Mauricio Pellegrino has confirmed the news Southampton fans were dreading as striker Charlie Austin is set to be out of action for at least two months, missing all of January and most likely February as well having picked up a hamstring injury earlier this month.
The 28 year-old has netted six Premier League goals this term, with an outside chance of earning a call-up to the England national next summer for the World Cup, but limped off during last weekend's home draw to Huddersfield Town - a game in which Austin scored the equaliser to earn a point.
Officially, the Saints are yet to receive the results of the player's scans but Pellegrino has conceded that his star possession is to miss the majority in the early months of the new year and could very well be a catastrophic absence for Southampton.
''I expect Charlie will be out for a couple of months minimum''
Despite Mauricio Pellegrino being on the receiving end of an abundance of criticism in recent weeks following the hefty defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Boxing Day and the heavy loss against Leicester City in front of a home crowd, the manager did introduce Charlie Austin to the starting eleven and his decision did pay off.
However, the news means Southampton are light in attacking options with just Manolo Gabbiadini and drastically out-of-form Shane Long the only players up for selection to lead the line.
Pellegrino stated ''Okay, it is something that happens but the good news for Shane and Manolo is that they will have more minutes to compete and it’s a possibility for them."
Fans will be hoping Gabbiadini can rejuvenate his form of last season at St. Mary's with the absence of Charlie Austin; the Italian has found the back of the net on a measly three occasions so far in the 2017/18 campaign.
Focusing on the blow of Austin likely to miss the next couple of months, the boss said "Yes, it is a big pity because Charlie was in a really good moment.''
The Saints are struggling defensively as well after conceding five to Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, predominantly due to the side-lined Ryan Bertrand and Cédric Soares. Mauricio Pellegrino updated the media and supporters on the two full-backs; "Ryan is the closest, but I don’t know, tomorrow we will decide if he will be ready against Manchester United, Cedric still needs a couple of weeks."
Southampton may very well be on the search for attacking reinforcements as the January transfer window approaches, especially as there is now £75 million in the bank from the Virgil van Dijk sale to Liverpool.