Southampton announced the sacking of Pellegrino this week. After 1 win in 17, it was about time. They last night announced Mark Hughes as his replacement, but can he keep them up?
The former Stoke City manager and former Southampton player will arrive at Southampton to a mixed reception. That is if social media is anything to go by. Many Saints fan unhappy with the lack of innovation and imagination shown by the under pressure board.
Other fans though, are content with the safety of the appointment after 2 considerably underwhelming attempts to change the direction the club is going in. After consecutive campaigns reaching european competition under Koeman, Southampton fans had become used to success.
They had also become used to attractive football, something that when Claude Puel took over seemed to be banished from St Marys. Despite reaching the League Cup final and finishing in 8th place the style of play meant Puel lost his position at the helm.
Pellegrino took over and promised swashbuckling, attacking football. Frankly, that was a lie. He set the team out to keep possession for the sake of possession. To lull the opponents to sleep and hope he can nick a goal by some good fortune. This did not sit well with the Southampton fans for the entire season and the unrest was ensuring that being around the club was unbearable.
Players such as Nathan Redmon and Lemina were visibily frustrated at the lack of urgency they were set out to achieve. The signing of Guido Carrillo was meant to change that. It didn’t.
Can Hughes keep them up?
Despite his tenure at Stoke ending on a sour note, he had spent nearly 5 years at the club and led them to top 10 finishes between 2013 and 2016. Much of his downfall at Stoke City was due to the recruitment policy at the club. The signings of player such as Imbula, Jese and Wimmer cost a lot of money but never achieved what was expected of them.
His time at QPR was not hugely successful either. But you have to take into account that QPR side was one of the most shambolic to grace the Premier League.
Hughes won’t encounter those problems at Southampton. They have a solid recruitment policy and a talented squad of players. If he can do what the fans expect him to and introduce a more direct style of play, he may keep them up. With a rumoured £2m bonus if he does, there is a huge incentive for him to ensure this happens. Doing so may help him win round some of the more tentative fan base and the job could be his long term.
If he can get the likes of Tadic, Carrillo & Lemina firing on all cylinders, despite a tricky last 8 games, Southampton have enough to stay up. 36 points may be enough to survive this season. So averaging a point a game should be the minimum target.
His tenure starts with Wigan in the FA Cup this Sunday, with a place in the semi final at stake. A good performance there may give the players and fans the confidence to take on equally troubled West Ham in the next Premier League game.
Mark Hughes is not going to rip up trees at St Marys. But his former connection with the club may go some way to reconnecting the fans with the team. Beggars can’t be choosers from Southamptons point if view. This late in the season they need discipline, determination and grit, attributed Hughes will certainly bring to the table.
He has a tough task on his hands, but an achievable one.