Burnley Game Pivotal To The Season
Thursday, 13th Feb 2020 12:07
Saints season is in the balance, it could be a final three months scraping across the safety line of 40 points or it could see us like 2016 storm to a Europe League spot, but the pivotal moment could well be on Saturday.
Sometimes the result of a game may seem innocuous at the time but on reflection it is the result that turned the season, back in 2016 the 3-2 win over Liverpool is often quoted as just such one of those games, but the reality was that the season had turned the week before at Stoke City.
We travelled to the Potteries in 9th place on 41 points and our Top 10 charge was faltering, we were 6 points behind Man Utd in 6th, 8 behind West Ham in 5th and although we were only 3 points behind Liverpool in 7th they had played a game left, our opponents Stoke were 2 points ahead of us and a win for them would send them 5 points clear.
But it was our 2-1 win that changed the season, suddenly we were up to 7th and in our remaining games we would win 6 draw one and lose only at eventual Champions Leicester.
So although the Liverpool game was the one we all remember, it was a cold day at Stoke that was the pivotal moment when Graziano Pelle scored twice to give us a 2-1 victory.
So although it is a little earlier in the season than back then, the visit of Burnley could well be one of those moments that turns a season in a particular direction.
Saints go into Saturday in 13th place having played 25 games and with 31 points on the board, but the League position doesn't tell the full story the table is very congested above us, the three clubs in front are only above us on goal difference, including Burnley.
Wolves and Man Utd are on 35 points and Everton on 36 in 7th and Spurs in 6th on 37, even Sheffield United in 5th are only 8 points above us a not insurmountable gap.
Below us we have a buffer of 4 clubs below us and the drop zone with 3 of those clubs being at least 4 points behind us and West Ham currently occupying the final relegation spot 7 points adrift of us.
So we are at that moment in a season where a win on Saturday will see us looking upwards whereas a defeat won't exactly put us back into trouble but we could well be looking over our shoulders more than we would want to.
Beat Burnley and we post a statement of intent, like 2016 we are not the favourites for a Europe League place, but if we can get up a head of steam then we could surprise a few people and a top 10 finish is well within our grasp and a lot higher.
But lose against Burnley and then fail to beat Aston Villa the following week and we will be on a very different trajectory, I don't think it will involve relegation, but it will leave us jittery.
So on Saturday we need to finally start to find our consistency at home and in doing so make this the week that brings back the positivity, we need to banish negative thoughts of relegation and bring in expectations of a top 10 placing.
Ultimately I think we will finish somewhere between 10th and 13th, less than that would be a disappointment and above it would be a triumph considering what has gone on earlier in the season.
But we have to remember that we are a work in progress, we are still weak in the centre of defence, we will get away with it sometimes and I think that will be enough to see us comfortably past the 40 point mark, but on some occasions we won't.
So after the visit of Burnley we will have a good idea whether we can truly challenge the top 10 or whether we will maybe have to accept a quiet end to the season by getting another two wins on the board fairly quickly.
The truth is though that neither of those equations were on the table three months ago and that is something to be positive about.
Photo: Action Images
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