Though under-pressure Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino remained coy on reports linking Saints to a move for Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, he said chairman Ralph Krueger has been dining with players in a bid to arrest their recent slump.

Saints have plummeted to 17th in the Premier League table following a nine-game winless streak stretching back to the end of November.

And Pellegrino would not rule out a potential return to St Mary’s for Walcott, who began his professional career with Southampton before moving to Arsenal in 2006, and had words of praise for the winger.

“There are many players that we have interest in,” he said. “I can’t say anything because, obviously Walcott is an excellent player, but I can’t confirm this.

“We are in the market ready to try to bring somebody that wants to come but I know it will be difficult. In January it is not easy to bring in players but the market is huge and I think we will have some opportunities.

“We have got a couple of targets, four, five, six targets. We have confidence that someone else can come and it will be great for us.

“We are looking for a player that can improve the level of the squad. In the market you never know until the end.”

Pellegrino has faced supporter unrest at St Mary’s in recent games, but earlier this week received the backing of Krueger.

He insists the former professional ice hockey coach has always been helpful and has been spending time with Saints’ squad in an attempt to spark an upturn in results, starting with Saturday’s FA Cup clash at Fulham.

“For me, the club and the board from the first day has been really supportive — not [only] right now, from the first day,” Pellegrino said. “Everybody has been really good, not with me, with everybody, with the players.

“Now the chairman is eating with the players, watching every single moment because he wants to help. Les Reed [vice-chairman of football] and Ross Wilson [director of football operations] too.

“Everybody in this club works with a unity but sometimes the results are part of life and when you play a game, you have to be ready to lose; if you’re not, don’t play.”

Saints last tasted success with a 4-1 win over Everton on Nov. 26. Since then they have taken just four points from a possible 27, including two from four games over the festive period, to leave them on the brink of the bottom three.

Former Alaves coach Pellegrino, appointed on a three-year deal during the summer, has consequently seen his position come under intense scrutiny.

However, he once again played down the pressure currently on him and feels he is his own worst critic.

“My higher pressure is with my own self. I am really demanding with myself,” the Argentine said. “In my life I have been playing on the top, in second, in the third, in the 20th, in the 18th, in different places.

“And the equation is the same; when you lose, you have to win, when you draw, you have to win, when you win, you have to win again. It’s always more or less the same.”

Information from Press Association Sport was used in this report.