino won the hearts of the Southampton faithful with an eighth-place finish in the Premier League and some land-mark wins over eventual champions Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

In the 2014/15 season, Netherlands legend Ronald Koeman joined Southampton. This was a crucial time for The Saints as there had been a number of departures during the summer transfer window, with important players such as Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Callum Chambers and Luke Shaw all leaving the club.

However, Koeman brought in the likes of Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk over time, as well as Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle and Ryan Bertrand in order to fill the gaps left by the previously mentioned departures. Along with this, the 4 - 2 - 3 - 1 formation was also gone, with Koeman preferring a 4 - 3 - 3 which helped The Saints to a seventh-place finish in the Premier League.

These tenures cemented Southampton as a competitive side in the Premier League in the 2010s, but this title has slipped from them in more recent years, with back-to-back 15th place finishes in the 2021/22 season and the 2020/21 season.

How did it get so bad?

Some of the things Southampton came to be known for was their youth academy and their impressive transfer strategies. However, this has changed in more recent years.

There has been consistent managerial instability with eight different managers since Pochettino left the club in 2014, in fact, the only manager to last over a year was Ralph Hasenhuttl who was at Southampton from December 2018 and November 2022.

Along with this there is also the issue of their usual transfer model starting to fail. In the glory days of the early 2010s, The Saints would usually have a strong team populated by English players often from their own youth set-up that would support the integration of the foreign players. This also wasn’t just helpful in the short-term financially, as the home-grown players, along with the carefully scouted foreign players often made big money moves after their time at Southampton.

However, this strategy has seemingly faded over the years, with the only home-grown player in The Saints’ current XI being James Ward-Prowse.

Despite some incredible results in Hassenhuttl’s tenure as manager at Southampton, like the 1 - 0 win over title-holders Liverpool - Hassenhuttl’s first time ever taking points against a team managed by Jurgen Klopp, too many bad results and Southampton’s position at the bottom of the table signalled the end for him.

But was it too early? At the time of his departure, Southampton only had just three wins in their 14 Premier League games, these coming against the struggling sides of Leicester, Chelsea and Bournemouth. However, Hassenhuttl has proven he can get results, helping The Saints to an 11th-place finish in the 2019/20 season. Though this was not enough after the back-to-back 15th-place finishes and their current position in the relegation zone.

The new man in Southampton is Nathan Jones, who was previously at Luton Town and Stoke City. Jones’ 2021/22 season with Luton was more than impressive, as he helped them to a sixth-place finish, five points within the Play-offs. Despite the already impressive feat of reaching the Playoffs, Luton Town did fall at the Semi-final stage, where Huddersfield won 2 - 1 on aggregate.

Though he has never managed a team in the Premier League before, Jones has proven that he can make impressive results happen with an unexpected team. In his second period at Luton, in 133 games, Jones won 54 games, drew 37 and lost 42, giving him an overall 40.6% win rate.

What can they do in January?

With the January transfer window now open, Southampton have an opportunity to back Jones and strengthen to fight for survival.

A glaring issue for The Saints right now is the lack of a high-scoring striker. Currently, they have Che Adams, who is the current top-scorer for Southampton this season with eight goals and one assist in 19 games. However, he cannot do it all on his own, so a striker would be a necessary addition to Jones’ squad.

This position may be filled by Dinamo Zagreb and Croatia forward Mislav Orsic, who The Saints have allegedly already agreed on a deal for.