Southampton 2017-18 season review: Saints narrowly sustain top-flight status

Southampton 2017-18 season review: Saints narrowly sustain top-flight status

A somewhat delusional campaign for Southampton as the club battled to hold onto their right to be in the Premier League.

ryan-white
Ryan White

Southampton endured an unarguably dismal campaign over the last ten or so months as the club were losing grip of their Premier League status at the helm of Mauricio Pellegrino and his successor, Mark Hughes; just a measly twelve months after finishing eighth and sacking Claude Puel

The Saints' only positive to come out of this harrowing season was the welcomed appearance at the home of English football - Wembley - as the first-team did reach the FA Cup semi-final. 

Little spending in summer transfer window

For any outfit outside the top-six, a spot outside the relegation places is anything but disaster, let one ending the 2016/17 term in eighth; albeit a catastrophic fifteen points behind seventh-placed Everton, so there was a lot of expectation from Southampton fans to exceed that, or at the very least match it. 

This would, quite apparent, require a large sum of money to be splashed on the playing squad, however, there would be just the two marquee arrivals through the doors as Mauricio Pellegrino began his short tenure as Saints boss. 

In an attempt to strengthen the back line, Wesley Hoedt was signed by the south coast club and his Serie A counterpart followed as out-of-favour Juventus midfielder Mario Lemina also moved to St. Mary's. Jan Bednarek, a promising Polish defender, was acquired but would only prove to be a key asset to the under-23 side. 

Southampton went onto to lose a pivotal attacking player from their ranks; Jay Rodriquez, whose most of his Saints career was spent in the treatment room unfortunately, switched for West Bromwich Albion in a transfer that amounted to around £12 million

Mixed beginning for Pellegrino

With an ever-growing mountain of pressure from supporters to see what this untested Premier League boss could bring to the table, Southampton began the season in mixed fashion as two goalless draws sandwiched a dramatic 3-2 triumph over West Ham United - in that time, the club also bowed out of the EFL Cup after Wolverhampton Wanderers progressed following victory at St. Mary's

Two wins in six followed, including four defeats, and Mauricio Pellegrino was finally adapting to the toughness of the top-flight as the Saints slowly drifted down the table. Although that run was halted by an exciting encounter with newly-promoted and south coast rivals Brighton & Hove Albion, with the teams sharing the spoils

Southampton would be show their true battle and spirit in the following three league games as the first-team had to face free-scoring Liverpool and Manchester City, as well as an under-performing Everton. Defeats were at hand for the Saints against the Reds and Cityzens, but ran out to a 4-1 rout over the Toffees on home turf; firm fan favourite Charlie Austin netting twice. 

Saints performed a festive horror show

Supporters began to turn against Pellegrino going into December and the festive schedule. Successive draws to AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal were respectable but former manager Claude Puel returned to St. Mary's as Leicester City boss, and went away with all three points in a 4-1 victory for the 2016 Premier League winners. 

They then travelled to Stamford Bridge and lost to a narrow score line as Southampton fell to a 1-0 loss to top-four chasing Chelsea. A point at home to Huddersfield came prior to some devastating and heartbreaking news for Saints fans as forward Charlie Austin would be ruled out for several months having sustained a hamstring injury, as well as picking up a three-match suspension from The FA after colliding with Terriers goalkeeper Jonas Lössl. 

Boxing Day came and it's fair to say not many in the camp were in high spirits with the trip to Wembley to face Tottenham Hotspur. A Harry Kane hat-trick glided Spurs to a 5-2 triumph over Southampton - now sitting a dooming two points above the bottom three. 

Van Dijk sealed dream move to Anfield

Whilst his summer move did not quite go to plan, centre-half Virgil van Dijk signed the dotted line in late December to bag a £75 million transfer to Merseyside as Liverpool confirmed the signing; leaving the Saints without their main asset, but on the other hand, did have money in the bank. 

This would not be apparent to the majority of the fan base as the only incoming for January was AS Monaco forward Guido Carrillo, who has done very little to impress since arriving at St. Mary's. 

Cup progress but relegation became a reality

Mauricio Pellegrino's job was disastrously on the line for the forthcoming months; Southampton would only go on to rack up just one league win from the turn of the year until late April. However, in that lengthy period of time, the first-team did see a cup run mount as the Saints were slowly, but surely, dreaming the impossible of perhaps lifting that famous FA cup. 

Hard-fought victories over Fulham and Watford in the early stages saw the squad progress, before beating West Bromwich Albion in the West Midlands. Surprisingly, a draw for the quarter-finals saw the club face League One outfit Wigan Athletic - beating the Latics 2-0. 

News to many fans' jubilation, before that tie in the north-west, boss Mauricio Pellegrino was cut loose following an embarrassing three goals to nil defeat to Newcastle United. Mark Hughes would be given the task of keeping the Saints in the Premier League having recently walked out the door at fellow strugglers Stoke City

Chelsea would overcome Southampton in the FA Cup semi-finals, meaning the club could surely focus on the fierce and implausible activity of retaining their top-flight status. 

Sensational ending to season 

Fans last tasted Premier League victory against West Brom in early February, over two months without a win in the division, but they welcomed AFC Bournemouth to St. Mary's and took all three points off the Cherries to boost the survival hopes; Dušan Tadić proving to be the hero with his brace. 

Two points were dropped at Goodison Park as Nathan Redmond's second-half opener was cancelled out by Everton's 96th minute equaliser, much to Southampton supporters' despair.

The game that meant a whole lot more than just three points followed as the Saints travelled to Wales to face Swansea City, who were in as much of a relegation battle as their opponents. Manolo Gabbiadini provided to be on hand to score the goal that may have very well netted the club's safety.

The only way that could see St. Mary's become a Championship ground next season was if there happened to be an exceptional goal difference swing on the final day, but a 1-0 defeat to champions Manchester City sealed the side's fate of remaining in the Premier League. Mark Hughes completed the job at hand of keeping this team in the top-flight. 

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