Southampton mid-season review: Despite shortcomings, Saints aiming to improve
Picture source: Reuters

Stark comparison

For Southampton, it has been a largely disappointing start to the campaign - having only picked up 21 points from their 17 matches thus far, this term. The main concern has been their home form, where the Saints have only mustered 11 points from their nine home games so far, whilst on the road, they have picked up 10 points from their eight games which suggests that they have been better on the road so far, which is very concerning because most teams build themselves upon being solid at home.

Last season, they picked up 37 points out of a possible 57 at St. Mary's, whilst one of their main concerns is the fact that their backline has conceded 21 goals this season - compared to just 13 at the same stage in 2014.

Transfers

This was yet another summer where the side lost key players - having lost the likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren the previous summer, it was going to be crucial that they retained most of their top stars - but was always going to be difficult, and proved this precisely.

The Saints lost Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin to Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, as well as losing out on signing Toby Alderweireld on a permanent deal - he opted to switch to Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham instead, which was a huge loss for the side.

Southampton made eight acquisitions in the summer too, as well as having both Gaston Ramírez and Jay Rodriguez back from a loan spell and long-term injury respectively.

This ultimately gave Ronald Koeman many more options but the quality of the squad was not as high as the previous year - players such as Cuco Martina, Steven Caulker and Juanmi were all brought in with the Europa League in mind but So'ton wre eliminated in the play-off rounds after a 2-1 aggregate loss at the hands of FC Midtjylland.

The most important signing was Maarten Stekelenburg, who was initially a replacement for long-term absentee, Fraser Forster. He's just returned to full training and is expected to make a return early in the New Year with some youth-team minutes under his belt.

Early season form

The season began away at Newcastle, and Shane Long's late leveller helped hand the side their first point of the campaign. Five points from the next five games was an uncomfortable reminder of the fact that, despite the success last season, it was certainly not going to be an easy ride this time around.

A fantastic win against Norwich, a dull draw at West Brom and an entertaining, but unlucky, 3-2 defeat at the hands of Manchester United were just the pick of the early season fixtures before the untimely elimination from Midtjylland themselves.

Despite their European shortcomings though, they were certainly eager to improve and develop on last season's positive points.

Saints then go eight unbeaten

Following the narrow defeat against United, Southampton went on an eight-game unbeaten run. This in itself, spanned over a two-month period, and has been their best passage of the season to date.

Two Capital One Cup victories, draws against Leicester and Liverpool, as well as important wins over Swansea, Sunderland, rivals Bournemouth and reigning champions Chelsea, all helped to sweeten the mood on the south Coast.

The run itself was ended by an impressive Stoke City outfit, who came out narrow victors from an early Bojan strike - but it could, and probably should have been more.

A tough run of games followed

Then, a daunting run of fixtures came their way. Manchester City, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Tottenham (all defeats) were certainly tough to take - especially the Liverpool loss. Despite going a goal ahead in the early exchanges, the team were tactically disorganised and looked defensively fragile when trying to contend with the counter-attack. Even a change of formation to three at the back couldn't help matters, as Jürgen Klopp's side were ruthless going forward and Divock Origi netted a hat-trick in an impressive away display.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

The Boxing Day clash with Arsenal is now a must-win game, given what has happened in previous weeks. Other than Claudio Ranieri's Leicester side, the Gunners are the team in the best form and come off the back of a fantastic win at the Emirates against Manchester City.

Koeman himself has hinted that he may make some alterations for the game, but it's honestly hard to see who he'd drop - because despite this tough spell of bad form, they've not been playing particularly badly, but haven't been converting their opportunities into goals.

After the intriguing encounter with the north Londoners, the Saints head into a more friendly run of fixtures - where they'll be hoping to pick up some form along the way. They come up against West Ham, Norwich, Watford and West Brom in successive weeks. Even though no game in the Premier League is easy, on paper, they have certainly have a better chance of winning.

Forster's return to action is a welcome boost as Stekelenburg has been inconsistent, whilst Paulo Gazzaniga is still learning his trade as a goalkeeper and isn't yet ready to assert his first-team credentials.

It wouldn't be too much of a surprise if the Dutchman were to dip into the transfer market this upcoming window, as he did last season. Signing Eljero Elia and Filip Djuricic on respective loan deals helped to bolster the squad's options as the matches continued to pile up in quick succession.

Can they shake off their winless run and retain some impressive form? Time will tell, but they're certainly yearning for more goals from the chances they've created.

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