Author Archives: Sam Cox

The season so far…

Seven games into the 2018/19 Premier League season, and the cracks from last season are already reappearing at Southampton.

Embed from Getty Images

Apart from a trip to Anfield, many would argue that, on paper, Southampton’s opening games were favourable. But after picking up just five points in seven games, it’s looking to be another long season for Saints’ supporters.

In home matches against Burnley, Leicester City and Brighton and Hove Albion, the Saints picked up an underwhelming two points following draws against the Clarets and the Seagulls whilst surrendering a second-half lead against the Foxes in a 2-1 defeat.

Things haven’t been much better on the road, either. Our only win of the season came at Crystal Palace thanks to goals from Danny Ings and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg.

Other than the victory at Selhurst Park, Southampton have failed to gain any points in away fixtures against Everton, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers – and despite two victories in the Carabao Cup, it’s the same issues that are costing Saints points in the league.

Embed from Getty Images

Southampton’s Achilles heel last season was their inability to hold onto a lead, and this is haunting them yet again this season. 21 points were dropped from winning positions last campaign, and this season Saints have already dropped five points in games in which they’ve taken the lead.

Fingers will start to be pointed at Mark Hughes, but this has been an issue ever since Ronald Koeman left the club. Since then, Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino, and Hughes have all struggled to adapt their squads to shifts in momentum during games.

At home to Leicester, Southampton were rewarded for their control of the game as Ryan Bertrand fired in the opening goal on 52 minutes. However, as the Foxes turned their focus into getting back into the game, Saints looked like a different side and capitulated. Demarai Gray equalised four minutes later before Harry Maguire snatched all three points in injury time, leaving fans bewildered as to how the team threw the points away.

Embed from Getty Images

Although the same issues have been holding Saints back across the past three seasons, Hughes isn’t entirely blameless for this season’s failings.

Throughout pre-season, the Welshman implemented and worked on the 5-3-2 formation that kept Saints in the Premier League last season. However, during the opening day fixture against Burnley the system failed to have its desired effect and Hughes adapted to a 4-4-2 which saw Saints improve in the second half.

Apart from the trip to Anfield, Hughes has opted to use the 4-4-2 since the draw against Burnley; scrapping the system worked on during pre-season. As a result, the players and management have had to go back to square one in terms of transferring the ideas from training ground into matches.

Hughes’ substitutions have also been questionable this season; in particular in the match against Brighton at home. With Southampton trying to maintain their lead after Shane Duffy pulled a goal back for the visitors, James Ward-Prowse and Manolo Gabbiadini were introduced for Mohammed Elyounoussi and Shane Long.

With six minutes remaining, Steven Davis replaced Danny Ings to try and add more defensive stability to the side. Not only did we have a similar player in Ward-Prowse on the pitch, it also prevented us trying to kill the game off. Brighton predictably claimed a late point, when Glenn Murray netted a 90th minute penalty and Saints once again let a lead slip.

Embed from Getty Images

Although Southampton have continually struggled to score goals, our defence this season has been our weakest department. The centre back partnership of Wesley Hoedt and Jannick Vestergaard has given Southampton a fragile spine in defence.

Neither defenders have seemingly taken control of a backline lacking a commanding leader leaving Southampton vulnerable from set pieces and quality attacks. 13 Premier League goals have been conceded so far this season and it may be time for Hughes to experiment with the other defenders in his squad.

Individual errors alongside our inability to prevent soft goals have ultimately cost us so far this season. Hughes needs to stick to his guns, and create the identity he originally wanted to see from his team in order to keep his job.

There is potential in this squad, but if players and management continue to make the same mistakes, then we won’t be able to progress.

The early promise shown by Danny Ings

We may only be four games into the 2018/19 Premier League season, but the early signs suggest that Southampton Football Club and Danny Ings are meant to be.

Embed from Getty Images

Cast your mind back to the summer transfer window. After the acquisition of Stuart Armstrong, Angus Gunn, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Jannick Vestergaard, Southampton had shown that they were willing to spend, and at least improve the squad that so nearly slipped down to the Championship last season. But while these signings provided depth and hope for the future, there was still one area on the pitch that desperately needed addressing.

Under Ronald Koeman, Southampton scored 120 Premier League goals across the two seasons that the Dutchman was in charge. And in the two seasons following his departure to Everton, Southampton have registered a measly 79 Premier League goals.

