When Southampton defeated Liverpool 3-1 at St. Mary's two weeks ago. it looked like the Saints had finally put some breathing room between themselves and those battling relegation. The victory took Mauricio Pochettino's men seven points above 18th-placed Wigan.
But Wigan had the audacity to win their match on that same weekend, and the gap closed to four points with the Latics still owning a game in hand.
Southampton should still feel good about their chances as long as they tend to business and don't pay attention to what is happening behind them. At 31 points, the Saints only need to win three matches out of their last eight to reach the mythical 40-point safety plateau.
In reality, it will probably take fewer than that.
Looking at the form of the bottom eight teams in the Premier League, it seems unlikely that the current bottom three of Wigan Athletic, Reading and Queens Park Rangers will get near 40 points. Both the Royals and Rangers are sitting on 23 points with eight games to play, meaning a near-miracle run-in of five wins out of eight would be required to get to 38.
Wigan has the best chance but will still need four wins out of nine to get to 39 points.
The following table shows that the drop zone will likely fall around 36-37 points. The table shows the home and road form of each of the bottom eight teams over the past six games and how many points each club would earn if they continued their current form.
|Team||Current Points|| |
Home Pts. Avg.
Road Pts. Avg.
|Home Gms. Remain|| |
Road Gms. Remain
|Expected Points||Expected Total|
Home and road points average refers to form over last six home and road games.
Examining Southampton's remaining fixtures, there are enough opportunities for victory to see out the task at hand. Strangely, one of the better opportunities may be this Saturday against Chelsea.
Chelsea may elect to rotate some players in due to an FA Cup quarterfinal replay against Manchester United on Monday. Also, Pochettino's men have fared much better against the big clubs, beating Manchester City and Liverpool since the Argentinian took the reins.
It's been the fellow strugglers like Wigan, Newcastle and QPR which Southampton have failed to cope with.
Which of the following teams is LEAST likely to be relegated at the end of the season?
It seems that Pochettino's tactics cause more problems for teams that like to play possession-based passing football than those who prefer to take a more direct approach.
Road dates with Reading, a tasty fixture with former Southampton manager Nigel Adkins taking charge of the Royals this week, and Sunderland offer chances to gain all three points. Meanwhile, West Ham United and their terrible road form, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City all pay visits to St. Mary's.
Southampton should survive if the Saints keep looking ahead at the opponents on the schedule. If horror films have taught us one thing, it's that you always get caught if you keep looking behind you.
Don't look back, just keep moving forward.