Southampton likely to be Premier League’s biggest underperformers
25 April 2019
The desperate scramble to avoid relegation is near its conclusion. Off The Pitch takes a look at the two clubs just above the line.
Southampton are so far the biggest underperformer in the top flight this season. The Saints have the 10th largest wage bill in the Premier League but yet again a part of relegation battle.
South coast rivals Brighton rue expensive transfer mistakes.
Southampton will likely be confirmed as the biggest underperformers in the Premier League this season - even though they look to have escaped relegation again.
A 1-1 draw against Watford in mid-week pushed up their tally to 37 points and extended the gap over Cardiff to six points with three games left to play, as the desperate scramble to avoid relegation nears its conclusion.
The Saints currently sit 16th in the table, three points behind Burnley, despite being the tenth largest club in the Premier League in terms of wage bill, based on accounts for last season.
Remaining games against Bournemouth, West Ham and Huddersfield should enable the club to pick up additional points, but whether they get enough points to move further up the table remains to be seen.
Generally finish within three places higher or lower
If they remain in their current position in the league table, they will finish six places lower than their salary spend.
According to football economists, clubs generally finish within three places higher or lower than their overall salary levels.
According to latest available club accounts, covering the 2017/18 season, the Saints generated £152.6 million in revenues and paid out £113.3 million in salaries, with a wages to turnover ratio of 74 percent..
The book value of the playing squad is £137 million - a figure that demands the squad should finish comfortably in mid-table and comfortably higher than the likes of Bournemouth, Burnley, Newcastle, Watford, West Ham and Wolves.
Southampton and Watford are separated by nine places and 13 points in the league despite the Saints having much higher salary costs and a higher wages to turnover ratio
The Saints’ salary level is £27.4 million a year higher than for example Watford’s, who at the time of writing, sit seventh in the league with three games to play.
Watford’s wage bill for the 2017/18 season was £85.9 million, a wages to turnover ratio of 67 percent.
Based on the current league standings, Southampton and Watford are separated by nine places and 13 points in the league despite the Saints having much higher salary costs and a higher wages to turnover ratio.
As such, the decision by the Southampton board to replace manager Mark Hughes with Ralph Hasenhuttl was entirely understandable, while conversely, the performances of Watford under manager Javi Gracia this season have generally been impressive.
Despite Hughes coming in towards the back end of the 2017/18 season and steering Southampton to Premier League safety, the Saints were teetering in 18th position when the Welshman departed in December.
Southcoast rivals transfer frustration
Meanwhile, Brighton have gone into freefall over recent weeks and are counting the cost of splashing out big money on signings that haven’t worked out as the club would have hoped.
The Seagulls have the second lowest wage bill in the Premier League of £77.6 million, based on 2017/18 accounts, and have been punching above their weight for several seasons under manager Chris Hughton.
Latest accounts show the book value of the players was £59 million in 2017/18.
Since then Brighton have racked up a net spend of over £70 million on transfers and will be frustrated several of their recent signings have not performed as Hughton would have hoped.
£17m goalless Iranian
Brighton’s most expensive transfer last summer was Iranian Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who cost £17 million from Alkmaar. Despite making 18 appearances this season, the attacking midfielder has yet to register his first goal for the club.
Midfielder Yves Bissouma cost £15 million but has yet to register a goal or an assist.
Despite the massive transfer outlay at the Amex, the club will likely finish lower than in 2017/18, when the club came 15th with 40 points.
With three games to play, the club sits in 17th spot with 34 points, having picked up one point from their last games. They face Newcastle, Arsenal and Manchester City to complete their campaign.
Brighton are currently three points ahead of Cardiff in a desperate race to avoid the final relegation spot, with a superior goal difference of +13 compared with the Welsh outfit.
The relegation scramble is set to go to the final game of the season and relegation for Brighton would require the club to take big decisions in relation to the club’s cost base.