The departures of Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle’ left Saints lacking firepower upfront, and ever since, the club have failed to re-discover the goalscoring touch that they once had. Injuries to Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin denied each striker a chance to build any goalscoring momentum, while our big money signings Guido Carillo and Sofiane Boufal failed to adapt to life in the Premier League.

So after an impressive start to his career on the south coast, Danny Ings has the Southampton fanbase questioning whether we’ve finally found our starting striker…

Embed from Getty Images

During Saints’ opening match of the season against Burnley, the Clarets were unfortunate not to be leading at the break, with Mark Hughes’ 5-2-2-1 formation proving ineffective.

As a result the Welshman called for changes in the 56th minute, and handed both Elyounoussi and Ings their debuts, in addition to switching to a 4-4-2 formation.

The introduction of Ings instantly gave our frontline a new look, as well as raising the intensity of others around him. There was no denying it, Hughes’ men looked dangerous in the second 45.

Both of the goals that he’s scored this season have been typical of his former Burnley self, and it’s somewhat reminded the fans what we’ve so desperately been missing over the past two seasons.

His first came at Goodison Park, where he displayed intelligent positioning to find space inside a crowded penalty area to tap home Mario Lemina’s flick-on at the near post. And his second came at Selhurst Park, where his quick reactions, pace and mobility allowed him to latch onto a through ball by Cedric Soares, and slot calmly below Wayne Hennessy.

Embed from Getty Images

Following an injury hit career at Liverpool, many believed that Ings was a busted flush as he failed to make his mark for the Reds. However, when you take a look at the statistics from his first four games for the Saints, they suggest that he’s still an incredibly dangerous attacking outlet.

Ings isn’t afraid to let fly when he gets sight of goal, having registered 3.5 shots per game. In comparison to Southampton’s other attacking outlets this is the highest out of the squad. Austin has registered 1.8, Long has registered 1.0, and Nathan Redmond has registered 2.3.

In comparison to the rest of the league, Ings also ranks fourth in xG (expected goals), with a figure of 0.74 per game.

During his first four appearances, Ings has even regained possession of the ball 2.16 times per game, showing that he’s not only effective on the ball, but off it too. This is no doubt some of Jurgen Klopp’s influence shining through – and this proactive mentality can only be positive for our squad.

What was particularly pleasing against Crystal Palace, however, was the way in which Ings combined with Long upfront. In truth, many believed Long’s days were numbered at Saints following the arrival of Ings, but if they continue to work in the same fashion that they did at Selhurst Park, Long may prove to be a useful asset once again.

He’s no goalscorer, granted, but if Ings, Redmond and Elyounoussi can deliver, then he’s got a number of particularly useful assets that he can offer to the side.

What worked so well against Crystal Palace was that Long provided effective hold up play, which in turn allowed Ings to make ground behind the defensive line. They also complimented each others strengths and weaknesses. Long’s capable of playing the more physical game and peeling off out wide, while Ings is the more technical player and the better finisher.

Embed from Getty Images

The only question mark that looms over the Englishman now is his injury record. At Liverpool, two long-term injuries saw him on the treatment table for a combined 498 days, making him unavailable for selection in 85 fixtures. During the 2015/16 season, Ings ruptured his cruciate ligament – and only five months after returning to full fitness, he had an operation on his knee which saw him miss the entirety of 2016/17 season.

But above all else, at a time when football fans feel more distant from the players and club than ever before, it’s nice to see a player on the pitch that seemingly cares for the club as much as those in the stands.

I’ve got a funny feeling that Ings could prove to be a real fan favourite.

Season Preview: Southampton FC

Southampton are marching into their seventh consecutive Premier League season this afternoon, after narrowly avoiding the drop in the penultimate game of the 2017-18 season.

Embed from Getty Images

Such a campaign came as a shock for all Saints fans who, prior to last season, had seen their team finish in the top eight for four successive seasons since their return to the big time in 2012.

In a largely dismal campaign for everyone involved at the club, there was no single issue that could front the blame for our poor season, with our squad falling short at both ends of the pitch.

Of our 450 shots across the season, just 37 found the net. This gives a conversion rate of 8.2%; level with West Brom and above only Huddersfield on 7.7%. This resulted in a mere seven league wins from a possible 38, which was the team’s lowest total since the 2004/05 season; notably when the Saints were last relegated from England’s top division.


