Time for Southampton to part company with Mark Hughes

The sack race is well and truly underway in the Premier League this season. Although unlike last season, it has taken a bit longer to get going, Fulham has set the ball rolling. And when a manager buys the most players in a transfer window and still winds up the bottom of the league in November, who can blame the club hierarchy for his dismissal?

They did what they had to do. It’s a business decision that had to be taken for the good of the club. Claudio Ranieri now has a chance to continue his Premier League adventure and probably give us another surprise. Southampton may need to follow Fulham’s example.

Despite a period of relative success at Stoke City, Mark Hughes led the club all the way down in his final season in charge. By the time Paul Lambert was brought in to salvage survival, the side had reached a point of no return. The Potters are now languishing in the Championship.

Surprisingly, Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger felt the Welshman was the ‘perfect fit’ for the Saints. After struggling all season for survival, Mauricio Pellegrino was relieved of his duties as manager with Hughes taking the reins. The former Manchester City, Fulham and QPR boss was able to stir the club to safety in what turned out to be a close call.

That brought the reward of a three-year contract to take the side back to where it belongs – the top half of the Premier League table. Unfortunately, things don’t seem to be working according to plan. Yet, that should have been expected. Hughes was a success in his playing days and won several trophies with Manchester United. But he is yet to achieve any noteworthy success as a manager.

Not even his time at Man City when the Sky Blues began their stupendous rise to success yielded any silverware. Apart from Blackburn Rovers whom he led to a sixth-place finish on the league table in 2006, two of his previous clubs struggled under his watch and ended up getting relegated. He has so far done nothing special in recent times to suggest he can take Southampton to the big time.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the Saints have struggled this season. The recent 6-1 drubbing at the Etihad Stadium by Manchester City showed a team that will need to vastly improve to avoid relegation this season. It will not be a big issue if the loss was an odd result. Rather, it has become the norm under the Welshman. The team has won a single league game all season. After 12 matches, the club is hovering around the relegation zone.

What makes this all the more unacceptable is the fact that having taken over last season, Hughes had enough time to reshape the squad. He made some important signings in the summer that could have vastly improved the side.

The list includes 23-year-old Norway forward, Mohamed Elyounoussi who was brought to St. Mary’s Stadium from Swiss club Basel for £16 million. Danish center back Jannik Vestergaard was brought in from Borussia Monchengladbach to fill the gap left by Virgil van Dijk while Liverpool striker, Danny Ings also joined on loan. Ings adds to the four quality forwards already at the club; Charlie Austin, Shane Long, Nathan Redmond and Manolo Gabbiadini.  

The midfield is loaded with quality. Stuart Armstrong was acquired from Celtic. He joins the likes of Wesley Hoedt, Oriol Romeu, Mario Lemons, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and James Ward-Prowse to fight for a place in the midfield.

Apparently, from defence to attack the team is well stocked. Yet, things have not gotten any better. Something has to give. And that should be the one constant in the team – the manager.

Southampton will do well to take that difficult decision early enough to avoid another scramble for survival toward the end of the season. Yes, it may be difficult to find top quality managers out there who are out of work. But as Fulham have shown, you can always find one if you search. The earlier the better.



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