Mark Hughes: the facts and stats of his managerial career so far

Since returning to the Premier League in 2012, Southampton have built up a reputation of being an innovate and forward-thinking club, always on the lookout for talent and value where others don’t see it. But over the past two seasons it appears that the club have lost sight of what made their strategy work in the first place, and as a result, we find ourselves here; in the midst of a relegation scrap.

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Mauricio Pellegrino’s been relieved of his duties, and in his place, the club have appointed Mark Hughes – a man who just two seasons ago would have been considered outside the managerial profile that Southampton are striving for. But the truth is, Southampton are no longer that same side.

We’re no longer looking to harness the thrilling talent of our players in a bid to achieve Europa League qualification. Instead, we’re battling relegation.

The club have clearly decided that they can’t afford to roll the dice one last time with our Premier League safety on the line, so have consequently opted for the ‘safe’ option.

But whilst a number of fans are encouraged by this appointment, another section of the Southampton fan-base are left unconvinced. Claiming that he doesn’t offer us the stability that we’re striving for and that he’s going to relegate us in the same embarrassing manner that he did with his previous clubs.

So in the interest of dispelling any myths and white lies that have created panic and worry amongst our fan base, here’s an extensive season-by-season review of Mark Hughes’s managerial career so far.

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Premier League:
– 42 points and finished 15th (remit was to stay up)
– Nine points above the drop zone, 13 points off of Europe

– Reached the FA Cup semi-final before losing to eventual winners Arsenal
– Eliminated in League Cup second round by Bournemouth, on penalties


Premier League:
– 63 points and finished 6th (same points total as when Koeman got us to 6th)
– Secured UEFA Cup qualification

– Knocked out at the fourth round of the FA Cup by West Ham
– Reached the League Cup semi-final before losing to eventual winners Manchester United


Premier League:
– 52 points and finished 10th
– Four points off of a second consecutive season of Europe and 14 points clear of relegation

– Progressed through qualifying by beating Salzburg, making it to the group stage of the UEFA Cup
– Won their group ahead of Basel, Feyenoord, Nancy and Wisla Krakow
– Went unbeaten in the group stage
– Eliminated by Bayer Leverkusen after losing 3-2 on aggregate (3-2 away, 0-0 home)
– Lost in FA Cup semi-final to eventual winners Chelsea
– Lost in League Cup third round to eventual winners Chelsea

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Premier League:
– 58 points and finished 7th
– Just two points behind sixth-placed Aston Villa
– Missed out on UEFA Cup due to Portsmouth’s FA Cup win

– Returned to UEFA Cup, courtesy of coming through the Intertoto Cup
– Progressed through UEFA Cup qualifying
– Lost to Larissa in knockout round one (3-2 on aggregate)
– Lost in FA Cup third round to Coventry
– Lost in League Cup quarter-final to Arsenal (3-2 AET)



Premier League:
– 50 points and finished 10th
– Three points away from European qualification
– Best goal difference outside the top five

– Topped his UEFA Cup group again (PSG, Schalke, Twente, Santander)
– Progressed to quarter-final stage before losing 4-3 on aggregate (won 2-1 at home, but lost 3-1 away in the first leg)
– Lost in FA Cup third round to Nottingham Forest
– Lost in League Cup second round to Brighton (penalties)


Premier League:
– Sacked in December 2009 with the team in 6th place

– Had qualified the team for the League Cup semi-finals before leaving, beating Arsenal in the quarters
– Did not last long enough to oversee the FA Cup run that season



Premier League:
– 49 points and finishes 8th
– Qualifies for the Europa League

– Eliminated in fifth round of FA Cup by Bolton Wanderers
– Eliminated in third round of League Cup by Stoke City




Premier League:
– Takes over with QPR in 17th and finishes 17th with 37 points
– Only one point clear of relegation

– Won in FA Cup third round, lost in FA Cup fourth round to eventual winners Chelsea
– Club eliminated from League Cup prior to his arrival

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Premier League:
– Sacked in November 2012 with team bottom of the table
– Harry Redknapp comes in, team still finishes in 20th

– Was dismissed before FA Cup draw was made
– Won in League Cup second round before losing to Reading in round three (3-2)



Premier League:
– 50 points and finished ninth
– Six points behind Mauricio Pochettino and Saints
– 17 points clear of the drop

– Eliminated in FA Cup fourth round by Chelsea (1-0 loss)
– Eliminated in quarter-finals by Manchester United