Southampton spent a grand total of £54.5M over this summer’s transfer window – the most they’ve ever spent as they attempt to steer clear of the relegation zone ahead of the forthcoming campaign.

Southampton secured the services of Celtic’s Stuart Armstrong, Basel winger Mohammed Elyounoussi, Borussia Monchengladbach centre-back Jannik Vestergaard, Liverpool forward Danny Ings, and goalkeeper Angus Gunn from fellow Premier League outfit, Manchester City.

Meanwhile, the most notable departure is that of Dusan Tadic, who’s returned to the Eredivisie to join Ajax, after the creative midfielder’s late surge in form guided us away from the relegation zone.

Embed from Getty Images

So all in all, things could have gone far, far worse. We’ve restored some physicality back into the heart of our defence in Vestergaard, added some legs and class into our midfield through Armstrong, and attempted to directly replace Tadic’s creativity and output through Elyounoussi.

Gunn’s been drafted in to provide some much-needed competition for Alex McCarthy, and while fans are still concerned that our frontline will once again fall short, the deadline day signing of Ings has helped to recover some lost confidence. Liverpool boss, Jurgen Klopp believes that the former Burnley forward has never been in greater physical shape, so if he can find his role in the side early on and hit the ground running, we’re surely guaranteed 10+ goals over the course of a full Premier League season.

Elsewhere, club record signing Guido Carrillo has re-joined former Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino at Leganes on a season-long loan, while Sofiane Boufal’s lacklustre relationship with current boss Mark Hughes has seen him shipped out to Celta Vigo on loan. First-team outcasts Jordy Clasie, Stuart Taylor and Florin Gardos have all moved on from St Mary’s too. Clasie has re-joined Feyenoord on loan, whilst Taylor and Gardos were released by the club early in the window.


Based off initial pre-season performances, Stuart Armstrong already looks to be a valuable member of our squad.

Embed from Getty Images

Arriving from Scottish giants Celtic for a respectable £7M, Armstrong was often at the forefront of Celtic’s success under Brendan Rodgers. During his three-year stint at Celtic Park, Armstrong scored 28 goals, recorded 21 assists and has won four Scottish Premiership titles, two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups, earning six caps for Scotland in the process.

Armstrong is currently in and around his prime years as a footballer and the Premier League could prove the perfect next step for him in his career. Not only does he hold the ability to create the link between midfield and attack, he’s also capable of providing goals from the middle of the park – something Southampton lacked throughout the entirety of last season.

This one could prove to be an absolute bargain.


Mark Hughes replaced Pellegrino in March 2018 on an initial deal until the end of the season, with his future being based on whether he could keep his new side in the Premier League or not. And after achieving this goal and guiding the Saints to their second trip to Wembley in successive seasons, the board decided to back Hughes; rewarding him with a three-year contract for his efforts.

But this year is different. This time round he’s had a full pre-season with his squad, financial backing from the board and he now has the opportunity to carry out his vision over three seasons. Premier League safety alone won’t be enough if want to consider this season a success.

Embed from Getty Images

Hughes’ objectives over the forthcoming campaign won’t just be to steer us clear of relegation – it will also be about reinstalling confidence into our players, and encouraging a free-flowing attacking brand of football.

Our club has clearly neglected the values that they’ve publically prided themselves on in the past, so if Hughes is capable of turning a great deal of this fiction into fact, we’ll have made a promising start to life under the Welshman.


Southampton have made some impressive signings, but I feel as if they’re enduring too much of a transition period to currently consider challenging Leicester and Everton for a Europa League spot.

I strongly believe, however, that Mark Hughes has steadied and saved a sinking ship, and as a result, we must now focus on walking before trying to run.

Their dealings have been reassuring both on and off the pitch, and I feel that so long as Hughes has helped the squad to rediscover their confidence – and gained their trust in the process – there’s no threat of relegation.

We’ve got plenty enough quality to beat the drop, but as fans we need to be shown more over the course of this season before we can once again dream of European nights. Mid-table mediocrity would suit me just fine.

Relegation or not – Mark Hughes in

Regardless of our fate on Sunday, May 13, I believe that Mark Hughes should be appointed as Southampton manager for the upcoming season.

Embed from Getty Images

After 30 Premier League games of discontent, turgid football and almost certain relegation, Southampton called quits on Mauricio Pellegrino and went for the ‘tried and trusted’ option in Mark Hughes. We’ve seen an upturn in performances and attitudes ever since, and I don’t think we can afford to roll the dice again.

