Another one has unfortunately bitten the dust.
Southampton are now seeking a sixth permanent manager since returning Premier League football to St. Mary’s Stadium after parting company with Mauricio Pellegrino.
A string of lifeless performances ultimately made his position untenable and he leaves behind an unfinished project having overseen 34 matches (winning eight of those whilst losing 13) and with more than two years left on the contract he signed last summer.
It’s a further reminder that football is first and foremost a results business. Since his dismissal was made official there’s been no shortage of managers, including some old faces, being linked.
Below are four contenders to become Southampton’s next manager; a dream option, a realistic choice, a wildcard move and a candidate that Squawka recommends is best suited for the Saints.
Dream: Brendan Rodgers
In recent years, a number of players have swapped the east end of Glasgow for the English south coast. Fraser Forster, Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama all established themselves at Glasgow Celtic before leaving for pastures new and joining Southampton.
While representing the Saints, their stock rose, with Van Dijk and Wanyama since moving on to Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur respectively. But, is the biggest transfer yet to happen?
There’s no question Brendan Rodgers – who formerly guided Swansea City and the aforementioned Liverpool in the Premier League – is now entrenched in Hoop folklore.
His first season in charge saw the Glaswegian powerhouse go an entire league campaign unbeaten as well as securing a domestic treble for the fourth time in their history.
A part of the Northern Irishman must relish testing his wits in the English top division again, where his coaching philosophy has previously thrived, before stepping down in Merseyside he came agonising close to ending Liverpool’s long championship wait.
Given the calibre of players on Southampton’s books, they are not so dissimilar to what he had at Swansea. A manager of Rodgers’ ilk follows in the same vein as Mauricio Pochettino as well as Ronald Koeman – and both recently enjoyed relative success at the club.
Having been linked to Arsenal, however, Rodgers might have slightly grander ambitions than a club such as Southampton.
Realistic: Mark Hughes
One criterion that has been reported is the successful applicant must have Premier League experience™. This is understandable, if perhaps unimaginative. We’ve seen many clubs, battling to maintain their top division status, go down this route – especially this season.
Crystal Palace, Everton and West Ham all replaced their managers with coaches that have walked down this well-trodden path. But there have been exceptions: Swansea City, for example, hired a manager with no prior association with the most watched league in the world and he (Carlos Carvalhal) looks set to keep them up.
Of course, it can go both ways, either option can be a success or doomed to fail. An early favourite is the much-travelled Mark Hughes, who has previously coached no fewer than five clubs in the division since the 2004/05 season.
His most recent spell was at Stoke City, whose culture he changed from being a robust outfit to somewhat playing expansive football. Under Hughes, they finished inside the top 10 in three of his four full campaigns.
However, the wheels started to come off this season, when after 22 matches – collecting just five wins – he was relieved of his duties in Staffordshire. As unceremonious as his exit was it shouldn’t erase the good job he’s done.
Hughes comes with baggage, but also a clear identity of what he wants from his team. The Welshman might not be flavour of the month but he (more often than not) guarantees results and this is exactly what Southampton’s owners desire.
Wildcard: Marco Silva
It seems whenever a manager loses his job there’s always one potential replacement everyone is crying out for. Holding that distinction today is Marco Silva, who for a long time now been considered one of Europe’s most exciting young managers.
Presently without an employer, after exiting Watford apparently due to having his head turned by Everton, he has exactly what Southampton need: a coach bristling with vigour and possessing a fresh outlook on things.
Because of his meticulous nature and Portuguese background he was (lazily) dubbed the “new Mourinho”. Understandably the moniker embarrassed Silva, who enjoyed a modest playing career as a right-back. He stressed he’d rather go down with his own vision than with someone else’s.
To date, he’s done that, a string of impressive performances at Sporting CP saw the Lisbon native earn a move to Greek giants Olympiacos where he guided them to a national championship in 2016.
From afar this impressed Hull City, as well as a string of other clubs. However, it was the Tigers who brought him to the Premier League as they battled to save their top-flight status. Despite an impressive start, the damage had long been done but Silva’s reputation wasn’t harmed and instead he remained in the division to take charge at Watford.
It seemed he had a good thing going on at Vicarage Road, but then came the vacant Everton job following Ronald Koeman’s sacking. Watford’s owners claimed this distracted him and the poor results followed, leading to his untimely departure. A wanted man, if the Saints desire him then they need to get a move on, as reports now suggest he’s set for a return to Lisbon but this time guiding Sporting’s rivals Benfica.
Squawka Suggests: Peter Bosz
Thinking outside the box, or hiring managers who have performed reasonably well abroad, has worked for Southampton in the past. Pochettino and Koeman, as mentioned, are the best examples.
Both men share a similar outlook – even if they’re methods are different – and given the Saints possess one of the more talented squads (laced with technically gifted players) in the bottom half it’s worth considering the possibility of bringing in a coach that is all about progressive football.
One available candidate is Peter Bosz, who a year ago was masterminding Ajax’s path to a first European final in over two decades. That run – which saw a young and bold Amsterdam side play some of their best football since the Louis van Gaal days – alerted Borussia Dortmund, who subsequently hired the Dutchman after Thomas Tuchel decided his time at the Westfalenstadion was up.
After an impressive start that saw Dortmund lead the Bundesliga, winning in six of their opening seven league outings, things for whatever reason stopped working (no wins from the next eight including five defeats) and their performances in the Champions League left a lot to be desired. It cost Bosz his dream job, but as is the case with Hughes, such a setback shouldn’t mean he’s no longer a good coach.
Of course, his reputation has taken a beating, and it will take a while before it is fully restored. A hypothetical move to Southampton could be seen as a quid pro quo: his energetic brand of football could revitalise the club and subsequently remind everyone why BVB signed him in the first place.
Bosz, who follows in the teachings of Johan Cruyff (à la Pep Guardiola), also sees football as a dance for space. Each individual’s strength combines to make a unified eleven: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – to implement his own vision. Within the system, every position – thereby player – is assigned with several basic tasks to carry out with or without the ball. It might be just what is needed to get the ball rolling on the south coast once again.