Southampton suffered a shock 1-0 defeat against newly-promoted Premier League side Burnley on the weekend, which stretched the Saints’ winless run to five games.
A draw against Aston Villa, and defeats to Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, and most recently Burnley has seen the previously second-placed South Coast outfit close to dropping out of the top-six altogether in the next game week.
Supporters were confident of a top-four finish when Southampton were sitting in a lofty second place in the league after 12 games, but now previous optimising is starting to fade. Manager Ronald Koeman was keen to play down the dip in form by pointing to the calibre of opponent faced, but with the Saints having dropped points to Aston Villa and Burnley in recent weeks, their season could be starting to unfold.
The next set of games haven’t been too kind to them either, as Southampton are set to come up against Everton (home), Chelsea (home), Arsenal (home) and Manchester United (away) as four of their next five league fixtures.
Coupled with the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham starting to pick up results, and the Saints could find themselves on the outside looking in to the teams in a European finish. Four of the sides who finished in the top-seven last season are still currently below Ronald Koeman’s side in the table, so there will be extra competition in the coming weeks.
Last season, Southampton finished in an impressive 8th place in the table, but spent the early periods in the top four before suffering a six-game winless run around Christmas time. Then-manager Mauricio Pochettino saw his side pick up just two league wins in 12 games, which saw them drop from 3rd to 9th at the time.
While the aforementioned quartet are all expected to climb up the table, Southampton are also fighting with surprise packages West Ham (4th), Newcastle (8th) and Swansea (9th), which could see the final points tallies being very close between a large selection of sides sitting below 6th.
The biggest worry for Saints is their poor record against the elite sides. Koeman’s men have lost all five of their meetings against teams in last season’s top-seven, which means their poor run could continue with such a difficult run of games to come.
A top-half finish will be the objective for Southampton, but supporters may well have to be content with a similar or lesser finish than last season’s, given the quality of the teams around them.