Saints go marching down?

Southampton used to be lauded, now they're in a relegation scrap

Daily Mail

Mark Hughes keeping faith in Southampton's misfiring forward line

'We just need to take that final step': Mark Hughes is keeping faith in Southampton's misfiring forward line

  • Southampton are looking to end a run of four league matches without a goal

  • Saints are also still searching for a first victory at St Mary's this season

  • Mark Hughes believes there is no cause for alarm at side's slump in form

Southampton boss Mark Hughes believes there is no cause for alarm at his side's lack of goal threat.

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Are Southampton a shadow of their former selves?

By Joe Harker

The biggest winning margin of this weekend's Premier League fixtures was Manchester City's 6-1 drubbing of Southampton. In truth the only real surprise about the game was that the Saints managed to score at all, a Danny Ings penalty their only consolation in a game where they were comprehensively outplayed and outclassed. A shambolic performance left Mark Hughes' team just above the relegation zone as one of many teams struggling to find the quality to prove they deserve to stay in the division.

Club legend Matt Le Tissier lamented the current state of affairs, criticising his former team for their "lack of desire" and "lack of intensity". Indeed, during the game several of City's goals came from their forwards being able to play in the Saints box without a challenge. Far too many times a chance to put a tackle in went by without being taken.

Squawka compared each team's start to the season compared with their efforts in the previous season and found that Southampton are one of the teams that has declined the most. Last season almost saw the Saints relegated but this time around they have six points fewer. Had they started this badly last time they would have been relegated and the Saints desperately need something to give them a boost.

One of their main problems is the lack of goalscorers in the squad. Only Huddersfield have scored fewer so far this season and Ings' four goals makes him their top scorer. Of their other potential goalscorers, Shane Long has scored twice since the start of last season and Charlie Austin's last Premier League goal came in April. They just don't have enough firepower, having averaged less than a goal a game since the start of the 2016/17 season.

Much lauded a few seasons ago, Southampton's way of doing things has utterly collapsed over the past two years. They used to be a team with a good record for producing quality youth players and making smart transfer decisions, allowing them to survive several transfer windows of losing their best players and having to rebuild the team. Now they look like a side lacking quality and with no real direction. Their failure to adequately replace a number of players has cost them hugely.

Something exceedingly worrying about Southampton's current form is their abysmal home game record. They have won four of their last 29 home games in the league, something that surely cannot continue if they want to stay in the Premier League.

Manager Mark Hughes, who signed a three year contract in the summer, expected his team to be better this season. He is now getting fewer points per game than his predecessor Mauricio Pellegrino and some fans don't believe he's the right man to steer them clear this season.

Perhaps what is saving Southampton is the chance that there are three worse teams than them in the Premier League. It is often considered that 40 points is the threshold for safety in the league, meaning that teams should be averaging just over a point per game to be sure of making it. Right now there are seven teams who are on course to miss that 40 point mark, with the very worst averaging less than half a point per game. Getting seven points after 11 should be relegation form, but there are teams in a worse state. That might be the saving grace of the Saints, but it won't save them forever.

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The National

Southampton are sleepwalking into trouble under the underachieving Mark Hughes

It isn't often Pep Guardiola channels the feeling of the Portsmouth fans. Perhaps he did on Sunday. "Chapeau," the Manchester City manager said. "I admire Mark. " And, in Mark Hughes' defence, his Southampton side had mustered the most shots on target against the Premier League leaders this season. An alternative interpretation is that Guardiola praises anyone whose naïve tactics make life easier for City. Southampton, 3-0 down after 18 minutes, were the most obliging of opponents.

They suffered their heaviest defeat for six years to leave Hughes with the lowest win percentage - a mere 21.7 - of anyone to spend 20 games in charge.

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