It has without doubt been a miserable season for Southampton in the Premier League, and with six matches remaining, they are staring relegation to the Championship directly in the face.
They were unfortunate in their last outing against Arsenal at the Emirates. Goals from Shane Long and Charlie Austin had put the Saints in a good position to at least come away with a point, but a brace from Danny Welbeck and a first-half strike from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang condemned them to yet another defeat.
Hughes yet to have the desired impact
The club’s hierarchy decided to dismiss Mauricio Pellegrino last month and replace him with former-Stoke City manager Mark Hughes. However, the experienced 54-year-old coach is yet to make an impact at Southampton which has left the club dancing with danger.
Hughes has lost his first two league games in charge of the club against West Ham United and Arsenal. The performance in the 3-0 defeat to West Ham at the London Stadium was particularly demoralising. Usually, when a new manager arrives at a club, the players have extra motivation to impress.
However, the Saints’ performance at the London Stadium was very poor against a side who at the time were in just as much danger of relegation as they continue to be.
The performance against Arsenal was much-improved, but that counts for little at this stage of the season. Hughes will be acutely aware that it is all about getting points on the board in the situation they are in. If they can produce a similar performance in their final six games, they may still have a chance of survival.
Still a chance of silverware
Despite their poor performance in the Premier League this season, the Saints still have an opportunity to lift the FA Cup in May. Hughes’ first game came against Wigan Athletic in the quarter-finals of the competition at the DW Stadium. His side came out 2-0 winners and have since drawn Chelsea in the semi-finals.
Ironically, Chelsea are the Saints’ next opponents in the Premier League this Saturday. Antonio Conte’s Blues have certainly not been at their best in recent weeks and if Southampton can pick up two wins against Chelsea between now and the end of the season, their season could have a far more positive outlook.
However, it is ultimately the games against Leicester City, AFC Bournemouth, Everton and Swansea City which will define their season before a final day showdown against Champions elect Manchester City.
The Saints will be hoping that they have secured survival before Pep Guardiola’s side arrive. At this stage, that looks extremely unlikely. If the Saints are to secure survival, they are likely to need to claim a result on the final day unless their form improves drastically between now and then.
If the worst case scenario does happen, it will be interesting to see whether the club’s hierarchy have faith in Hughes to lead the club back to the top flight at the first attempt.