Southampton's Road Map to Avoiding Relegation
After crashing out of the FA Cup on Saturday—which may have actually been a blessing instead of a disappointment—Southampton are completely free to concentrate on their no. 1 priority: retaining Premier League status for next season.
While Southampton have been in a good spell of form lately, only losing two of their past 10 matches, they still have plenty of work to do. The Saints currently have 18 points in the league and are only outside the relegation zone by a goal difference.
Eighteen matches remain in Southampton's Premier League campaign.
Here are five things the Saints need to do to avoid the drop in May.
With the injury situation starting to mount, Southampton definitely need to add some reinforcements to the squad.
The Saints have been linked to a couple of big-name moves in the January transfer window. Cagliari's Davide Astori appears to be the no. 1 priority. Southampton have made an eight million-pound offer for the Italian international defender, according to the Daily Star.
Southampton were in need of more depth at center back, and that was before Jose Fonte picked up an injury in the FA Cup game against Chelsea that will have him sidelined for four to six weeks, according to the Daily Echo.
The Saints are also in the market for Jack Butland, according to the Daily Mail.
The goalkeeping situation at St. Mary's has been a revolving door, with Artur Boruc the current first choice over Kelvin Davis and Paulo Gazzaniga. Nigel Adkins has dismissed the rumor, according to ESPN, saying that he is happy with his current selection of goalkeepers.
With Gaston Ramirez, Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana also on the shelf, an extra wing midfielder and outside back might be useful additions, as well.
Southampton shouldn't break the bank to fill all their needs, however. Some short-term loan signings or out-of-favor veterans could provide enough depth to stop Southampton from sinking.
With Southampton currently missing four members of their regular starting XI, the Saints' chances of avoiding relegation would be given a boost by their players getting healthy.
There is good news on the injury front for Nathaniel Clyne and Gaston Ramirez, who have resumed training and may make it back for Saturday's important match against Aston Villa.
“I would have liked Gaston and Nathaniel to have been available for the last game (against Chelsea) but they just missed out on that," Nigel Adkins said in a weekly press conference.
Adkins continued, "They looked sharp and bright, and they’ve put themselves forward for selection for the weekend’s game."
The news isn't so good for Adam Lallana. The Daily Star reports that Lallana suffered a setback in training and could be out until the end of February. It would be a huge blow if true.
However, Adkins is playing coy and wouldn't provide a timetable for Lallana's return.
“He’s (Lallana) running around, which is important, and he has a rehabilitation program that he’s following. We’ll take one game at a time and, when he’s fit to play, he’ll play.” Adkins said in his press conference.
Keep the Squad Intact
While there aren't many rumors of players leaving Southampton during the January window, keeping the current squad intact is a top priority for the club's safety.
One major rumor was quashed recently when young fullback Luke Shaw committed his future to Southampton by agreeing to a new five-year deal.
"To put an end to all the speculation, I will be committing my future to Southampton. I’m not going anywhere," Shaw said in a club press release.
"I think Southampton is the place to be for young kids like me," Shaw continued. "I’m playing in the Premier League for the first team and that is all anyone wants to be doing, so I just want to carry on."
Shaw had been previously linked to possible moves to Chelsea or Arsenal.
The only other active rumor, according to FootballTransferLeague.co.uk, is a move for Rickie Lambert to West Ham. That move seems to be a long shot at best, since Southampton have no reason to sell their top goalscorer, whose contract runs through the summer of 2014.
Become Road Warriors
Out of Southampton's 18 remaining games, 10 of those are away from St. Mary's.
The eight games at St. Mary's aren't all guaranteed results.
That means Southampton will have to get their work done on the road. There are certainly plenty of games away from home that Southampton can get three points out of: against Aston Villa, Wigan Athletic, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Reading and Sunderland.
But the Saints have only picked up five points in nine road games—a win against QPR and draws against Fulham and Stoke City.
Five points from the remaining road games won't cut it. Southampton will need at least 10 points from those 10 games to stave off relegation.
Continue the Defensive Improvement
While there have been recent breakdowns in the Southampton defense, such as the five goals conceded to Chelsea in their third-round FA Cup defeat, it has made great progress since the beginning of the season.
Yes, the Saints have conceded 38 goals and have a minus-11 goal differential. Most of that happened in the first 10 games, when Southampton allowed 28 goals and their goal differential was minus-14.
In their second set of 10 Premier League games, Southampton have only conceded 10 goals and had a positive goal differential at plus-three.
Conceding one goal per match is good enough in today's Premier League, where even league leaders Manchester United have conceded 28 goals.
Especially when Southampton have only been shut out on four occasions.