Where now then for Southampton? After the nine (NINE) nil defeat by Leicester last Friday night, there was a general feeling that things could not get any worse for the Saints, however, this weekends fixture list begs to differ. In midweek Ralph Hasenhüttl took his wounded animals to Manchester for a League Cup tie against City. Under normal circumstances, a three-one defeat, gifting the opposition 77% possession and 19 shots on goal would not be seen as progress. On this occasion though, you suspect that Southampton were not overly displeased with the result.
These are difficult times for Saints boss Ralph Hasenhüttl.
For Saints the future has a good news/bad news look about it. Seven of the next eight fixtures appear to be winnable (again under the caveat of normal circumstances) unfortunately they first have to overcome another trip to face City in the League tomorrow afternoon. On Tuesday, one got the distinct impression that Pep Guardiola's side were going easy on their opponents, after all, goal difference is not a factor in the League Cup whereas in the Premier League it most definitely is. Saints fans should expect no favours from City this time around and the champions will field a stronger side to boot.
Hasenhüttl, then, has choices to make ahead of tomorrow's game. There exists at St Mary's a whole raft of players that have fallen out of favour in recent times. Jack Stephen's, the goal scorer in midweek, was making just his second start of the season. Criticised for being error-prone at times, the central defender is surely worth more starts given the teams poor defensive record this season. Stuart Armstrong made his first start in midweek since the penultimate game of last season. Armstrong is not a world-beater but his aggressive pressing approach and eye for a pass surely merit more game time when those playing in his stead have been performing so poorly. Summer signing, Che Adams has also found himself out of the picture recently having begun the first seven league games of the season. Yes, Adams is still waiting for his first goal of the campaign, but his goal-scoring record last season suggests he should be persevered with.
Saints next eight fixtures with points on offer after tomorrow.
|Sat 9th Nov||Everton||Home|
|Sat 23rd Nov||Arsenal||Away|
|Sat 30th Nov||Watford||Home|
|Wed 4th Dec||Norwich||Home|
|Sun 8th Dec||Newcastle||Away|
|Sat 14th Dec||West Ham||Home|
|Sat 21st Dec||Aston Villa||Away|
It's a cliche, yes, but the definition of madness is to continue doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Southampton's squad does not look like one that should be embroiled in a third straight relegation battle, the pieces of the puzzle are all in the box they just need deploying correctly. A win against Manchester City may be a million miles away but it is an opportunity to begin again after last weeks mauling. It is not too late to turn Southampton's season around but Hasenhüttl must make some difficult choices or else the Saints may finally go marching down, just as they have threatened to do over the past few years.