As Christian Eriksen picked up the ball 35 yards from Southampton’s goal, Jan Bednarek and Mohammed Salisu slipped and tripped onto the floor around him.

The ball ran through to Yoane Wissa who had the freedom of West London to curl past Fraser Forster and effectively end the game after less than a quarter of an hour.

The result was cemented with just over ten minutes to go when Kristoffer Ajer waltzed past Salisu before finishing underneath Forster.

After another dismal defeat - this time 3-0 at Brentford - naturally an inquisition is well underway into Saints’ defending.

But the other side of that scoreline - the zero - is equally alarming. The scoreless outing was Saints’ fourth in their last 10 Premier League matches after being shut out just five times in the 26 games before that.

Looking deeper and it doesn’t get any prettier. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have scored a total of seven goals in their last 10 matches and haven’t scored more than twice in any game since beating Tottenham 3-2 in early February. 

Saints have failed to find the net in three of their last six games and have scored one goal or less in nine of their last 10.

Daily Echo: Ajer scores Brentford's third goal. Image by: PAAjer scores Brentford's third goal. Image by: PA

Of their seven goals, just two have been from open play while no striker has notched in the league since Che Adams opened the scoring in the 2-0 victory against Norwich more than two months ago.

Hasenhuttl’s side can’t seem to buy a goal and coupled with their Swiss-cheese defence, it’s a recipe for disaster - the kind of disaster that is one win in ten matches.

Southampton’s problems going forward - and indeed any team’s attacking merit - boils down to two issues: creating chances and taking them.

Let’s start with the first of those two.

Southampton are a bizarre case study. Despite conceding 20 more goals than they’ve scored themselves, they’ve actually attempted more shots than their opposition this season, 471 to 459. 

Only five teams have had more shots than Southampton - all five of those sides amongst the ‘big six’. 

But the quality of those opportunities tells us more about why Southampton find themselves competing in the basement rather than at the top of the tree. Saints’ 0.108 expected goals per shot sits third-worst ahead of only Watford and Norwich - both of whom have already been relegated.

The shot maps below - showing where Southampton and Brentford’s attempts occurred from last Saturday - give a bit more insight into the low quality of the shots Saints are taking.

Daily Echo: Left: Saints, Right: Brentford Image: WyscoutLeft: Saints, Right: Brentford Image: Wyscout

Eight of Southampton’s 15 efforts came from outside the box compared to just four of 17 for Thomas Frank’s side. Additionally, Brentford created nine shots from within 12 yards of Saints’ goal compared to none for Southampton.

As the graph below shows, that translated to the expected goals of each team, Brentford ending with 2.98xG to Saints' 0.79.

Daily Echo: Chart detailing the story of the game with xG added per five-minute period. Image: WyscoutChart detailing the story of the game with xG added per five-minute period. Image: Wyscout

Considering the stable nature of Saints’ xG per shot over the course of the season - remaining a tick under 0.11 - this is clearly just part of how Southampton attack. But as their goals have disappeared, it’s hard not to hone in on some questionable decision-making as well.

In the early stages of Saints’ defeat on Saturday, Romain Perraud drove into the box ahead of his marker.

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With Armando Broja screaming for the ball, Perraud opts to cut back onto his right foot. It works and once again the space is there for him to feed Broja.

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But once again, Perraud ignores the Chelsea loanee and goes on his own, pulling his effort wide of the near post - a decision that causes all three of Broja, Adam Armstrong and Stuart Armstrong to raise their arms in frustration.

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This is by no means an isolated incident. Take a look at this passage of play from first-half stoppage time of Saints’ recent 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.

A flick-on from Shane Long sees Adams take the ball down with his back to goal and four opposition defenders crowded around him. 

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While Adams may not be free, Nathan Redmond has all the time in the world on the edge of the box. Despite his appeals for the ball, Adams chooses to swivel and shoot - ending up with a tame effort straight at Vicente Guaita.