Premier League:
– 54 points and finished ninth
– Four point improvement on previous season
– Six points behind Ronald Koeman in his first season
– 19 points clear of the drop

– Eliminated in FA Cup fifth round by Blackburn Rovers
– Eliminated in League Cup fourth round by Southampton (3-2 home loss)

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Premier League:
– 51 points and finished ninth for third straight season
– Slump of three points compared to the previous season
– 11 points off Europe
– 14 points above the drop

– Eliminated in FA Cup fourth round by Crystal Palace (1-0)
– Made it to League Cup semi-final before losing to Liverpool (penalties)


Premier League:
– 44 points and 13th place
– three points would’ve seen him finish above Puel’s Saints and come 8th
– 17 points away from Europe
– 10 points clear of the drop

– Eliminated in FA Cup third round by Wolves
– Won in second round, but eliminated in League Cup third round by Hull City

Southampton’s ethos must take the backseat for their cruel reality

After eight long months of turgid football, abysmal results and mindless team-selections, Mauricio Pellegrino has at last been relieved of his duties as Southampton manager.

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But whilst the Southampton fanbase feel that their chances of survival have been given somewhat of a boost, the small matter of identifying the man who should steer us clear of relegation remains.

If reports from the Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson are to be believed, then it seems that Mark Hughes is set to become that man. The report claims that the former Stoke boss has been offered a contract until the end of the season, before any long-term decisions will be made on Pellegrino’s replacement.

My initial thoughts on this potential deal were that of disappointment and a distinct lack of inspiration. Going from Europa League football to chasing Mark Hughes in a relegation battle over the space of two years is a frightening thought.

It’s understandable for many Southampton fans to feel that they deserve more. That we’re better than this.

But the sad reality at this moment in time is that we’re not. Our recent history and current crop of players may be stronger than those around us, but if we’re unable to communicate and work together as unit, then it all counts for nothing.

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Those who still feel unsatisfied with the link to Hughes have blasted the direction of the club, demanding a ‘modern manager’ who fits in with our so-called philosophy to take the reigns. But what promising and forward thinking tactician would ever think of coming to Southampton in these current circumstances?

Southampton’s most successful managers in recent years (Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman) would have turned their noses up at the club if the board approached them in such a high-risk situation.

As for as I’m concerned with our next manager, we can forget about long-term planning, youth development and whether they’ve got a history of taking their previous club to the next level (Europe). The bottom line is that if we don’t nail this next managerial appointment, there’s simply no Premier League future to plan for.

The reality is that we’ve got eight games remaining to claw our way back to safety, with numerous sides around us gaining momentum as each game week passes.

Southampton’s only aim at this moment in time should be finding someone who’s capable of inspiring a depleted squad. Someone who can quickly install confidence, implement an identity and command respect; three things that Pellegrino failed drastically at achieving.

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Hughes is no revelation. We won’t be playing the expansive fast-paced football that many Southampton fans so desperately desire – let’s get that out the way. But knowing that Hughes has only got eight games to make an instant impact on our side, I’ll be willing to guarantee that he simply won’t allow a repeat of last Saturday’s performance.

He’s been known over his previous tenures for adding a gritty, physical and aggressive style to his sides. Something which in fairness, we’ve severely lacked since Koeman’s departure in 2016. We’ve been all too nice for far too long now – in the physical sense and in front of the opposition’s goal.

He’s also always looked to form a physical partnership at the heart of his midfield, which could be good news for Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina, in addition to welcoming attacking flair in wide areas. Nathan Redmond and Sofiane Boufal are desperately in need of a manager that understands and appreciates their qualities.

Many have jumped at the chance to criticise Hughes for his collapse with Stoke City earlier this season, and that’s certainly a worry to consider. But they conveniently chose to ignore the fact that he inherited an anti-football Tony Pulis side, and helped them on their way to three consecutive finishes in the top half of the table. All whilst showcasing the best football they’ve played since their return to the Premier League in 2007.

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So why have a number of fans shown so much resent to the idea of recruiting Hughes?

In my mind, fans are fearful of what such an appointment means for the club. That by recruiting Hughes, we’ve become just another Premier League side that fails to think for themselves.

Over the last five years, we’ve taken pride in the fact that we innovate and continue to buck the trend by way of player and manager recruitment. Since 2014 we’ve served as a model club for those in the Championship and those facing relegation.

But those players, leaders and managers that helped to form that reputation are no longer here. It’s time for us to come to terms with the fact that we’re no longer that same side.

