New Southampton manager Nathan Jones says his team have to “defend better” ahead of their visit to Fulham on Saturday.
The Saints head to Craven Cottage sat bottom of the Premier League having conceded 30 goals in 16 matches, the third-highest total in the division.
They let in three in their first game back after the World Cup break, losing 3-1 at home to Brighton, and their Premier League status is under real threat heading into the New Year.
Jones, who replaced Ralph Hasenhuttl in November after the Austrian was sacked, knows his team must stop shipping so many goals if they are to avoid the drop.
“We have to pick a side that can hopefully, defend better,” Jones told reporters. “Having kept one clean sheet in 16, that’s not good enough. If you’d kept three or four in 16 games then you’re sitting in a different position now.
“We know we’ve had defensive deficiencies. And that’s not just individuals, that’s as a team and as a collective.”
Jones’ men will face a tricky task when they take on a Fulham side defying expectations so far this season, currently ninth despite starting out as one of the favourites for relegation.
Ahead of their final match of 2022, Fulham head coach Marco Silva reflected on a fantastic year after winning the Championship and enjoying a great start to life back in the top-flight.
“It’s been really special, the way we got the title, the way we were so dominant,” Silva said. “After that we knew it was important to start this Premier League chapter in the same way.
“There have been special moments for us in 2022, but we want more.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Fulham – Aleksandar Mitrovic
The Serbia international has scored 10 Premier League goals this season, just one away from his best return in the competition. Can he equal, or even surpass that tally here?
Southampton – James Ward-Prowse
The central-midfielder has completed the most passes (675), created the most big chances (six) and had the highest amount of successful passes in the opposition half (386) among Southampton players. Fulham will face a big task to keep him quiet.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Fulham have won just one of their last nine Premier League games against Southampton (four draws, four defeats), picking up a 3-2 home win in November 2018.
– Southampton have lost both of their two Premier League games under Jones – Saints have already had four managers lose each of their first three in charge of the club in the competition, more than any other side (Dave Jones, Stuart Gray, Nigel Adkins and Mark Hughes).
– Fulham are averaging 4.8 shots on target per game in the Premier League this season (77 in 16 games) – only in 2011-12 (5.1) have they had a higher such average in a single campaign in the competition.
– Southampton have lost eight of their last 10 Premier League away games (won two), with their 1-0 win at Bournemouth in October their only clean sheet in their last 22 on the road.
– Fulham have scored 82 goals in 39 league games in 2022 – it’s their highest number of league goals in a single calendar year since netting 85 in 2000.