Having sacked Mark Hughes to start the week, Southampton have today announced the arrival of their new manager Ralph Hasenhüttl – agreeing a two-and-a-half year deal.
The 51-year-old, most recently in charge of Bundesliga side RB Leizpig, will start work on Thursday – immediately following tonight’s away fixture against Tottenham. Mark Hughes was sacked on Monday, following the Saints’ 2-2 home draw against Manchester United this past weekend.
Struggling Saints set for new direction
Hughes, who was himself only appointed eight months ago, had a grim 13.6% win rate in England’s top-flight. However, he did well to keep the strugglers up last season in what promised to be a dismal campaign on the south Coast.
First-team assistant coach Kelvin Davis will take charge of the team this evening, while it was announced by the BBC that the club were set to approach Ralph the same day. Alongside Hughes, assistant first-team manager Mark Bowen and coach Eddie Niedzwiecki have also departed.
Southampton find themselves in 18th place with only one win to start the campaign. They’ve drawn more than any side across the division, conceded 26 (4th worst) and scored 12 (4th worst).
These statistics are in stark contrast to the Southampton of old (2014 onwards) – who inspired many lesser-fancied sides to be brave in their attempts to close the gap on the league’s best. Instead, it seems to have been the opposite effect over time and the gap continues to increase.
They’ll be hoping that Hasenhüttl can change their fortunes, and quickly – ahead of a tricky Christmas schedule where every point can prove pivotal in the early knockings of a relegation battle.
Southampton have started the campaign poorly, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise in truth. They spent £56m this past summer and despite some encouraging signs, it hasn’t been enough.
Danny Ings is still finding his goalscoring boots after a torrid time with injuries, while Mohamed Elyounoussi and Yannik Vestergaard have both performed okay – not particularly well.
Stuart Armstrong may be in-form at present, but the Scottish midfielder appears more like a squad option than a bonafide starter.
The blame for their struggles cannot be pinned solely on Hughes, either. They’ve struggled to buy quality players in recent seasons with the same ease they used to. Virgil van Dijk’s absence is still being felt – almost a year on from his £75m move to Liverpool – while the creativity of Dusan Tadic, Sadio Mané et al has not been effectively replaced.
Hughes always felt like a short-term fix for a long-term solution, hopefully Hasenhüttl can be the man that supporters hoped Koeman would be – rather than a stepping stone. This squad has potential but it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with the current crop, because a lot needs to be done and quickly.