Now by no means am I suggesting that we stop innovating and trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible as a mid-table side. Far from it. But what I am suggesting is that now is not the time to roll the dice in a bid to rediscover ourselves.

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We’re in grave danger. Crystal Palace and Stoke City remain just one point below us in the relegation zone, whilst Swansea City who were once considered down and out, now sit three points above.

I’m willing to welcome the physical, gritty and no-nonsense approach that Hughes offers, solely because this current Southampton side are in a downward spiral that’s shown few signs of slowing down. Let alone stopping.

When the players have talked about finishing this current season in the top half of the table we’ve criticised them for being naive. For thinking too far ahead while danger continues to stare them in the face.

So let’s not be naive enough to talk about the long-term future with regards to Southampton’s next managerial appointment.

Until we book our place in the Premier League for the 2018/19 season, putting points on the board must remain our only focus.

Review: Newcastle 3-0 Southampton

In arguably our biggest game of the season so far we set up negatively and paid the price, falling to a 3-0 defeat against Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle. But in all honesty, are we really surprised?

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One win from 17 league games tells the whole story of Pellegrino’s torrid tenure in charge of Southampton FC.

We’ve now played relegation rivals West Brom, Stoke City, Crystal Palace and Huddersfield twice, managing to only pick up 11 points from a possible 24 – recording only three wins. For a side with “European ambitions,” this is totally unacceptable. Our only wins of this campaign have arrived against sides who were currently below Saints at the time of playing, proving that Pellegrino has only been able to manoeuvre past sides at their worst.

Pellegrino and the board have sucked the life and enjoyment out of watching Saints and major changes need to be made now rather than later. We can’t afford to wait until the end of the season and hope we’ve scraped survival. There’s currently no single reason as to why Pellegrino should remain in his job.

There’s the rigid and uninspiring system, the unnecessary decision to constantly drop in-form players, and the fact that he’s still yet to improve a single member of our squad this season.  

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However, the blame doesn’t just fall at the feet of Pellegrino. The board have to take a large slice of the blame for this season’s shortcomings too.

Our dealings throughout the January transfer window were disastrous. Les Reed and co felt it was necessary to sell stories to the press stating our intent for players such as Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge and Fulham’s wonder kid Ryan Sessegnon. Walcott departed Arsenal for Everton, Sturridge departed Liverpool for West Brom and Fulham stated no intent to sell their most prized asset.

Did we ever have any real interest in these players? Or did the board just send these stories to the press to please begrudged fans?

After little activity over January, Saints broke their transfer record to sign Argentinian striker Guido Carillo for an estimated £20 million. Fans were screaming for the club to show ambition in the transfer market, and whilst the signing of Carrillo certainly done that in the financial sense, we assumed that it would be spent in the right places. More specifically on a goal-scoring winger – someone that would be capable of creating a link between the midfield and attack, on top of being a real threat inside the box.

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It may seem harsh to judge Carrillo already, especially when you consider that the problem all along has been providing support for our centre-forward. But he hardly seems the type of player to fire Saints clear of danger via his own individual performances – even less so when Pellegrino remains reluctant to play someone alongside him.

Arrogance is the best way to describe our board because we’re no longer sleepwalking into the Championship – we’re staring it right in the face whilst Reed and Kruger have remained silent with no indication of a change in strategy.

The 3-0 defeat to Newcastle was our worst result to date, but it’s amongst a whole host of bad results. There was no fight, grit, determination or realisation this was a relegation six-pointer, and as a result, Saints have been crushed by a team filled with all those traits.

I’m not stating anything new here: this has been the story of our season and every fan is thinking the same. I truly wish there were some positives to include in this piece, but any slightly positive signs are instantly tarred by Pellegrino’s tactical incompetence and shortcomings.

Pochettino reveals he tried to sign Astori for Southampton

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has revealed that he tried to sign Davide Astori back in 2013 for Southampton, following the news of the Italy International passing away at just 31-years-old.

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The Fiorentina captain was at the height of his career and was widely considered by his team-mates to be as professional, punctual and healthy as footballers come, but last weekend the entirety of the footballing world was rocked by this devastating news.

Astori had been linked to Southampton countless time over the past five years. So often in fact, that he actually became a cult hero amongst the Southampton fanbase.

Whenever we were short on numbers at the back or had just conceded a sloppy goal, Astori’s name would be mentioned tongue-in-cheek as the transfer window edged nearer.

