If you talk to fans of other teams about the Saints plight this season, almost everyone will express some kind of surprise at the position Southampton find themselves in with just six games remaining. Indeed, a flick through the websites of major newspapers and you will find no record of journalists tipping Saints to struggle when they made their early season predictions. Put it this way, Mark Lawrenson’s prediction column for the BBC has Saints in 8th position in his predicted league table. It’s clearly been a shock to everyone outside of St Mary’s.
Bookmakers were also caught on the hop with Southampton this season. An average of bookmakers’ odds at the start of the season put them at around 25/1 to be relegated, as a comparison Burnley – currently 11 places and 21 points ahead of Saints – were given odds of 7/5. Even after a terrible run over Christmas and the New Year, you could still find Southampton at a price of 4/1 or 5/1 to be relegated. They were still available at odds against after the 3-0 defeat at the hands of relegation rivals West Ham last week.
Writing was on the wall for Saints before defeat to Arsenal
The defeat against Arsenal on Sunday finally pushed convinced some bookmakers to make their move on Southampton. Bet365 were one of the first to move, cutting Southampton’s odds to 10/11 for relegation, making it the first time all season that Saints were odds on to go down. Saints’ odds to stay up are the same at 10/11. The other odds for relegation by Bet365 are West Brom (1/2000), Stoke (1/5), Huddersfield (6/5), Swansea (13/2), Crystal Palace (9/1), Brighton (20/1) and West Ham (25/1). You can check the latest Bet365 bonus code to back any side for the drop or survival.
Obviously, teams have come out of more difficult situations than Saints before. The next two games, vs Chelsea (H) and Leicester (A), look very difficult fixtures. However, they are followed by Bournemouth, Everton and Swansea. The latter could end up being a relegation six-pointer. You would even imagine the final game of the season against Manchester City at St Mary’s might be a chance to get some points, as City will have the title wrapped up by that point.
Three wins at least will be required from remaining six games for Southampton
Around 10 points, maybe more, will be required from those six games to give Southampton a solid chance of staying in the Premier League next season. On the plus side, the performance against Arsenal was one that suggested Mark Hughes has instilled plenty of fight in this side, even if it was taken a bit too literally in the case of Jack Stephens. If Southampton can rattle Arsenal like that at the Emirates, they can go one better against Chelsea at St Mary’s or Leicester at the King Power.
Moreover, it’s not as if all the teams around Southampton are going to suddenly become Barcelona overnight. Everyone from Brighton (13th place, 35pts) to Stoke (19th, 27pts) is still in this battle, with a good or bad result changing the whole outlook for a team. For Saints though, if things do not turn around quickly, they will be branded with that tag nobody wants – relegated when thought too good to go down.