By handing Hughes a longer contract, it brings about some much-needed stability and allows the club to have a clear identity after two seasons of continual regression. This alongside constant asset stripping of key players has left Saints with next to no stability on the pitch.

What the club desperately needs is time with a manager who can at last help our players find an identity within the squad, as well as getting the fans back on side with the board and establishing a new set of standards for our performances. Something which was lost with the sale of key dressing room figures and poor managerial appointments.

We all want to go back to being the ambitious club we once were, but we’ve got a long way to go before such hopes can be a reality. For now, we need to focus on putting ourselves back together again piece by piece. One step at a time.

Is Mark Hughes the man to deliver our long-term goals? Probably not. But is he capable of lifting this squad and digging us out of this rut with his many years of experience? I think so, and for that reason, I believe the club could do a lot worse than extend Sparky’s deal further than this season. Especially when you consider our last two managerial appointments have only taken us backwards. 

Embed from Getty Images

It’s the little things on the sidelines that I enjoy from Hughes. From geeing up the fans to passionately hugging his players after crucial victories, it’s refreshing to see after the lack of engagement from Puel and Pellegrino. Hughes was nicknamed Sparky during his playing days for leaving all his emotions out on the pitch, and he’s certainly transferred that into his management with us so far.

Koeman was rumored to have left after not seeing eye to eye with Les Reed (on top of the substantial salary increase of course) and this why we potentially saw the likes of Puel and Pellegrino appointed. From the fans perspective they appeared to be yes men to Reed, agreeing to every command he asked. This isn’t the case for Hughes, who will be sure to make his feelings known in the event of a disagreement.

No manager is perfect, and Hughes has definitely had difficult times during his managerial career. After successful spells in charge of the Wales national team and Blackburn Rovers, Hughes was appointed as Manchester City manager in 2008. Sparky was in charge when Sheikh Mansour transformed City with his immense wealth, but unfortunately the task of managing big names and egos was too great as Hughes failed to produce the immediate winning football that the owners demanded.

After a successful season where he guided Fulham to 8th in the Premier League, Hughes found himself at Loftus Road midway through the following season. QPR were, like Saints, battling relegation and needed Hughes to keep them in the top flight. Hughes achieved this on the final day of the season.

Embed from Getty Images

But it was the following campaign where the wheels well and truly fell off. Reported ‘bust-ups’ with senior players alongside a 12-match winless run saw QPR at the foot of the table. After spending substantial fees on deals on wages, Hughes, effectively, sent QPR down prior to Harry Redknapp’s arrival.

Hughes then went on to record three consecutive top half finishes with the Potters, but this season they dropped like a stone down the Premier League table, leading to Hughes’s dismissal following defeat in the FA Cup to League 2 Coventry City.

It’s safe to say the Welshman’s previous two jobs have ended on a sour note with Sparky failing to maintain strong finishes in the Premier League, but perhaps circumstances haven’t helped. Mass squad changes at QPR proved too much of a task when trying to bed-in contrasting personalities. And it’s not like any managers since have managed to steady the ship.

At Stoke, losing key players such as Marco Arnautovic and failing to replace them makes the task to progress even harder. Not to mention the horrific transfer policy installed by the higher forces at the club and the attitude problems within the squad.

Although Hughes had been dealt a bad hand in terms of keeping Saints in the Premier League, it doesn’t mean he’s exempt from criticism during his tenure either. Our approach towards the Leicester game was far too defensive when we were desperate for points, and failing to react to the shift in momentum when Chelsea pulled a goal back in the defeat at home are two examples where he’s failed to take the initiative in games.  

Embed from Getty Images

But where Mauricio Pellegrino failed during his time at the club was being unable to develop and bring out the best in individuals, and already Hughes has achieved this. Dusan Tadic has regained his confidence and is once again looking to be the hub of our creativity. Nathan Redmond has looked more like the player we signed as he’s looking to take players on and turn defence into attack. Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand have had poor seasons for their standards, but already Hughes has helped them to become vital in our transitions from back to front.

All things considered, I genuinely believe that we wouldn’t have been in any type of relegation battle had Hughes been at the helm from the beginning of the season. But that’s all hypothetical, and instead we find ourselves just two games away from potentially playing Championship football next season.