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The former Southampton boss started by saying “I want to send all my condolences to Davide Astori and all the people that love him, and I think it’s a massive tragedy.

“I had the possibility to meet him five years ago because it was my idea to sign him when we were at Southampton. I took three hours to have lunch with him and he was a great kid, great person, great professional, great player.

“It was very sad news, we were devastated to hear the news and we share the pain with all the people in Italy and Florence, and I send all my energy to his family.”

Currently sitting just one point above the relegation zone, many would label this a stressful and troubling time to be a Southampton supporter. But when you hear stories like these, you’re handed a stark reminder of just how fortunate we really are.

Can Southampton reach the semi-finals in the FA Cup?

Saints fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season, but the FA Cup has provided a silver lining in a gloomy campaign and has kept open the prospect of a second Wembley cup final in two years, following last year’s run to the EFL Final.

This is the first time that Southampton have appeared in the last eight of the FA Cup since 2005, but having been drawn against League One side Wigan, they have a great chance of reaching the semi-finals, and from there they will have the opportunity to emulate the 2003 side that made the final, or even the legendary Cup winners of 1976.

Of course, at this stage of the competition, no game can be considered straightforward. It’s one of the reasons why the FA Cup is a great vehicle for football betting, as many smaller clubs raise their game while others rest key players, and Cup form can often be very different to league form, which can lead to some great odds. Some football punters betting on this match with Stakers will be hoping to profit from another famous FA Cup shock, while others will be relying on the Premier League club to get the job done and advance to the last four.

To set up that semi-final, however, the Saints will have to get past Wigan, and that won’t be easy. The League One side stunned English football when they dumped Manchester City out of the competition in the fifth round, thanks to a late Will Grigg goal, and that wasn’t their first Premier League scalp of the competition. Wigan have done it the hard way, beating Bournemouth in the third round and overcoming West Ham in the fourth.

Southampton’s path to the last eight hasn’t been much easier. They came through a potentially tricky third-round tie at Championship promotion contenders Fulham before edging narrow wins against Watford and fellow relegation strugglers West Brom. If you believe in omens, then it’s worth remembering that the 1976 side also beat West Brom in the fifth round on the way to their Wembley triumph.

Naturally, the Saints will be favourites to win this game, but it won’t be easy. Wigan are the toughest lower league opponent that Southampton could face. They’ve only lost three games at the DW Stadium all season, and dispatched Bournemouth, West Ham and City at home without conceding a goal. Although their Cup exploits have led to a string of league postponements that have seen them drop to third, they remain the best team in League One, with the division’s best goal-scoring and defensive records; and in Grigg they have the Cup’s top goal-scorer, ably supported by Nick Powell and winger Michael Jacobs.

Mauricio Pellegrino also has to have one eye on the relegation battle. One point clear of the drop zone, Saints have crucial matches against Newcastle and Swansea to prepare for, and have a potentially tricky run-in to the end of the Premier League season with fixtures against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City and trips to Everton and Leicester.

However, the Cup is also a distraction for Wigan. One of the dangers of playing lower league opposition is that if they have nothing to play for, the chance to progress deep into the FA Cup becomes their focus, and they can prepare more thoroughly for what is often a historical opportunity, making them much tougher to beat. That does not apply to Wigan.

One of several former Premiership sides to drop into League One after getting into financial difficulties, it was only five years ago that they were beating Manchester City to win the FA Cup under Roberto Martínez. Their manager, Paul Cook, has admitted that their progress to the quarter-finals has made it harder for them to sustain a promotion push, and for the Latics, getting back into the Championship is the main priority this season.

Pellegrino will be well aware of the threat that Wigan pose, and of the need to balance a determined effort to progress in the Cup with the essential priority of remaining in the Premier League. However, Saints have a deeper squad than many of their relegation rivals and should be able to maintain their efforts on two fronts. A place in the semi-finals, with a chance to progress to Wembley, would be a huge boost to their fans, who haven’t had much to cheer about this season. Let’s hope that they can emulate the heroes of ’76 and make us proud.

Painting Southampton’s season by numbers

Every last Southampton fan knows that this seasons performances simply haven’t been good enough. We’re lacking direction, identity, leadership, and belief, under the command of a manager who’s shown no evidence that he’s capable of steering us to safety. 

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But it seems that the higher forces at the club are currently refusing to see eye to eye with the fans. Instead they’ve opted to continually hold blind faith in Mauricio Pellegrino.

