With over half of the Premier League season now gone, the table is beginning to take shape. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make for the most comfortable reading for fans of Southampton FC, who find themselves a mite closer to the relegation spots than they would have liked. Is there time for them to turn it around?
The good news is that Southampton certainly have the capabilities to play their way out of danger, and in Ralph Hasenhuttl they have a progressive manager who plays positive soccer and has made a point of giving young players a chance to impress. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether they can play to their potential and beat the dreaded drop come May. Here are a handful of factors which are certain to decide their fate in 2022.
The loss of Danny Ings would be a blow to any team, but for one so reliant on his firepower, it spelled disaster. Che Adams has proven himself to be a willing deputy and always puts in the hard yards, but doesn’t quite have the same eye for goal. Meanwhile, new recruit Adam Armstrong has shown flashes of promise but hasn’t reached anywhere near the same form that saw him net 28 times for Blackburn in the Championship this season.
Elsewhere, the on-loan Armando Broja has certainly been a bright spot on occasion, but at just 20 years of age, can’t be expected to shoulder the weight of a relegation battle alone. If Hasenhuttl can get his strikers firing, Southampton should bag the points they need to beat the drop.
Fortunately for Southampton, they have two of the league’s most promising young players in Tino Livramento and Kyle Walker-Peters; unfortunately for Southampton, they both play in the same position. Right back berth aside, the Saints’ defense looks leggy and liable to error, with the transfer of Jannik Vestergaard to Leicester City in the summer leaving them particularly light at center back.
That paucity in options has shown. There have been some strong performances on occasion, such as the back-to-back shut-outs against Manchester City and West Ham United in September, but by and large, Southampton have been excessively leaky. Only a handful of teams have conceded more than them so far and this, coupled with their woes up front, makes them a prime candidate for Championship football next season.
Of course, Southampton’s fate is unlikely to rest entirely in their own hands. Fans concerned about relegation will likely need to read more soccer news than just the articles which center on Saints’ results, since the performances of those around them will be all-important in determining whether they can steer clear of trouble.
The acquisition of Newcastle United by a Saudi Arabian consortium will have been particularly unwelcome news at St Mary’s, given that one of their biggest relegation rivals have now become the richest club in the world bar none. The fortunes of newly promoted Norwich, Brentford and Watford will also be crucial, while fellow strugglers Leeds and Burnley have performed below par thus far, but could easily turn things around going forwards.
With much of the season still to go, it’s certainly all to play for – but based upon form and fitness, Southampton are very much in danger of relegation in 2022.