This relegation battle in the Premier League this year is one of the most intriguing in recent times. With 11 games left for all teams, just five points separate 10th placed Bournemouth from 18th placed Southampton. Itâ€™s safe to say that anyone falling within that bracket is in danger of going down.
West Brom, currently on 20 points, look pretty much doomed. Not only has their form been wretched under Alan Pardew, but recent off the field controversies point to a club going in the wrong direction. It looks like the Baggies and two others will be in the Championship next year.
Saints struggles have been largely ignored by the media
But, what about Southampton? Despite sitting in the relegation zone on 26 points after 27 games and their next game being a tough tie away to Burnley, Southampton have largely escaped the â€˜crisis-clubâ€™ tag. There seems to be little pressure on manager Mauricio Pellegrino, nor does there even seem to be a consensus that they are in deep trouble.
It seems that, for many, Southampton fall into that category of a side who will â€˜get it right eventuallyâ€™. But, at what point does bad luck or teething problems actually become the reality for a team? We are no longer in mid-season â€“ Southampton are in very deep trouble.
Eight teams have lower odds than Southampton for relegation
Indeed, even the bookmakers think Southampton will coast to safety. Coral have priced Southampton at 4/1 to be relegated at the end of the season. Those odds are massive for a team that has only won five games this season. By way of contrast, Huddersfield, currently one point ahead of Southampton, and Stoke, one point behind, are both priced at 5/6 to go down.
What then have Southampton shown pundits and bookmakers to make them nearly double the price of, for example, Swansea (9/4)? Itâ€™s hard to put a finger on, because they are exhibiting all the traits of a relegation candidate. To repeat, they have won just five games this season. Punters could do a lot worse than using the latest Coral betting offers to back the Saints to go down.
March victories will be integral to secure top-flight football next season
If there is a saving grace for Southampton, it is that they have an opportunity over the next handful of games to move away from trouble. After Burnley on 24th February, they have three games in March against fellow relegation candidates: Stoke City on 3rd March (H), Newcastle on 10th March (A) and West Ham on 31st March (A). They will have the welcome respite of an FA Cup quarter-final in between those fixtures.
While none of those games will be easy for Southampton, they really do need to pick up some wins in March as every one of their remaining games in April and May is against sides currently in the Top 10. The run-in will include fixtures against Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea, as well as tough away trips to Leicester and Everton. It will be difficult for a team that has taken just five points from teams in the top half of the table this season.
Better teams than Southampton have been relegated before
Perhaps Southampton will do the necessary to stay up. Perhaps there are three poorer teams around them that will perform so badly that the Saints will limp ingloriously to safety.
But if they donâ€™t get their act together soon, especially by turning draws into wins, they could be another in the long list of â€˜too good to go downâ€™ teams looking up with envy from the Championship next season.