So given that our opinions alone clearly aren’t valued highly enough by the club, what do the numbers say about our season so far?

Glen Murray (11) has scored the same number of Premier League goals this season as Austin, Gabbiadini, Long and Redmond combined.

Southampton have won just three Premier League home games all season.

We’re without a Premier League win at home in over eight fixtures – a new club record.

Last season Nathan Redmond proved himself to be a valuable member of the Southampton squad, finishing the season as our top goalscorer in the Premier League with seven goals. Under Pellegrino, Redmond is still searching for his first goal of the season.

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Southampton have failed to beat the following sides at St Mary’s this season: Swansea, Wolves, Watford, Newcastle, Burnley, Leicester, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Stoke.

Despite only featuring for 599 minutes, Charlie Austin still tops our goal scoring leaderboard with six goals. Two more than any other Southampton player this season. 

We’ve recorded just one Premier League win since November.

Despite boasting an xG of 32.52, Southampton have only scored 28 goals this season. Which in short confirms something that we’ve assumed for a while; we’re remarkably wasteful in front of goal.

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Mauricio Pellegrino has recorded the lowest Premier League win percentage of any manager in Southampton’s history (17.2%). Even cult hero Ian Branfoot managed to pick up a win ratio of 28.91%.

Southampton are yet to win a game against a side that are in the top half of the table this season, having recorded eight draws and nine losses from 17 fixtures.

Southampton have managed to drop 13 points from winning positions this season, after crumbling against Brighton, Arsenal, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace, Watford and Tottenham. 

Our only Premier League wins this season have come against sides currently placed 14th, 18th, 20th (x2), and 11th. 

Remember when Crystal Palace and Swansea City were considered down and out? Well, the former now reside just one point below us, whilst the latter sit two points above us.  

As teams around us continue to make changes in a bid to beat the drop, Southampton have remained stagnant and stubborn, by expecting a man who’s shown no signs of promise to deliver at the most crucial time of the season. The clock’s ticking, Mauricio.

Harrison Reed: I don’t want to go back to sitting in the stands

 Harrison Reed has expressed his desire to continue playing on a weekly basis next season, after gaining his first taste of regular competitive football with Norwich City.

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The 23-year-old joined the Canaries on a season-long loan last June and has featured for the club on 32 occasions – already surpassing the 30 appearances that he made for the Saints across four seasons.

Reed, who still remains a favourite amongst the Southampton fan base, has displayed great maturity in the heart of the Norwich midfield, showing his technical capabilities to dominate a game and his terrier-like work-rate that’s won the hearts of so many fans.

But while a number of Southampton supporters remain hopeful that he could return and fight for his place in the side again, it seems that Reed is fearful of falling back into the cycle of U23’s football.

“Being at Southampton and a Premier League club is great. But playing in the under-23s and not really coming up against men maybe halted my career a little bit,” Reed told the Eastern Daily Press.

“I don’t feel like I want to go back to sitting in the stands, training all week and then on a Saturday not being involved.

“That’s not something I want to do and I think if you asked many footballers, they would agree.

“So next season I’ll look to progress again, whether that be here or we’ll see what other opportunities arise.

“Coming to Norwich and playing week in week out, getting the game time I have done has really opened my eyes and I feel like I’ve progressed.”

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It’s clear that Reed’s enjoyed his time working under Daniel Falke, and is it any wonder when for the first time in his professional career, he’s had the joy of playing a key role in the weekend’s results.

Having witnessed his debut under Mauricio Pochettino back in December 2013, it would be upsetting to wave goodbye to the tenacious midfielder this coming summer. Especially when you consider the initial promise that he showed for the club.

But given that he’s 23-years-old and that Southampton currently boasts a plethora of midfield options, it’s imperative that his next career decision is made solely with his own development in mind.

Targett flourishing at Fulham under Jokanovic

Since making his debut for Southampton’s first-team back in August 2014, Matt Targett has wormed his way into the starting line-up on a number of occasions through injuries, rotation and systematic changes. But ultimately, he’s failed to ever truly cement his place in the starting XI, and is it any wonder with England International Ryan Bertrand as competition? 

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So with Targett being 22-years-old, and Southampton desperately struggling for form, the club came to the conclusion that a loan spell elsewhere would be best for his development.

Such a decision would only prove valuable, however, if Targett’s receiving regular game-time and playing an attractive brand of football, that fits in with Southampton’s ethos (even if our first-team are currently failing to do the latter).

