With the Saints struggling to keep their head above water, development is certainly needed on the south coast. But is replacing yet another manager the answer to all of Southampton’s difficulties?
In the previous 2 seasons, St Mary’s has seen 3 different managers in the home dugout. Yet, in every managerial turnover, the same problems exist and perhaps have gotten worse. After the 3-0 defeat to Chelsea almost two weeks ago, a staggering statistic occurred; in 2018, Chelsea have won more games at St Mary’s than Southampton have. The lack of mental resilience and knowing how to win a game is plain for all to see. Under previous manager, Mauricio Pellegrino, the Saints won just 5 of his 30 game tenure. The fact of the matter is, Southampton do not have the belief or some may argue, talent, to string a run of wins together. The last time they won back to back games was in April 2017.
In big fixtures throughout a season, the same issues rear their head. Undoubtedly, there is a feeling of uncertainty within the team. Unlike other teams in the Premier League, the Southampton supporters are never surprised when the opposing team comes from behind to gain the three points. Countless times in the last two seasons, teams have scored late winners through individual errors or team mistakes. Even the current boss, Mark Hughes, has admitted there is a feeling of “protecting what we have” rather than going to get the second goal or even the third among the team. So, what the supporters have now come to see, is eleven players behind the ball, often camped inside the 18-yard box attempting to deal with sustained pressure from the opposition. And yet, the other team still finds a way and the fans are always left scratching their heads in seeing the players making the same mistakes time and time again.
A club that has always boasted about how they play the “Southampton Way” and have a clear philosophy and identity that is seen throughout the academy, making it the perfect pathway into the first team, is no longer there. From the exhilarating days under Mauricio Pochettino, where there was an intensity, an aggressive nature and positive intent in the football, this current group of players could not be further than that. The difference is there for all to see. Now, the supporters are treated to seeing players stroll around the pitch, unable to give maximum effort for 90 minutes. It’s cumbersome, uninspiring, and the lack of creativity on the pitch is staggering. Some could say, Southampton have the biggest issue in football; they cannot score and they certainly cannot defend. Those issues of being unable to pick up wins on the bounce are getting more magnified by the week.
The now famous slogan “We March On” is now in danger of becoming extremely ironic. Regression at the club is evident; will a managerial change really stop the rot?