The fans support against Swansea is vital and if the players show the same fight and passion that was on display against Bournemouth and Everton, as installed by Hughes, then we’ve got every hope of maintaining our top-flight status.

Arsenal 3-2 Southampton: Where do we go from here?

After booking a place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup in Mark Hughes first outing, optimism amongst the Southampton fan base began to grow, under the assumption that we’d turned a corner.

Embed from Getty Images

Saints looked to be in a good position to pull away from the relegation zone; we’d just beaten a Wigan Athletic side that knocked out Manchester City 2-0, and had the advantage of a two-week break until our next fixture. Hughes had two weeks to communicate his ideas, learn about his squad and give them the morale boost they so desperately needed.

Going into the match at the London Stadium, both teams entered from contrasting positions. The toxic atmosphere during West Ham’s defeat to Burnley meant the Hammers were looking to appease angry and frustrated fans. While the Saints players were looking to maintain the positivity and build some momentum after securing a trip to Wembley.

However, at full time the roles were reversed as the West Ham players showed fight and determination, while the visitors succumbed to a 3-0 loss without even a whimper.

Embed from Getty Images

Following such a result, you can excuse any Southampton fan for fearing the worst ahead of their trip to Emirates Stadium. The Gunners went into the game full of confidence following a 4-1 thrashing of CSKA Moscow in the Europa League, and two consecutive 3-0 wins in the Premier League.

Saints pushed Arsenal all the way though and despite leading through Shane Long, the hosts went into the break leading 2-1. Saints battled back as Charlie Austin equalised, but we couldn’t hold on as Danny Welbeck grabbed his second of the match and Arsenal’s third. It was an encouraging performance in a number of aspects, but the reality is that we’d once again failed to pick up points. So what did we learn? And where do we go from here?

After three games and under a month in the job, Mark Hughes may have found the formula to approach the last six league games. Hughes opted to play a 3-4-3 or 5-4-1 against Arsenal and it allowed Saints to stay in the game and soak up the pressure of better opposition.

Playing three central defenders with Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand acting as wing-backs provided Saints with width and cover at the back. The balance of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oriol Romeu in midfield allowed us to retrieve the ball and turn defence into attack quickly and effectively – something which has arguably been our biggest issue over the past 12 months.

Embed from Getty Images

James Ward-Prowse and Dusan Tadic gave us a creative spark with balls in behind the oppositions defensive line to the pace that Shane Long provides. The introduction of Charlie Austin gives us more fire-power upfront and with Prowse’s delivery into the box, we have more than one way to hurt teams.

Yesterday, however, was the perfect example that the constant asset stripping and poor replacements have firmly caught up with us. Selling Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk (both captains at the club) alongside not convincing Toby Alderweireld to sign a permanent deal at St Mary’s has left us lacking leadership and quality at the back.

If Wesley Hoedt had joined us two years earlier when there were defensive leaders who could hold his hand, show him the ropes and allow for a transition period, Im sure he’d be able to consistently produce the flashes of quality that we’ve seen so far. But instead we’ve thrown him in at the deep end next to a talented, but ultimately inexperienced defender in Jack Stephens. There’s no longer a clear leader at the back who sets the standards for what’s acceptable based upon years of proven quality.

Embed from Getty Images

All three of Arsenal’s goals on Sunday were avoidable, especially the third. Cedric and Jack Stephens were caught ball watching as Welbeck gained space at the back post to run and head home the winner. I’ve got no doubt in my mind when I say that the defence has well and truly let us down this season – both individually and as a collective unit.

We’ve only kept two clean sheets in our last 23 outings, and on the race occasion that we do actually take the lead, It’s not long before that advantage is soon thrown away.

Six league games left. Three points adrift. One game in hand. Thats the reality of our position after only one win in 19 games. If the lads go into our remaining games with same attitude and passion as they did at the Emirates then we give ourselves a glimmer of hope. If they go into every game in the fashion that they did against West Ham, we’ll be down before our final game of the season.

Review: Newcastle 3-0 Southampton

In arguably our biggest game of the season so far we set up negatively and paid the price, falling to a 3-0 defeat against Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle. But in all honesty, are we really surprised?

Embed from Getty Images

One win from 17 league games tells the whole story of Pellegrino’s torrid tenure in charge of Southampton FC.

