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Has Southampton’s bubble burst? Top four challenge takes yet another hit

Britain Soccer Premier League

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman reacts during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Southampton at the Hawthorns, West Bromwich, England, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)


Southampton have now failed to score in their last three Premier League games, failing to win any of those matches, and they have scored just once in their last five outings.

[ RELATED: Baggies beat Saints ]

During their 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Saturday, Saints looked devoid of confidence in and around the box as Graziano Pelle (without a goal in his last 10 PL games) missed a glorious chance from a yard our to snatch a point for Ronald Koeman’s side.

Speaking to the media after the match, Koeman believes his side are lacking in confidence but they must continue to push hard until the end of the season.

“The total performance of team in quality is a little bit low from the beginning of the season but we have to go and believe in the next win,” Koeman said. “For next Tuesday against Crystal Palace we have to win as we need those points.”

West Brom went ahead after a hopeful boot forward fell down to Saido Berahino after just 75 seconds and the England international rifled an effort into the top corner for the game’s only goal.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Despite dominating possession, Saints failed to carve out any clear cut chances (apart from Pelle’s miss) and after a sensational season which has exceeded everyone’s expectations, Southampton are wilting at a crucial moment. That was evident on Saturday, as they just couldn’t break down a West Brom side who have now kept four-straight clean sheets.

“We may be had one or two chances to score a goal but not more,” Koeman added. “Maybe there is a little bit less confidence (for the strikers) but it is very difficult. We spoke about that before the game but then after one minute you are 1-0 down and everything changes.”

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Koeman is trying everything and on Saturday he started with a new 3-4-3 formation to try and mix things up, but he ditched that after 25 minutes. The Dutch boss has several attackers all lacking in form with Pelle, Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic and Eljero Elia all looking half the players they were earlier this season. Defensively and in mdifield they look okay, there’s not much difference there as they continue to boss possession. But as we all know, if you don’t score goals then you won’t win games. It’s simple.

With 11 matches to go, the real battle for Southampton may now be to remain in the top six instead of challenging for the top four. If Arsenal win on Sunday, Saints could be four points from fourth place so it’s not all doom and gloom.

However the big worry now is that after a superb season -- where hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League has been at the forefront of their minds for several months -- Saints do not drop to seventh and miss out on a spot in the Europa League. If they did manage to hang on to a top six spot and see out the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, it would be the first time Southampton have qualified for Europe via their league position during the Premier League era.

Despite their recent struggles in front of goal, that would still be one heck of an achievement.

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