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Personally, I like players taking responsibility and trying their luck as Adams and Perraud did in the examples above. If you don’t buy a ticket and all that. But clearly Southampton’s decision-making at both ends of the pitch is far from perfect and being a little bit more selective with their shots should help.

Speaking after the 3-0 defeat to Brentford, Hassenhuttl bemoaned his side’s profligacy when they got into threatening areas.

“At the moment we are not playing like a Premier League team, not in and around the box. I think we had a lot of chances today, a lot of moments where we could score, but we don't do it.”

But regardless of what the spreadsheets say, it was actually working - at least some version of it. Heading into March, Saints were flying and goals weren’t a major issue. They managed 14 across seven games in January and February with 14.17 expected goals and 16.3 shots per game.

Over the last ten matches, Southampton have scored seven goals but had 12.92 expected goals or 1.29xG per game. They’re grossly underperforming their expected goals but they also aren’t creating anywhere near the same level of chances they were at the start of 2022. 

The xG per shot has remained around 0.11 but they’ve averaged just 12.1 shots per game - 4.2 less than through the first seven games of the new year and 1.4 less that their rest of season average. 

Daily Echo: Saints have pretty much stopped creating chances on a consistent basis since beating Norwich.Saints have pretty much stopped creating chances on a consistent basis since beating Norwich.

With the quality of chances created already so poor, the lack of shots is hurting them desperately - particularly when you take into consideration the quality of their finishing as well.

Through the first 26 games of the season, Southampton scored 34 goals with an xG of 38.81, underperforming their expected goals by 14%. In the last ten games, they’ve underperformed their xG by 85%.

Saints’ problems finishing are summed up by their not so prolific group of four forwards combining for 16 league goals (Che Adams: 7, Armando Broja: 6, Adam Armstrong: 2, Shane Long: 1). While not great, that still equated to 47% of Saints’ goals in the 26 games leading up to the 4-0 defeat to Aston Villa. 

Broja’s six goals have come from 43 shots worth an xG of 6.4 (.15xG per shot) - putting him just about in line with how many goals he should have scored. However, just 1.11xG of that has come in his side’s slide from March onwards. Of course, none of his six goals have arrived in that time. 

Che Adams’ has also just underperformed his xG this season, managing his seven goals from 47 shots with an expected goals of 7.47 (.16xG per shot). But entering March, he had seven goals with just 4.97xG. He’s added 2.5xG but no more actual goals.

It’s incredibly harsh to blame just one player and this isn’t a solely Che Adams related issue but he has been one of the clearest offenders. At 2-1 down to Manchester City in the FA Cup he missed this great chance…

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Against Chelsea, he missed a similarly presentable opportunity - although in fairness the game was already out of reach.

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At Burnley, the striker missed another great chance.

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In limited minutes, Long has managed six had shots worth 1.3xG in Saints' last ten matches with Adam Armstrong totallung just two shots worth 0.04xG in over just starts in the same timeframe. 

But it doesn’t only fall on the shoulders of the strikers - this team is missing chances they need to be taking.

Here is one example from Kyle Walker-Peters on Saturday. After making a great run into the box, he meets Stuart Armstrong’s cross firm on his forehead but powers it over the bar.

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Speaking after the 1-1 draw at Elland Road, Hasenhuttl lamented this late opportunity for Livramento saying: “This is a position where he must take his opportunity to score.”

Although on a second look, it doesn't appear THAT easy of a chance.

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Meanwhile, Oriol Romeu missed these two free headers at Burnley.

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You can’t win games constantly conceding multiple goals but you also can’t win while scoring none yourself. For too much of this run, Saints have relied almost entirely on James Ward-Prowse free-kicks and corners.

The defensive calamities have grabbed the headlines but Saints are struggling majorly at the other end of the pitch. The strikers certainly deserve their fair share of the blame but this is a wider problem. Saints are no longer creating chances and the chances they do create - well, they aren’t taking them.

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