SAINTS’ goalscoring problems are laid bare when comparing Mauricio Pellegrino’s side to their Premier League rivals.

A curious statistic published by Opta this week states that Saints have had 106 shots in total this season, scoring just five of those efforts.

That on its own isn't that interesting, but when compared to others it is, and when you bury down deeper in to these numbers it is perhaps possible to identify where things have gone wrong.

Stoke, who are 13th - a place below Saints, have had 17 fewer efforts on goal, but have scored two more. Ninth placed Newcastle have had 15 fewer shots but have scored two more.

Chelsea have netted 12 times with 20 fewer shots than Saints, while Manchester United have netted 21 goals – 16 more than Saints, with just 15 more shots.

Saints, it is safe to say, are wasteful in front of goal. That much is obvious and statistics collated by break it down further.

The Premier League’s big guns are surprisingly the only teams this season, so far, to take more shots per game than Saints.

Pellegrino’s misfiring side take on average 15.1 shots per game. Only the Manchester sides, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool take more.

The intent from Saints is there, then.

However, you zoom down in to the shots on target per game stats and you start to understand why Saints are not getting it in the net.

They are averaging 3.1 shots on target per game, which is the 12th most in the Premier League.

Most pertinently, though, Saints have had the fifth most shots from outside the box (44) in the top-flight, an area from which shots are naturally, you'd presume, less likely to hit the net because of their distance from goal.

Of the 44 efforts Saints have had from outside the box, none of them have gone in.

In saying that, though, Saints have actually had 55 – the sixth most in the Premier League, shots from inside the penalty box.

Saints have scored all five of their goals in the Premier League from inside the area this season.

From that statistic you can, perhaps, point the finger at wastefulness.

In terms of efforts from inside the six yard box, Saints are 11th in the league, tallying seven openings from close range this season – none of which have resulted in a goal.

Of the five goals Saints have tallied, just two have come from open play – one has come from a set piece and the other two have arrived from the penalty spot.

That puts Saints only above goalless Crystal Palace in the top-flight for goals from open play and 16th in terms of goals from set pieces.

So this problem has really inflicted every area for Saints.

They can’t score from open play, long range or from set pieces.

They haven’t scored any on the counter-attack and haven’t been able to finish anything from close range.

This goals problem can perhaps, then, be rooted in the build-up game Saints are producing.

Studying the types of passes Saints are committing to it becomes obvious there is a priority on crossing.

This season Saints have tallied the the second-most crosses in the Premier League (24), but have not scored from any of them.

Is there a statistical indication here to Saints’ failure to get men in to the box?

Saints have been at their most prolific when they’ve have had a big target-man striker upfront in recent years.

Rickie Lambert, who retired from football this week, was Saints’ absolute colossus at playing the target-man role.

He could hold it up, feed in team-mates, win headers in the box and generally work extremely hard for the team.

Lambert was an all-rounder too and was mobile as well as big and strong. He netted 117 times in 235 appearances while at St Mary's, firing Saints from League One to the Premier League.

The same can be said for his replacement Graziano Pelle, the Italian who led the line superbly for Saints, netting 30 goals in 81 appearances.

The only time Saints have done well without a big man striker was when Shane Long netted his 10 goals in 2015/16.

Saints scored a league-high 15 headed goals that campaign, with Long, Sadio Mane and Pelle all reaching double figures.

Long was able to score lots of headed goals from crosses, using his magnificent leap, but has not had the same success since.

Manolo Gabbiadini is clearly a talented striker too and so is Charlie Austin, but are they actually suited to the way Saints play at the moment?

It would be safe to say not considering the lack of goals during 2017.

Gabbiadini, a man who thrives off a defence-spitting ball through, has had an average of ONE through ball per game to try and latch on to throughout the Premier League season so far.

The crosses are flying in, but Gabbaidini, who is constantly lurking between the centre-backs looking for a pass through, is just not getting that service.

That isn’t necessarily down to the players Saints have behind the striker in attack but perhaps more to do with the actual style and system in which Saints are playing.

From studying the numbers, it is clear Saints are prioritising short passing over any long or through balls.

In total per game Saints have made 467 short passes – the sixth highest in the Premier League.

So again it is no wonder why Long and Gabbiadini have had little success this season – both players naturally are looking for the ball over the top or through ball, not a short pass to feet.

A short pass may work in helping the ball out wide and eventually in to the box via a cross but it’s not as if any of these crosses are actually being converted in to actual goals.

Saints, it seems, need to adapt to their new system or change their style of play to accommodate the players they have at their disposal.

Alternatively, a ‘big man’ striker in the ilk of Lambert or Pelle may be the solution.

Studying how Saints have fared in the air, it is curious that they’ve lost the most aerial duels of any Premier League club.

They’ve had a total of 275 to contend with but lost 158 of those and won 117.

So when the crosses are flying in, you’d conclude, Saints are less likely than another team to actually win the aerial ball, presuming that’s how crosses are coming in to the box.

Therefore, Saints are among the most prolific crossers of the ball but are among the worst in the air and have no assists with balls in from the flanks.

It's certainly a quandary which Pellegrino is working hard to find a solution for and some signs of progress are desperately needed now.

When you look at individual numbers for players, it is interesting to see that attacking midfielder Nathan Redmond is the club's most prolific shooter, and not a striker.

The England international, who is yet to score, has 3.3 shots per game - the tenth most of any player in the Premier League. That is more than double than any other Saints player.

Centre-back Virgil van Dijk has the next highest shots per game record, taking 1.5 per game after just one start this season so far.

Cedric Soares, the right-back, is third in the list of Saints' shooters, taking 1.4 per game.

Then comes Dusan Tadic (1.4), followed by strikers Long and Gabbiadini, who have had 1.3 shots per game so far this season.

This current way of playing just doesn't seem to be conductive to getting the optimum out of the strikers.

It is up to Pellegrino to work on this during the international break and come back to the Premier League a week on Sunday against Newcastle United at St Mary's ready to crush the scoring woes.