Premier League relegation was confirmed for Southampton on Saturday afternoon after they suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to Fulham. The result put an end to their miserable season and ended their 11-year stay in the top flight. The Saints’ fans have witnessed their club achieve commendable success over the past decade, but unfortunately, the Premier League challenge proved too much for them this season.
Highs and Lows from Southampton’s 11-Year-Long Premier League Stay
Southampton gained promotion to the Premier League in 2012 after finishing the 2011-2012 campaign of the EFL Championship in the second spot. Since returning to the Premier League the club has gone through plenty of highs and lows. As a matter of fact, Saints’ fans would suggest that their 11-year stay in the top flight has been a tale of two contrasting halves. One half where they have achieved tremendous success and punched above their weight and the other half where they have been below par and have failed to live up to the expectations of their fans.
After returning to the Premier League, Southampton finished their first season in 14th place and quickly established themselves as Premier League regulars. In the 2014-2015 season, they finished in seventh place and qualified for the UEFA Europa League. Unfortunately, they were knocked out in the playoffs by the Danish side Midtjylland.
In the following season, they surprised everyone by breaking their record for the highest-ever finish in the Premier League. They finished in sixth place that campaign and this time gained an automatic entry into the group stage of the UEFA Europa League. Once again, they could not make the most out of their stay in Europe and were eliminated in the group stage.
But there was plenty to cherish for Saints’ fans in the 2016-2017 campaign, as their club enjoyed a brilliant cup run in the EFL Cup. They defied all odds by going head-to-head against a resilient Manchester United side in the final. Despite their efforts, they ended up on the losing side after a thrilling encounter. Ibrahimovic’s 87th minute broke the hearts of Southampton fans and clinched a 3-2 victory for the Red Devils.
During these successful years, high-quality players started to emerge from Southampton. As a consequence, top clubs from Europe came rushing to sign these players. Hence, plenty of high-profile players moved away from Saint Mary’s Stadium. This included the likes of Sadio Mane, Virgil Van Dijk, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, and Dusan Tadic.
The sale of these players strengthened Southampton a lot financially, but inevitably it weakened their squad. This is evident from the fact that they struggled to finish in the top half of the table after the 2016-2017 season. They went from challenging for the European places to fighting the Premier League relegation battle in the seasons that followed. They suffered their worst-ever defeat in the Premier League when Leicester City and Manchester United scored nine goals against them on two separate occasions.
What led to Southampton’s Premier League relegation?
As far as Southampton’s Premier League relegation is concerned, the writing was already on the wall for Saints, as they had found themselves in the midst of a relegation battle in each of the previous two seasons. Unfortunately, the club’s management failed to address their issues which ultimately led to their relegation this season. So, what went wrong for them this season?
Firstly, Southampton’s recruitment has not been great and has faced serious backlash from their supporters. They have spent around £130 million on 13 players in the two transfer windows this season. Unfortunately, only a few of these players have managed to justify their price tag while the rest of them have found it difficult to adapt to the pace of the Premier League.
Secondly, Southampton have got the fourth-worst defensive and second-worst scoring record in the Premier League this season. They have conceded 66 goals this season and found the back of the net on only 30 occasions. When you find yourself at the bottom of both the defensive and scoring charts you are bound to find yourself in the relegation zone. The same has been the case with Southampton.
What’s next for the Saints?
Southampton fans will be hopeful that their club can bounce back straight into the Premier League next season. But the EFL Championship is a tough place to be and not many clubs are able to return to the top flight at the first time of asking. Only time will tell how the Saints will fare next season but for now, the main concern for Southampton has to be to deal with the implications of Premier League relegation.
Whenever a club gets relegated to the second tier, it is often followed by the exodus of marquee players from the squad. Plenty of clubs in Europe will be keeping tabs on the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Romeo Lavia, Mohamed Salisu, and others. A few of the new signings will also be looking to move away from Saint Mary’s which could include the likes of Mislav Orsic, Sekou Mara, and others.
So the Southampton board has to decide whether it is better to let these players leave and build a fresh squad or to convince some of these players to stay in a bid to make an immediate return to the top flight.