Southampton find themselves in the Premier League’s bottom three after a seven-match winless run including a historic hammering by Leicester.
Here, the PA news agency examines where it has all gone wrong for Saints.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints have been respectable on the road this season with two wins, a draw and three defeats, two of which have come against Tottenham and Manchester City. Their home record, though, makes grim reading: played six, drawn one – against Manchester United – and lost five, including the Premier League’s all-time record home defeat when Leicester romped to a 9-0 scoreline. Fans at St Mary’s have witnessed 26 goals this season, only five of them scored by Saints. They will hope things turn around with Watford and Norwich the next two visitors.
There is at least some mitigation to be found in looking through Southampton’s list of opponents so far. They have played 10 of the top 11 teams in the current table – with the one absentee, Arsenal, awaiting in their first game after the international break – and none of their rivals in the bottom five. Even their two games against teams from lower in the table were against Tottenham, Champions League finalists just five months ago, and Everton.
Only three Southampton players – James Ward-Prowse, Oriol Romeu and Jan Bednarek – have featured in every game this season, with Ward-Prowse the only one to play every minute. Top scorer Danny Ings, a player with a long injury history, has rarely completed 90 minutes while Moussa Djenepo’s promising start to his Saints career has been hampered by injury and Nathan Redmond has also missed a couple of games. Midfielder Ward-Prowse is one of the most assured recent graduates of Saints’ impressive academy but defender Jack Stephens and forward Michael Obafemi, two other promising home-grown prospects, have rarely featured this season.
Southampton’s pre-season transfer activity was limited, with Djenepo, Che Adams and the on-loan Kevin Danso the only new faces to enjoy meaningful playing time this season – though the club also completed a permanent deal for previous loanee Ings. Adams was tasked with replacing the departed Charlie Austin but remains scoreless, while full-back Matt Targett and midfielders Steven Davis and Jordy Clasie were among other notable departures to leave a squad significantly lacking in depth.
Reliance on officials
Southampton have needed help from the referee or VAR in most of their positive results this season. Brighton’s Florin Andone was sent off at 0-0 in a game Saints eventually won 2-0, while their other win saw a Sheffield United goal disallowed by VAR and Billy Sharp later dismissed – though Djenepo’s winner came against 11 men. Oli McBurnie’s strike was one of three opposition goals disallowed on review, with Saints picking up an extra point from a 1-1 draw in which Wolves’ Raul Jimenez was denied. The boot was on the other foot, though, when Ryan Bertrand was dismissed after a review of a challenge in the lead-up to Leicester’s first goal – and another eight followed.