Southampton Slide Worrying

If, when he arrived at Southampton, anyone would have offered Ronald Koeman fifth place in the Premier League table after 16 games of the season, he would probably have gleefully accepted.

Having seen many of the club’s biggest names depart in the close season, Koeman, along with many fans and pundits, such as those at bluesq, would have expected little from his first season in charge.

But after starting the Premier League season in outstanding form, expectations have been raised at St Mary’s and whilst Koeman has cooled Champions League talk, he does think that Europa League qualification is a realistic ambition.

Dip in Form

On the face of it, Dutchman Koeman could be right. The Saints have played some really classy football this term and have defended with grit and determination, matching Chelsea’s record of just 13 goals conceded. Looking a little deeper into Southampton’s form, however, suggests a more worrying trend.

After losing to Liverpool on the opening day of the season, Southampton lost just once in their next 11 Premier League games. But, since then, their form has nosedived.

In their impressive run into November, Southampton came up against just one of last season’s top seven – losing 1-0 at Tottenham. But, in recent weeks, the fixture list has conspired to bring them up against Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City, all of which are games they have lost.

Knock to Confidence

Saturday’s defeat to Burnley marked Southampton’s fifth straight game without a win and, whilst it will have hurt Koeman to lose out to the big boys, this loss will potentially have done more damage than any of the others.

Despite their start to the season, Southampton will know that any points picked up against those challenging for the title are bonuses. If they are to maintain their position in the top half, let alone qualify for the Europa League, then they must beat those teams at the bottom.

Southampton must be cutthroat and take their chances against teams that are fighting for their lives. The loss to Burnley could galvanise the Saints back into form or it could have damaged their confidence irreparably.

We will find out soon enough as the Saints take on Everton and Chelsea in two of their next three Premier League games.