Appointed to keep Southampton in the Premier League, Mark Hughes completed the feat thanks to 8 points in the final 5 games. A win against relegation rivals was key in saving the Saints from an incredible fall from grace after a successful 16/17 campaign.
Hangover After Best Season
After narrowly missing out in the EFL Cup Final last season, and finishing an impressive 8th in the league Southampton’s season couldn’t have started much worse. Sacking the manager after such a season seemed peculiar, and certainly not what was needed. With two high-priced players coming in, and only Jay Rodriguez leaving in the summer things should’ve been bright for Southampton.
But they continued where they left off at the top of the pitch. Incredibly wasteful in front of goal they had one of the lowest shot conversion rates in the Premier League. Strangely failing to address that in the summer window, Southampton continued to struggle for goals. Had they sold Van Dijk, as they eventually did in January, maybe they would’ve addressed this glaring weakness.
Failing to score in 6 of their first 12 games Southampton collected just 10 points and set the tone for their season. They added Guido Carrillo in January for a staggering £19.8m, but he failed to score in 7 league games. They continued in much this vein for the whole season, going 12 games without a win from the end of November.
Draws Saved Southampton’s Season
Fraser Forster missed most of the season either through injury and poor form, Southampton seemed to lose all their identity from the previous season. With 8 games to go the decision came down to sack Mauricio Pellegrino. The only real question was why it took so long. The Saints were languishing and looked to have no hope at this point.
In stepped Mark Hughes, and promptly lost his first 3 games. However, in the end, he made the difference as Southampton pulled two wins and two draws from their final five games to avoid the drop by 3 points. A penultimate game showdown against Swansea proving the decisive moment as Manolo Gabbiadini pounced and scored courtesy of a huge deflection.
The future may not be as bleak as this season suggested. Southampton recorded a league-high 15 draws, and if just 5 of those had been turned into wins they would have finished 10th.