Premier League Preview: Gameweek 31
Southampton are looking for a saviour to salvage Premier League survival, having sacked Mauricio Pellegrino after just nine months in charge.
Pellegrino only managed five league wins during his time at Saints, with the South Coast side registering just one victory in the Premier League since November of last year – and that came against basement club West Brom.
The Saints’ hierarchy will want to bring in a replacement swiftly, their next league game – a relegation six-pointer against West Ham at St. Mary’s – isn’t until the 31st of March….so the sooner the new man comes in, the longer he’ll have to assess the squad before the run-in.
At this stage of the season, two managers’ names are usually brought up when a Premier League club require a managerial ‘firefighter’ to drag them out of relegation quagmire: Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis.
These two men are both currently employed however – Allardyce is hardly pulling up trees at Everton but he won’t be on the move until at least the end of this season, while Pulis has taken over at Middlesbrough and may well end up guiding the Teesiders to promotion from the Championship.
Saints fans can hardly be overly excited at the prospect of Mark Hughes coming in. Stoke stagnated under the Welshman, conceded more goals than any other Premier League team this season up until his departure, and very rarely showed character in difficult circumstances.
The Southampton fans do seem keen on the prospect of Marco Silva becoming their next manager, though – it is thought that the 40-year-old turned down the club in favour of his ill-fated move to Watford in the summer.
However, the Portuguese manager joined Hull in January last season and was unable to save the Tigers. His inability to focus on the job at hand at Watford amidst the interest from Everton earlier this season must also be viewed as a weakness.
Silva did improve Hull’s attacking prowess, with the Tigers scoring two or more goals in eight of his 22 games in charge – an impressive return considering how threadbare their squad was.
Southampton have really struggled in attack this term, so Silva does seem like a good fit in this regard.
In their statement announcing Pellegrino’s departure, Southampton claimed they were looking at candidates with Premier League experience.
When we take this into account, Martin O’Neill looks like a decent bet at 20/1 , as far as the outsiders are concerned.
The Irishman turned down the Stoke job before signing a new contract with the Republic of Ireland national team in January, but he may be more tempted by a club who have enjoyed better recent success than the Potters, despite their current situation.
Östersunds’ English boss Graham Potter is 16/1 to land the job and the Birmingham-born boss may see this as a great opportunity to manage in the English game for the first time.
Potter actually played for the Saints, making eight appearances for them in the 1996–97 season, and the outstanding job he has done with the Swedish minnows – including an historic victory at the Emirates Stadium last month – won’t have gone unnoticed by Premier League clubs such as Southampton.
Former West Ham boss Slaven Bilic is also 16/1 , and although he left the Hammers with a reputation for not being able to sort out their defence, he represents a cheap temporary option and there is little doubt about his motivational skills.
Many have remarked that Saints should have given Pellegrino the boot a few weeks ago – with just eight league games left to turn around their season.
Three of those eight matches are against the current top six – including back-to-back fixtures against Arsenal and Chelsea in April, and a final day showdown against Champions-elect Manchester City.
The betting reflects the table, with Saints joint-third favourites to drop down into the Championship at 2/1 .
West Ham and Crystal Palace are the same price to be relegated, with Huddersfield an ever-so-slightly bigger price at 9/4 .
Bottom side West Brom are all but gone and are 1/50 for relegation, while 19th placed Stoke come in at 8/11 for the drop.
If you think the Saints are already goners, along with the current bottom two, then 5/1 on a treble of Saints, the Potters and the Baggies being demoted could be of interest.
Either way, Southampton need to act fast in bringing in a new manager, otherwise their six-year stint in the top flight could come to an end with a whimper.
For what it’s worth, Marco Silva looks like the best option – Saints would just have to hope interest from Everton doesn’t resurface if he wins his first four games in charge of Saints!