We’ve now played relegation rivals West Brom, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Huddersfield twice, managing to only pick up 11 points from a possible 24 – recording only three wins. For a side with “European ambitions,” this is totally unacceptable. Our only wins of this campaign have arrived against sides who were currently below Saints at the time of playing, proving that Pellegrino has only been able to manoeuvre past sides at their worst.

Pellegrino and the board have sucked the life and enjoyment out of watching Saints and major changes need to be made now rather than later. We can’t afford to wait until the end of the season and hope we’ve scraped survival. There’s currently no single reason as to why Pellegrino should remain in his job.

There’s the rigid and uninspiring system, the unnecessary decision to constantly drop in-form players, and the fact that he’s still yet to improve a single member of our squad this season.  

Embed from Getty Images

However, the blame doesn’t just fall at the feet of Pellegrino. The board have to take a large slice of the blame for this season’s shortcomings too.

Our dealings throughout the January transfer window were disastrous. Les Reed and co felt it was necessary to sell stories to the press stating our intent for players such as Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge and Fulham’s wonder kid Ryan Sessegnon. Walcott departed Arsenal for Everton, Sturridge departed Liverpool for West Brom and Fulham stated no intent to sell their most prized asset.

Did we ever have any real interest in these players? Or did the board just send these stories to the press to please begrudged fans?

After little activity over January, Saints broke their transfer record to sign Argentinian striker Guido Carillo for an estimated £20 million. Fans were screaming for the club to show ambition in the transfer market, and whilst the signing of Carrillo certainly done that in the financial sense, we assumed that it would be spent in the right places. More specifically on a goal-scoring winger – someone that would be capable of creating a link between the midfield and attack, on top of being a real threat inside the box.

Embed from Getty Images

It may seem harsh to judge Carrillo already, especially when you consider that the problem all along has been providing support for our centre-forward. But he hardly seems the type of player to fire Saints clear of danger via his own individual performances – even less so when Pellegrino remains reluctant to play someone alongside him.

Arrogance is the best way to describe our board because we’re no longer sleepwalking into the Championship – we’re staring it right in the face whilst Reed and Kruger have remained silent with no indication of a change in strategy.

The 3-0 defeat to Newcastle was our worst result to date, but it’s amongst a whole host of bad results. There was no fight, grit, determination or realisation this was a relegation six-pointer, and as a result, Saints have been crushed by a team filled with all those traits.

I’m not stating anything new here: this has been the story of our season and every fan is thinking the same. I truly wish there were some positives to include in this piece, but any slightly positive signs are instantly tarred by Pellegrino’s tactical incompetence and shortcomings.

Out with our old ways, in with the new

After two promising results within a week, Southampton now have to use the momentum gained to do something they haven’t done all season – record back-to-back wins.

Embed from Getty Images

A well-earned point against Tottenham followed by an F.A Cup victory against Watford may well have kept Mauricio Pellegrino in his job for a little while longer. Throw in the addition of Guido Carrillo for a club-record fee and heavy rumours of the highly rated Dutch winger Quincy Promes joining him, and there’s a slight optimism surrounding the club at the moment. However, all of these promising factors will be meaningless if we fail to beat the teams in and around us.

It’s truly been the story of our season; picking up points against top teams and then failing to gain maximum points where it truly matters – a prime example of this is during the festive period. After the boxing-day drubbing to Tottenham, Pellegrino’s side travelled to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. After fears of another thrashing, Saints performed valiantly and gained a point at Old Trafford.

However, Saints failed to build on this performance and lost at home in a real relegation six-pointer against Crystal Palace. At St Mary’s the usual traits in our performances under Pellegrino became apparent. Southampton took the lead through Shane Long’s first goal of the season, buring the second half Pellegrino instructed his side to sit deep and Palace took full advantage.

Embed from Getty Images

Southampton have failed to win in the league for 11 matches which has seen the Saints drop into the relegation zone. They obviously believe he can turn this situation around, but these so called ‘signs of improvement’ still haven’t come to fruition. It’s quite apparent that the board have decided to back him instead of sack him.

In our most recent match against Watford, Saints were controlling the game expertly and limiting the Hornets to virtually no chances. With twenty minutes to go, Pellegrino decided to replace our most creative outlet on the day, Sofiane Boufal, with Maya Yoshida. Saints then dropped deeper and deeper and invited unnecessary Watford pressure. The last twenty minutes shifted the dynamic of play from Saints dominating, to looking shaky as they desperately trie  to defend for the final moments of the match. Unlike recent fixtures, however, Saints survived a late scare and booked their place in the 5th round of the F.A Cup.

