Opinion: Southampton's end to 2017 will determine the club's destiny

Opinion: Southampton's end to 2017 will determine the club's destiny

Mauricio Pellegrino has struggled to capture the imagination of Saints fans with the team lingering in mid-table as we approach the festive period.

Ryan White

Four games remain for Hampshire's Premier League outfit as Southampton hope to end the calendar on a high, albeit having to travel on the road for three of those matches; including this Saturday's trip to the capital as Mauricio Pellegrino's men play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

The difficult fixtures do not end after this weekend as the Saints are away to title hopefuls Manchester United and Champions League chasers Tottenham Hotspur, which follow the club's final home game of 2017 next week versus Huddersfield Town

These encounters follow a run of poor form for Southampton which has seen Pellegrino's squad pick up just one win from their last five Premier League matches, and two points from a possible twelve since their most recent triumph over Everton last month. 

The Saints ended November with a narrow defeat to runaway top-flight leaders Manchester City before welcoming the final month of the year to a draw against south coast rivals AFC Bournemouth. Arsenal were the visitors to St. Mary's last weekend and Southampton snatched a point from the Gunners before a humiliating home defeat to Leicester City upon Claude Puel's return to the club following his sacking in the summer. 

Nevertheless, Mauricio Pellegrino may be fearing for his job and the next four fixtures to their season will determine whether the Saints are in for another mid-table safety campaign or fearing for their Premier League safety. 

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Just how difficult is Southampton's run to end the year?

​Southampton can certainly count themselves unlucky with a run accumulated together for them. Three of the top four prior to this weekend's action is surely going to be an enduring task for manager Pellegrino. 

The team may lie in mid-table but sit four points off the top half and only the same number is the difference between themselves and the dreaded drop zone, despite lying 11th in the league table. 

If there remains any optimism for this season, then there is without any doubt a need to gain maximum points from those matches but in a realistic sense, it is measly impossible especially when Chelsea and Manchester United have made their home turfs a fortress. 

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham Hotspur has found it burdensome to make temporary home Wembley a fearful place to play for the opposition and if Southampton are to gain any points on their away outings before the new year then north London is their best chance to do so. 

As for Huddersfield Town's visit to St. Mary's, if the Saints want to ensure they don't end 2017 in serious trouble looming in or around the relegation zone then the three points are pivotal against the Terriers - and the likeliness they lose all four games is a major concern for the boss and could see the club in real trouble. 

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​Who are the key men to divert Southampton's troubles?

​Mauricio Pellegrino will have to be wholeheartedly careful with his team selections and those who come away from matches with any credibility need to remain in the starting eleven. For instance, Charlie Austin is seemingly the only attacking player in the ranks who can seemingly find the back of the net. 

Midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was shockingly dropped for the visit of Leicester City in midweek even though he has widely impressed since Pellegrino re-introduced the Danish international back into the first-team. 

Meanwhile, the defence hasn't received much praise of late and that's highly deserved for the appalling performances put in by the likes of Virgil van Dijk, who is obviously concentrating on a January move away to a top six club.