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Kyle Walker-Peters believes instability caused by an influx of new signings contributed significantly to relegated Southampton’s season of struggle.
Saints have spent the majority of a dismal campaign in the Premier League drop zone and were finally condemned to the Sky Bet Championship by Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Fulham.
The division’s bottom side recruited 15 players across the last two transfer windows, while current boss Ruben Selles is the third man in charge this term following the sackings of Ralph Hasenhuttl and Nathan Jones.
England defender Walker-Peters admits individuals have under-performed but feels background upheaval has not helped the club’s predicament.
“No it hasn’t,” said the 26-year-old. “Being 100 per cent honest, that has been really tough for everyone.
“When I first came here it was a smaller squad, a tight-knit squad and sometimes when there is a lot of change it makes things hard.
“On the pitch we haven’t been good enough, we haven’t done our jobs well enough and ultimately that is why we’re getting relegated.”
Defeat to the Cottagers was Southampton’s 24th in the top flight during a dismal season which has brought just six wins and only 31 goals, with 66 conceded.
Victories over Chelsea and Leicester in Selles’ first three games after replacing Jones sparked hope of survival but were followed by a paltry three points from the next 33 available.
“We haven’t scored enough goals, we haven’t stopped enough goals and ultimately if you’re not good enough in both boxes then it’s hard to win games,” said Walker-Peters.
“That has been the story of our season.”
Dropping into the Championship is likely to spark a player exodus at St Mary’s, with Walker-Peters one of those expected to attract interest.
The full-back, who made his international debut last year, was tight-lipped about his own future ahead of matches against Brighton and Liverpool.
He anticipates the club will attempt to build around the raft of young talent they are able to retain as they prepare for life in the second tier.
“There are still two more games so that is my main focus – try and make those results positive and see what happens after there,” he said.
“I’m not looking too much into my future yet.
“I always see myself in a Southampton shirt, I love the club. I enjoy being here so we’ll see what happens.”
Asked how the club bounce back, he replied: “It is not for me to say, the club have their own ideas and they will want to bounce back asap.
“They’ll try and keep everyone they can and everyone they want to keep and try and bounce back from there.”
Fulham require three points from games against Crystal Palace and Manchester United to surpass the club’s record Premier League tally of 53 following success on the south coast.
Cottagers midfielder Harrison Reed, who began his career at Southampton, said: “That is massive for us as a group of players and the staff.
“That is what we are aiming for, and pushing each day to achieve that.
“We have planned this season and we have put our stamp on it from the first game really.
“It’s nice to be in the position we are, winning games of football and with the fans behind us.”
Asked about his former club, Reed, who suffered relegation with Fulham in 2021, said: “It’s been a tough season. We’ve been there.
“You need to get your head down and focus and win some football matches next year and I am sure they will come back stronger.”
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