Our next two games are arguably our biggest since Southampton returned to the Premier League in 2012. First up is Brighton at home, followed by West Brom away. The Seagulls have one more point than us at this moment in time and are currently two places higher in the league table. The Baggies are currently one place below in the league and two points worse off.

Embed from Getty Images

The enormity of these games go without saying and if we truly wish to retain our Premier League status, we simply can’t afford to lose either.

In the reverse fixtures Saints actually played relatively well. At the AMEX, we controlled much of the first 45 and through a sublime curling free-kick from James Ward-Prowse, Steven Davis was able to nod home the opener on the rebound. In our usual style, however, the Saints decided to soak pressure in the second half and through a weak Glenn Murray header that was matched by an even weaker reaction from Fraser Forster, Brighton shared the spoils. At St Mary’s, West Brom were arguably playing their worst football of the season, but thanks to a Boufal wonder goal, Saints grabbed all three points.

We find ourselves currently sitting in 18th place in the table,meaning it’s now or never to pull ourselves out of this situation. The fans have been great in backing the team and now it’s their turn to deliver. Southampton have only three home games against sides outside the top eight remaining and the only way we climb out of the bottom three is by picking up vital points from those teams around us. We can no longer rely on other teams doing us favours – It’s a far too risky game that we can no longer afford to play.

Swansea picked up all the points against Liverpool and the teams around us are now starting to find their flow under new management. With Pellegrino seemingly set to stay at this moment in time, there are no longer any excuses for the Argentinian to hide behind; the Saints need to show that they’re capable of dominating a game for an entire 90 minutes, and that starts with three points against Chris Hughton’s Brighton tomorrow night.

The same old story

Southampton have once again failed to hold onto a lead under Mauricio Pellegrino, following the most basic of tactical adjustments from the opposition. The Saints have now dropped 11 points from winning positions against Brighton, Arsenal, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace and Watford. That’s simply unacceptable from a team who are no doubt top ten quality and finished 6th only two seasons ago.

Embed from Getty Images

So where has this inability to dominate and control come from? In my eyes, you need to look no further than Mauricio Pellegrino’s in-game management. Each and every time the opposition have made clear adjustments in a bid to disrupt the flow of the game, the Argentine has failed to react in just about any way – be that tactically or through substitutions.

From the outside looking in he doesn’t appear to be installing any confidence into our players, and from the evidence presented to us so far, he’s way out of his depth.

The difference between the two managers yesterday was that one utilised the subs and tools around them when the going got tough, while the other simply hoped and clung on. There was no evidence to suggest that he wished to bring the game to Watford again, or that we were going to attempt to grab the game by the scruff of its neck. Instead, we simply panicked at the thought of over-committing while going forward, and opted to sit back and soak for the remainder of the second half.

Marco Silva threw Troy Deeney on and changed his formation to be more rigid and harder to break down, as well as giving him an easier route into Southampton’s box. With a simple long ball into our area, one of their 6ft plus central midfielders or Deeney would win the initial ball (or at least attempt to) and give the Southampton defence something to think about it. But rather than pushing higher to restrict the danger of their long back knock-downs, we continued to retreat until the very end.

Embed from Getty Images

Pellegrino waited until the 92nd minute to make the final two of his three subs, and once again it was too little too late.

On a brighter note, however, the main positive that we can take away from yesterday’s game was the performance of James Ward-Prowse. He seems to be one of few players at the moment that are willing to take responsibility on the ball, and it’s incredibly encouraging to see that he’s finally adding goals to his game – an area that’s been much criticised over the past two seasons.

What makes yesterday’s result all the more frustrating is that Saints’ first-half performance was actually incredibly promising – we were composed on the ball, organised at the back and played some delightful fluid football. But the hard work that went into the first 45 was dismantled by the usual dismal display in the second 45.

Embed from Getty Images

It’s certainly worth noting that Watford’s equaliser was a handball – it should have never counted. But regardless of that fact, I can’t help but feel that this is only a small factor as to why we didn’t come away with three points. If it wasn’t for our shambolic in-game management, we would have never allowed them to receive that opportunity in the first place.

