Southampton Review 2017: Year devoid of excitement for the Saints

Southampton Review 2017: Year devoid of excitement for the Saints

St. Mary's has seen little excitement in the calendar year as we approach the end of 2017 and the team sits in disarray.

Ryan White

2017 may be a year to cherish for many supporters across the country, however, for one set of fans it'll be twelve months of horror and torrid displays to forget - Southampton. The Saints have bewilderingly had little to prosper over the last year and there's no sign of that improving on the south coast anytime soon. 

Two managerial changes have been clustered by a lack of positive results, a cup final defeat and everything in-between. One thing is more certain; Saints supporters will be happy to see the turn of the year and look ahead to 2018 with as much optimism as the club can fulfil. 

Differing form has ended with unspectacular end

Southampton began the year in disappointing fashion with a uninspiring 3-0 loss on the road to Everton under Claude Puel. Although, the following outing would showcase somewhat of an upbeat mood in the Staplewood camp with progressing through to the FA Cup Fourth Round via a win over Norwich City. January also saw the Saints overcome Liverpool in the League Cup semi-finals to earn a place at Wembley. Despite four triumphs in the first month of 2017, only one was in thwe Premier League

As the year progressed, going deeper into the 2016/17 campaign, the results steadied and Southampton would struggle to set the world alight under Puel, who received large quantities of criticism for his defensive approach to games. The club did manage to net two against Manchester United in the League Cup Final, thanks to winter window acquisition Manolo Gabbiadini, but lost to a late winner from the opposition

In the team's last eight top-flight matches of last season, Claude Puel's men would have to come up against five of the division's top six; managing just one win in the run-in, coming against Middlesbrough in May. The Saints finished the campaign eighth in the table, however, a large gap of fifteen points separated them and Everton in seventh. As a result, score lines were unsuccessful to the majority of fans and Puel lost his job as a consequence - the club appointing Mauricio Pellegrino as his successor. 

Southampton began the season in high hopes with five points from the first three outings but as time went on goals would become a distant memory and slowly, but surely, the squad would drift down the Premier League table. Three successive defeats to Burnley, Liverpool and Manchester City in November were followed by a stimulating 4-1 home win against Everton. That would prove to be the club's final victory of the calendar year and it's fair to say, in terms of results, it's been a largely disappointing twelve months at St. Mary's

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​Charlie Austin shines in mundane year

​Based on results, Southampton have had a second-rate 2017 and relegation is very much a possibility, meaning it hasn't been difficult to assess the team's star performer over the year; easily Charlie Austin

This absolutely says a lot considering the 28 year-old striker was out of action with a shoulder injury until the end of April, netting nine goals across all of last season but most came before his devastating lay-off. This term, Austin has found the back of the net on six occasions but, yet again, suffers a long-term spell on the side-lines with a hamstring problem. 

Saying that, it would only have to be a contest between the former Queens Park Rangers man and arguably Ryan Bertrand, but the contribution Charlie Austin has made to this lacklustre Southampton side has gained the team so many much-needed points on the board and the fact that so many fans adore the player just makes his job that little bit easier, thankfully. 

Shane Long the largest let down for Saints

In a year that Southampton fans will want to wipe from their memories, many members of the first-team have not lived up to expectations and the list is seemingly endless - one player who has certainly failed to liven up is attacking option Shane Long

The Republic of Ireland international has been unable to score for club or country since February and, to be considered a senior selection under Mauricio Pellegrino or Claude Puel, is debatable with the lack of goals the Saints have seen this year, specifically this side of the summer. 

Originally at the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign, it was a battle between Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long to be the front man but the latter has desperately struggled in the Premier League and his Southampton days could be imminently over, especially with the January transfer window swiftly approaching. 

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​Wembley moment should be cherished

​Claude Puel endured a mediocre spell at St. Mary's during his one year in charge on the Hampshire coast but if there is one moment he and supporters will want to remember from the year of 2017 it should be the appearance the club made at Wembley in February to face giants Manchester United in the League Cup Final. 

It was definitely a tough task to get there in the first place as the Saints had to overcome Liverpool over two legs, which they did, scoring two goals and conceding nil on aggregate, to earn their spot at the national stadium and the game was something spectacular. 

Southampton fans may want to forget the final result but the game itself was something to cherish as two goals from Gabbiadini nearly saw Puel's men sneak into extra time having gone two goals behind. Even for a top-flight outfit with the stature such as the Saints, going to Wembley is a rare occurrence and that is why it should be one of the main highlights of 2017. 

Foxes defeat represents low point

Surprisingly, the worst moment of the calendar year for Southampton has to be relevant to the current situation and the recent home loss to Leicester City, where former boss Claude Puel is currently managing. The final score line represents two factors which just sums up the club's position at this moment in time. 

The Saints conceded four goals to the Foxes on their way to a 4-1 defeat and the game showcased why Puel should never have been sacked as manager - despite finishing a significant gap away from seventh of last term, he did well to grab a place behind with the budget he was given. 

It also constituted that Southampton are in drastic trouble and Mauricio Pellegrino is tactically inept. This match was the turning point that the majority of supporters turned against the regime and surely his time at St. Mary's is counting downwards. 

​2018 to bring prosperity?

​A relegation dog fight is what waits for the Saints if things don't change and with the January window opening tomorrow, it couldn't get any better of an opportunity to invest in this diabolical squad; considering there is an added £75 million in the bank from the Virgil van Dijk sale

If the club can survive the drop to the Championship then next campaign could be the moment Southampton make their intents serious with money coming into the team and there is absolutely no reason why, following the summer, a European push cannot be mounted.