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Will Southampton be relegated from the Premier League this season?

Akshaj Sinha
ANALYST
Feature
600   //    15 Mar 2018, 20:50 IST

Southampton
Can Southampton avoid the drop?

The 2017/18 Premier League campaign is proving to be one of the worst seasons Southampton have endured since their promotion back to the top flight in 2012. They have managed only five wins in 30 league games - the second lowest in the league - to go with their 12 losses and 13 draws.

They currently occupy 17th place on the table, having collected a total of 28 points and sit one point clear of Crystal Palace and have been able to win only two of their last 19 games which ultimately caused the board in making the move of firing manager Mauricio Pellegrino.

Another common problem under the reign of Pellegrino was the fact that Southampton were unable to hang on to leads in crunch situations which saw them drop a significant points.

One of the examples, of that, has to be when they let a 2-0 lead slip away in the second half away to Vicarage Road in early January and earning just a point in the end, although Watford were lucky that Abdoulaye Doucoure's goal was not disallowed for handball.

The only positive of a disappointing campaign thus far is the fact that the south coast club is alive in the FA Cup and have a quarter-final fixture to play against Wigan Athletic this weekend.

Becoming a selling club

Over the last four to five years, the Saints have turned into a selling club. They have sold multiple players to the bigger clubs, with Liverpool being the main buyers. This has resulted in the club making huge profits in recent years.

Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Virgil van Dijk played for two-and-a-half years at St.Mary's

They have done a considerable amount of their business with Liverpool, having sold six of their players to the Merseysiders, the latest one being Virgil van Dijk in January, as the Dutchman was sold for a record £75m, the highest price ever paid for a defender in world football.

Apart from Van Dijk, some of the other notable former stars that have departed St.Mary's are Sadio Mane, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Rickie Lambert.

The constant selling has begun to take the toll on the squad since they have lost a lot of quality which has seen their tally of points and goals reduce over the last two seasons. But in spite of that, they have been able to establish their status in England's top flight.

They have been able to find suitable and worthy replacements for the first team regulars they have parted ways over the last few years. Even though their transfer policy is inclined towards making profits, the board has reinvested the funds wisely in attracting players of equally good talent in the transfer window.

Managerial changes

The latest appointment of Mark Hughes is the fifth managerial change that the Saints have made since their return to the Premier League in 2012. However, it is not the first time that they have taken immediate action following a poor run of results.

In January 2013, former boss Nigel Adkins was shockingly fired despite his side winning against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and sitting comfortably in mid-table. He was replaced by current Tottenham Hotspur manager, Mauricio Pochettino.

Southampton were praised for their high pressing and attacking style of football which brought them success and survival in the Premier League during his 18-month stay at St.Mary's.

He was then replaced by Ronald Koeman in 2014 and the south coast club had their best run in the league under his leadership as they finished seventh and sixth in his two-year stay.

Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Southampton achieved their highest league finish under Koeman

Following the departure of the Dutchman to Everton in 2016, Koeman was replaced by former Nice manager Claude Puel. The club finished eighth under their new boss and reached the final of the League Cup, narrowly losing 3-2 to Manchester United.

In spite of a successful season, Puel was unjustly and unfairly sacked by the board at the end of the season. The firing made no sense as Southampton achieved their objectives and, for the fourth successive year, finished in the top 10 of the Premier League.

The managerial merry-go-round continued when another foreign manager was appointed by the club from Hampshire when former Valencia and Alaves boss Pellegrino took over the reigns. But, the Argentinian gaffer has had the worst record for any Saints boss in the Premier League, winning only five games.

Southampton v Brighton and Hove Albion - Premier League
Pellegrino got the axe following a dismal run of form

A poor run of results and poor form in front of goal ultimately sealed the fate of Pellegrino as he was sacked with eight games remaining in the league.

The players never responded under his guidance and no player showed consistency as the team lacked leadership on the pitch.

What does the future hold?

Stoke City v Newcastle United - Premier League
Mark Hughes has a tough task ahead of him

The Southampton board did not take much time in finding a replacement as they hired former Stoke City boss Mark Hughes until the end of the season. The Welshman was fired by his former club in January following a shock exit to Coventry City in the FA Cup.

Hughes has a very challenging eight games with Arsenal and Chelsea back to back and finally Manchester City on the last day of the season. However, the Saints tend to do better in the big games as they have drawn three games against the top six thus far.

The former Stoke gaffer must get his team to beat the sides they are expected to collect three points as five of the remaining eight are against teams in and around them.

It is a good appointment by the Southampton hierarchy since the veteran manager has experience of being involved in a relegation dogfight and avoiding the drop with the teams he has previously managed.

A win against Wigan Athletic on Sunday in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup would be the perfect start to his tenure in St.Mary's prior to heading into the battle for survival in the Premier League.

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Akshaj Sinha
ANALYST
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