Following yesterdays result, the Saints have now matched their winless run from the 2004/05 season, and we all know how that story ended…

This is simply not good enough, and the most worrying thing is that the patterns in our games keep repeating themselves, with few suggestions of change or improvement. As we slide towards the Championship, the board must act now both in the transfer market and with the manager, in the hope that any star signings aren’t limited by Pellegrino’s tactical incompetence.

We can’t allow the board to gamble our Premier League safety on their pride any longer.

Two good, two bad: Southampton v Crystal Palace

Southampton’s season went from a disaster to a full blown crisis following the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. There are now no significant reasons why Mauricio Pellegrino should keep his job, but following Ralph Kruger’s interview to the local media, the long overdue sack still seems far away.

Embed from Getty Images

The good…

1. Shane Long finally broke his goal drought. As Jeremy Pied slotted the ball into the box, the Irishman struck the ball on the half turn to give Saints the lead. Not only were the fans relieved but so was Long as his tireless work upfront was finally rewarded for the first time since last February.

Embed from Getty Images

2. As Saints were searching for the opening goal, they looked to have some purpose to their play especially through Jeremy Pied down the right hand side. However, Southampton were unable to maintain this standard.

The bad…

1. Pellegrino’s game plan. Once again, the Southampton manager seemed content with holding out for a one nil win. Saints looked good value for their lead at half time but during the second half looked a completely different side. It’s been proven throughout this season that, under Pellegrino’s organisation, Saints can’t hold teams out. So why do we persist in doing so instead of trying to kill off teams?

Embed from Getty Images

2. Unable to adapt to opposition changes. Roy Hodgson clearly knew that his sides first half performance was not a reflection of their point gained against league leaders Manchester City. After making changes both in personnel and in tactics, Palace looked a stronger outfit and Saints couldn’t adapt to these changes. Not only were the gaping spaces within our back line exploited once again, but Pellegrino’s substitutions were baffling. This ultimately cost us the game as we stare relegation in the face.

Southampton are now on their longest winless run in the top-flight since 2005 and we all know the outcome of that season. Everything that’s wrong with the club and the teams performances are being repeated each week with more questions being raised. What exactly is Pellegrino trying to enforce on our players? It’s quite apparent he’s too far out of his depth and at this rate, relegation is inevitable.

Two good, two bad: Tottenham v Southampton

Toothless and tactically inept would kindly describe Southampton’s performance against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Mauricio Pellegrino’s side were completely blown away by Pochettino’s, only further reinforcing worries that the away side aren’t playing for the manager at this moment in time. 

Embed from Getty Images

The good…

1) We scored two goals. Goals from Boufal and Tadic we’re the only positives for the travelling fans.

2) After Spurs scored their fourth, the home side took their foot off the gas which allowed Saints to look slightly better going forward. Yes, I’m actually using that as a positive.

The bad…

1) Basics and organisation. For Harry Kane’s first two goals, he was simply given the freedom and space to tap home and break Alan Shearer’s Premier League record. Romeu’s marking for the first was comical as he appeared not to care about the inevitable outcome. Now, as we know, Romeu wears his heart on his sleeve but hasn’t been the same battling Spaniard in recent weeks.

As previously mentioned this signifies a real worry that he and the players aren’t playing for the manager or for the powers at be. For the fourth Spurs goal, Redmond was in the opposition box and carelessly gifted the ball to Son as he tried to pick out Lemina. The resulting counter-attack saw the ball find its way into Forsters net. This lacklustre concentration and execution throughout the pitch is costing us goals and the lack of desire to track back tells the whole story.

Embed from Getty Images

2) Game-plan. Although the players need to stand up and be counted, the game-plan employed at Wembley was totally incorrect as it played into the hosts’ hands. Trying to play out the back against a high-pressing team set us up to fail. The constant rotation of the team-sheet and trying to place square pegs in round holes only sucks the confidence and belief out of the players.

It’s clear to see that there needs to be a big shake up at the club otherwise we’ll be playing Championship Football in the near future. If the players aren’t playing for the man on the touch-line then a change needs to be made. Not only do we need to see ambition and change on the sideline but from the board. Money needs to be invested in the areas that have been crying out for some time. The argument of “there will be worse teams than us” is almost non-existent as the healthy gap between us and the trapdoor has decreased as the teams below have leapfrogged us. If the club doesn’t wake up, we’ll be sleepwalking back to the dark days that Markus Leibherr and co worked tirelessly to pull us out of.