Will Southampton's fortunes improve without Mark Hughes?
By Joe Harker
Only one team in the Premier League has just a solitary win after 14 games this season, Southampton. They are in the relegation zone having won one, drawn six and lost seven matches, leading the club to decide enough is enough with manager Mark Hughes. He was sacked after drawing 2-2 with Manchester United, concluding an eight month tenure with the Saints where they avoided relegation last season but looked increasingly likely to suffer it this time around.
Hughes joined the club when they were one point above the drop zone last season and managed to get two wins in their last four games of the campaign to ensure safety. However, seeing the signs of danger looming again the club have decided to dispense with the manager in an attempt to salvage the situation with plenty of time to spare.
Formerly praised for their decision making and managerial appointments, Southampton have been struggling to fight the right coach ever since Ronald Koeman left to join Everton. The appointments of Mauricio Pochettino and Koeman were hailed as inspired, along with a successful transfer strategy that allowed the club to survive losing their best players each summer.
The club's form slipped after Claude Puel was appointed to replace Koeman and after a season of uninspiring performances the Frenchman was sacked. Mauricio Pellegrino was brought in but the club's decline was even more intense, leading to the Saints appointing Hughes to rescue the club from relegation. Once a well managed and well equipped team, Southampton now have little direction and a squad plundered of its brightest talents.
Former RB Leipzig manager Ralph Hasenhüttl is the favourite to replace Hughes according to The Guardian. However, a number of other candidates have also been suggested including the usual suspects like Sam Allardyce. Whoever the Saints appoint, they will have a tough task in getting the best out a squad looking increasingly short of talent.
Even with the devastated squad Hughes was not getting the best out of his players. More interested in moaning at referees than identifying reasons why his side were underperforming, the manager may not be such an attractive prospect to other Premier League clubs after being sacked by Stoke and Southampton in the space of less than a year.
Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph writes that the spark has gone from the man who was known as Sparky in his playing days. Burt wonders where Hughes' next job would come from and suggests he has joined the cohort of older British managers who are regarded as short term appointments to save clubs from relegation and be dispensed with afterwards, think of Allarydyce, Tony Pulis, David Moyes.
Is Hughes part of that cadre now, only considered at clubs where things are going wrong? It's a far cry from his appointment at Stoke, where he guided them to three consecutive ninth place finishes with players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan in the team. The manager had more success in his early days with Wales and Blackburn Rovers, earning himself the Manchester City job just before they came into their oil money.
As for Southampton, they've sacked three managers had to pay tens of millions in compensation over the span of 537 days. Hughes' replacement will be their fourth permanent manager in just 18 months, a poor fate for a club that used to be renowned for getting this sort of thing right.
A new manager will not solve all their problems either, their squad is an absolute mess and needs a huge overhaul that they may lack the funds for. Relegation is still very much on the cards unless the new manager can immediately improve things.