Midtable Magician – Will Mark Hughes Succeed at Southampton?

Southampton have really set themselves in a terrible state of affairs this campaign, there is no doubt whatsoever that last years’ sacking of Claude Puel has disintegrated into an enigma as realisation of the club’s increasingly jepoardised league status is in full effect. Mario Lemina, Ryan Bertrand and Manolo Gabbiadini are barely a sprinkle of the high profile names attempting to avoid the dreaded drop. A pivotal concept of relegation is always to rebuild and go again, yet in this situation, how on earth are they going to construct a superior squad to the one they play? For me, the buck stops at the manager. Regardless of major shareholder Jisheng Gao’s multi-billion pound fortune, the inability for Mauricio Pellegrino to build and organise his highly qualified troops is criminal, a tragic tale in its own way. Inevitably they are desperate for survival, but who do they look to for a smack up the rear? None other than former Stokie Mark Hughes. His passion is about as full as his head of hair, his affinity to certain powerhouse clubs even more so. However, he does possess a frequent record of his teams crumbling at times, the longetivity of a draining nine month domestic season possibly to blame. What Southampton have recruited is an effective figure in mind of the short-term, if it is a long-term solution of which they seek, would he be the correct option for the task? Read on as we look into how the former Manchester United star will fit into the Southampton hot seat in the forseeable future.

Handling the short-term and possibly the long-term

Let’s get one thing straight, whilst it’s true that his spells at Fulham, QPR and Stoke left very much to be desired during the business end of his tenures, leading to two sackings and one resignation as he claimed to be a “young ambitious manager looking for a fresh challenge” after a single season with the whites. Despite this, he has one crucial common factor that underlines his pedigree in the Premier League, that being his history of underdog mid-table finishes and relegation-free seasons, which only adds incentive for Southampton to swiftly engage with his services. Hughes took the helm at Fulham for four seasons and played to a style branded as “over physical” by on many multiple occasions. His achievements? Three consecutive FA cup semi-finals alongside a league cup final, all of which ended in sour defeat, but impressive none the less. Contrary to his playing servcices at the Theatre of Dreams, his next adventure consisted of taking control over Sheikh Mansour’s Manchester City, humourously declared as the “year they were founded” by rival fans as Hughes paved his way to a UEFA cup semi-final. Unfortunately no silverware was won during his spells at Fulham, QPR and Stoke except he did manage to create fresh toxicity in his last year at Stoke, something anyone can be proud of. The moral of the story is, Mark Hughes has managed to muster unlikely mid-table finishes wherever he went, something many this time around aern’t convinced he will achieve. Although his progress in cup competitions conveys enough evidence that he may create something special given adequate backing by the heirarchy. Stability in short and admittedly long-term.

Signings

It’s easy to overlook Mark Hughes’s management history at this point, however if you decide to delve deeper than what’s on the surface, I guarantee you will be impressed at the calibre of player he is capable of bringing in. Carlos Tevez is by far the standout figure, developing into a lethal asset away from Manchester United, netting 58 goals in 113 games in all competitions at Manchester City. Excellent, right? Turns out, being a former top level forward can also pay off in later life, (who knew?) look no further than Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic and Ibrahim Affelay for proof. Each three of course, differing in performances yet similar in top club heritage. If Hughes attains flexible financial support, who is to say he won’t flex his affiliation again? Although, much like my love life, he’s not quite clean of the occasional disappointment. £32.5 million wasn’t a laughing matter back in 2008, but the signing of Robinho for that much certainly was. Glen Johnson and Peter Odemwingie initially appeared to be solid additions on paper, however when they played, (whenever Odemwingie ever played that is) it was evident that Hughes captured anticlimactic duds. For every Vincent Kompany there was a Steve Sidwell. As long as Southampton grant him suitable resources, who knows where he will unearth the next Arnautovic from? Whilst he’s at it, it’s best he avoids another Marko Van Ginkel.

Tactical Preferences

“Awful,” “diabolical,” the worst I’ve seen in years…” – Words commonly uttered by the majority of Southampton fan during Mauricio Pellegrino’s train wreck of a tenure. His stubbornness to build around the structure of a 4-2-3-1 shape proved costly. Whether it was his wingers and strikers misfiring at all angles, the lack of fluidity in the build-up or the static defence doing the mannequin challenge against onrushing attackers, it was simply too predictable. Ironically similar to the problems Mark Hughes suffered at Stoke. With the only saving grace being his ability to grind results where it matters. You’ll struggle to find a fan patient enough to watch balls float over the opposition defence time after time after time. Yet if we were to reverse the situation and play beautiful Football only to lose every game, would you take that? Saints fans should expect 4-4-2, 4-5-1 and more 4-2-3-1 variants of lineups, defensive Football and a solid “if you can’t win, don’t lose” mentality in the dressing room. Short-term is when it is the most effective, for the long-term it is undoubtedly controversial. It is somewhat ironic that the Welshman prioritises his defensive prowess despite worldwide reputation from his forward playing role.

I will continue to accentuate that Mark Hughes is seriously overlooked for what he has achieved. Saints fans, whatever your agenda may be, I plea to you that you recognise the importance of his appointment for the short-term survival of your club. The Champions League may not ever be a prospect with Mark Hughes, but neither is visiting the likes of Millwall and Bolton Wanderers away in the Championship. What do you think Saints and non-Saints fan? Feel free to let me know precisely what you think in the comments, or talk to me on Twitter @D3cl8n.

featured image credit sky sports

About the Author

Declan Pridding
I am an aspiring sports journalist currently studying A levels. I am also a lifelong Wrexham AFC fan. #onourway #utst