Ralph Hasenhuttl finally has some positive news on the injury front but warned Southampton will continue go through seasons of highs and crashing lows unless the squad is majorly bolstered this summer.
Saints went top of the table for the first time in the Premier League era in November, but what promised to be a memorable top-flight campaign is now unravelling at a rate of knots.
Southampton have just one point to show from their last nine matches, meaning they have gone from flirting with European qualification to nervously peering over their shoulder at the drop zone.
Injuries have had a big impact during that dramatic drop-off and Hasenhuttl could welcome back some key players for Saturday’s crunch trip to rock-bottom Sheffield United.
“The injury news so far is that we have a few players back in training,” the Saints boss said.
“Ibra (Ibrahima Diallo), Taki (Takumi Minamino) and Kyle (Walker-Peters) are coming back and are in the sessions. If they are available for game, we’ll have a look but it looks good.”
Moussa Djenepo, who took a knock in Monday’s 1-0 loss at Everton, needs managing during a frantic schedule, while Hasenhuttl does not expect on-loan forward Theo Walcott back until April.
Oriol Romeu, Will Smallbone and Michael Obafemi remain out with long-term issues – absentees that have exposed a thin squad and left Hasenhuttl calling for summer signings.
“It is fact that we had a very small squad this season,” the Austrian said. “We trusted all the young players to step in.
“We expected maybe a little bit more from one or the other but it’s not so easy.
“I think it’s easy to step in a team when there’s one young player for a team that is flying high. When the team is struggling, you cannot expect from the young players that they lift us so this is the issue we had.
“The squad was definitely, for this amount of games we had and the tough fixtures and the compressed season, not big enough. This is what we see now very clear.
“But, you know, when you want to have a big squad, you have to have opportunities to get the players in and this is what we are always struggling with because good players cost a lot of money.
“I have spoken a lot of time about that topic so we must find the way in the future to stretch the side a little bit. Definitely.
“We need in the summer a lot of new players, they have quality and help us, because otherwise it will be always situation like we have been this season that we have a term where everything is working well.
“We are in the flow, we get a few points, we are jumping up at the table and then there comes a situation where you get a few injuries and then you are struggling of winning any games.
“So this is what you could see in the last two (years) since I’m here that we have always times where it’s working well and we get a lot of points and then times where we are struggling because of injuries or other problems we have and then it’s doesn’t look.”