Where it all went wrong for Southampton as relegation is confirmed

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Agency Report

Southampton’s 2-0 defeat to Fulham on Saturday saw the club relegated with a whimper after 11 years in the Premier League.

Second-half strikes from Carlos Vinicius and Aleksandar Mitrovic confirmed the hosts’ demise in convincing fashion.

It’s been a tumultuous season for the Saints with three managers failing to get the best out of a talented but inconsistent squad.

We take a look at where it all went wrong.

Inevitable dip
The reality for clubs of Southampton’s stature is that it only takes a few missteps for a season like this one to creep up on you.

Even prior to this term, the club had recorded bottom-six finishes in four of their last five campaigns — and most of them were spent in the safe hands of Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The Saints have also recorded four top-half finishes during this stint in the top tier, so their relegation should serve as a reminder to the likes of Brighton and Brentford that teams outside of the elite are never truly established.

Less pressing

Intense pressing had become a hallmark of Hasenhuttl’s Southampton, with only Liverpool, Manchester City and Brighton winning the ball back more often in their own attacking third across the two campaigns previous to this one.

That rank nosedived from fourth to 16th this season — and though it was not all the fault of Nathan Jones, who replaced the Austrian, his time in charge was marred by attempts to make the team more flexible that only resulted in them losing their sense of DNA.

Jones used multiple systems and playing styles during a period in which the Saints’ season turned from worrying to desperate, losing seven league games in eight. Third manager Ruben Selles was unable to fix the damage.

Promising squad

A recruitment drive that saw Southampton sign several promising but raw young players last summer could be another reason why they lost their way tactically.

That does at least mean, however, that they head into the Championship with a squad full of assets who they can either sell to make up the financial shortfall or use to help take the club back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Armel Bella-Kotchap, Romeo Lavia and Carlos Alcaraz are among the players who will be interesting top-tier clubs, while talisman James Ward-Prowse is almost certain to command a decent transfer fee.