Southampton are still looking for their first home win of the Premier League soccer season when they host Chelsea at St. Mary’s on Sunday (9am ET).
In general, Southampton have made a mildly disappointing start to the season. The expectation was that they would be improved by a summer to work with coach Ralph Hasenhuttl, who came in halfway through last season, but the reality hasn’t yet matched it.
To date, Saints have picked up just seven points from seven matches, and currently sit 14th in the table, equidistant between the top 10 and the bottom three. Both of their wins have come away from home; at St Mary’s, they have drawn with Manchester United and lost to Liverpool and Bournemouth.
Last weekend, Hasenhuttl’s team fell to a 1-2 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur. They went behind inside the opening half-hour but received a route back into the game when Spurs were reduced to 10 men shortly thereafter. Danny Ings equalized late in the half, only for Spurs to retake the lead just before the interval. Thereafter, Saints were unable to make their man advantage count, lacking the necessary creativity to break down a set Spurs defence.
Southampton’s defensive numbers to date have been almost exactly the same as they were in Hasenhuttl’s 23 matches in charge last season, but the attack has regressed, down from 1.39 goals per match to just one. The underlying statistics provide more reason for optimism, painting Saints as more of a top-10 than top-15 team. Their press, a key element of Hasenhuttl’s approach, is also proving more effective in breaking up opposition possessions.
That promise needs to start crystallizing into results if they are to enjoy a more comfortable campaign than they did in only fairly narrowly avoiding relegation last time out. Historical results and performances so far this season do, though, suggest that they will have a tough time adding significant points to their tally this weekend.
Chelsea have triumphed at St Mary’s in each of the last four and five of the last six seasons. At all venues, Chelsea have won eight and lost just one of the last 12 league meetings. They also come into Sunday’s fixture on the back of three consecutive victories away from home in all competitions. Wins away at Norwich (3-2) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (5-2) in the league were followed by a 2-1 triumph away at Lille in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Tammy Abraham opened the scoring to continue his excellent start to the season. Chelsea’s transfer ban has forced them to use some of their highly-rated youngsters who otherwise seemed doomed to eternal loan spells and none have taken advantage quite so well as Abraham. The 22-year-old scored 26 goals on loan at Aston Villa in the Championship last season, and now has eight goals in nine league and European appearances at Chelsea.
Frank Lampard’s side have accumulated a decent 11 points in the Premier League to date, enough for seventh in the table, but as with Southampton, their underlying statistics suggest they are fundamentally a bit better than that. They are clearly not at the level of title challengers Manchester City and Liverpool, the latter of whom beat them 1-2 at Stamford Bridge two weeks back, but they look good enough to be a strong contender in the top four race.
Lampard has instituted a much more open style of play than the one Chelsea practiced under Maurizio Sarri when finishing third (and winning the Europa League) last season. Their matches have averaged over a goal more than they saw in the previous campaign. It is working fine so far, but constantly relying on their ability to outscore the opposition may not necessarily prove the most sustainable of tactics over the course of a full season. It should, though, be sufficient for them to come away with all three points on Sunday. Southampton don’t have much in the way of firepower themselves. So at least an achievable couple of goals, Chelsea’s average tally through their opening seven fixtures, will likely be enough to see Chelsea to a fourth consecutive away win.
Our Betting Preview’s Saints vs Chelsea Predictions & Picks Verdict
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