Southampton: What is going wrong?

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Go back to November 9 and Southampton were sitting in the dizzy heights of third in the Premier League, above the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and, of course, last season's champions Manchester United.

Fast forward almost a month and Southampton sit down in eighth with 22 points, remarkably the same number of points that they had a month ago.

To be honest, nobody really expected Mauricio Pochettino's side to be sitting in third, but having got themselves there with some excellent performances - most notably away at both Liverpool and Manchester United -  you can't help but think that the Argentine and his side must be disappointed with their form over the past month.

The Saints' blip in form first came at the hands of Arsenal, where they were second best for the majority of the game and didn't help themselves at the back. 'Polish Keeper Artur Boruc, who had been in amazing form for Southampton, threw it all away when he tried to take on Olivier Giroud inside his own box and got the ball nicked away from him subsequently conceded a very poor goal.

Off the back of that result, Southampton went to Chelsea, hoping to be the first team to break Jose Mourinho's unbeaten home record in the Premier League. All looked promising when they took a first minute lead thanks to Jay Rodriguez with a little help from Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien. Southampton worked hard in the first half of the contest and looked on top and deserved their half-time lead. But then it all went downhill.

Some sloppy defending from a corner gave Chelsea a way back into the game and Southampton's misery was compounded when Boruc had to be substituted with a fractured hand, leaving him out of action for the next six weeks.

Southampton's second choice 'keeper is 21-year-old Argentine Paulo Gazzaniga, signed by Nigel Adkins from Gillingham at the start of the 2012/13 season as back up to Kelvin Davis.

Chelsea went on to win that game 3-1 and leave Southampton in seventh, still with only 22 points. It was clear to see that when Southampton had their best defence on the pitch they were a match for any attacking side. However, with just one change to that back five everything started to go downhill.

This was shown when Aston Villa went to St. Mary's on Wednesday night, with Southampton making two changes to the back five that started against Chelsea. It was clear to see that there was a distinct lack of communication between the two centre-backs and the 'keeper, which may have led to two of Aston Villa's three goals.

The problem seems to be fatigue. Whilst these men are professional footballers and should be expected to last 90 minutes on a football pitch, Southampton's high pressure, high-tempo game must be taking its toll on the players and that was visible on Wednesday night.

Southampton were sloppy, making individual errors leading to goals. The Saints had 77% of the possession, showing their sheer dominance of the game, but they made sloppy mistakes resulting in goals.

Maya Yoshida and Jack Cork are the players in question. Yoshida was attracted to the ball and got caught in no-mans land, leaving a massive gap for Gabby Agbonlahor to run through and give Villa the lead.

Just when it looked as if Southampton could get a foothold in the game, Cork lost the ball to Karim El-Ahmadi who crossed for Libor Kozak to score from four-yards out.

These problems could be due to lack of game time for two players who have been pushed out of the team by new signings Dejan Lovren and Victor Wanyama, or it may be that the whole team were not able to keep up the exhausting style which Southampton play.

With Manchester City coming to St. Mary's on Saturday, the Saints really need to put in the hard yards to get their game back to where it was at the start of the season to have any chance of keeping the likes of Segio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and co at bay.

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