His destination? Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham, and since joining on the 22nd of January 2018, It’s fair to say that this deal has worked out perfectly for all parties involved.

So join us as we speak with Fulham fan and sports journalist, Rhys Daly, to find out how Targett’s settling into life in London.

What were yours and the Fulham fan bases initial thoughts when Matt Targett joined?

All the fans were delighted when he signed. From the start of the window it was clear we only needed a left-back and a centre-forward, something the board listened to and achieved.

At the start of the season we signed Rafa Soares on loan from Porto and I had high expectations of him. To my disappointment, Soares failed to achieve match fitness and force himself into the side, which left Ryan Sessegnon as our only player comfortable playing in that position.

How have Fulham fans taken to Targett so far?

Despite only making five starts, Fulham fans love him. His role gives Sessegnon freedom to play on the wing with security behind him. Having said that, Targett has been far more than just a shield; he likes to get forward and deliver crosses and even got on the scoresheet away to Bolton.

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What have been his greatest strengths?

I’ve been particularly impressed with his 1v1 defending. Even though he is only 22, you can see he has experience at a higher level each time he plays.

Has he shown any areas of weakness so far?

The only weakness I’ve seen came against Bristol City last Wednesday. He wasn’t directly at fault but their goal but it did come down the left side. He limped off injured but the club are yet to announce the severity of it so I expect it’s just an impact problem.

What type of role and responsibilities has Slavisa Jokanovic handed Targett?

The combination of having a more balanced defence all while giving Sessegnon more freedom is already crucial to our chances of promotion. Jokanovic will have certainly told Targett how important he is and he will probably be thriving off being a key cog in the machine.

Given that he’s made over 20 Premier League appearances for Southampton since 2014, have you been able to tell that he’s plied his trade in England’s top division?  

His Premier League experience has given him so much confidence, I would say he isn’t far from being a regular in the top division and slightly unlucky to have not played more there already.

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And finally, from what you’ve seen so far, would you be interested in retaining Targett’s services? And if so, do you think it’s possible?

Fans would be ecstatic if we could sign Targett permanently. If we don’t go up and Southampton stay in the Premier League I would be very surprised if a deal would be reached. In the few appearances that he’s made for us he’s been in the WhoScored Team of the Week twice and the EFL Team of the Week over three successive weeks. As well as many other clubs, Southampton will be aware of just how well he is performing.

Alex McCarthy: waiting in the wings

Rewind to just under eight weeks ago and Southampton had been mauled by Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs on Boxing Day, with Fraser Forster doing little by the way of prevention. The England International had been in dire form for a number of months at this stage, but with ‘no competition’ waiting in the wings, a number of Southampton fans were hesitant for change. Oh, how wrong they were.

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Since being handed his first genuine opportunity to represent the Saints (which for the record kicked off with a clean-sheet against Manchester United) Alex McCarthy has quite frankly been faultless in goal for Southampton F.C.

Behind any resilient defence is a man between the sticks who the backline can trust, and while our defensive fragilities are still far from being solved, McCarthy’s sheer presence has given us a stronger core defensively.

Earlier in the season we were let down all too often by Fraser Forster, who continually failed to step up when we needed him most. Whenever the pressure began to pile on to the Saints, Forster retreated mentally and appeared to already accept defeat in claiming a cross, rushing off his line or getting down low.

There’s no denying his capabilities, after all, he still holds the record for our longest run without conceding a goal in the top flight – 708 minutes. But he was clearly no longer in that same mental state and we simply couldn’t afford to gamble on his return to form any longer. It’s gutting to see Forster go backwards, but in truth, we haven’t looked back since.

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Perhaps one of the greatest compliments we can pay McCarthy is that at a time when Mauricio Pellegrino’s team-sheets are slandered and questioned on a weekly basis, McCarthy’s name has never once been mentioned.

Fans were initially shocked when he was handed his Premier League debut at Old Trafford, simply because Pellegrino had finally decided to show some courage in a decision, but since then, he’s arguably been the first name on the Argentinian’s team-sheet.

Last weekend’s FA Cup performance against West Bromwich Albion proved exactly why.

The clip shown above perfectly illustrates the impact that McCarthy’s had on our side already. The scoreline at the time of Krychowiak’s deflected effort was 1-0 to the Saints, and just one minute later we went up the other end to double our lead. These are the tight margins that truly count in football, and in all honesty, these are the moments where Forster failed to show his worth this season.

Were yet to gain truly detailed statistics of McCarthy’s impact on Pellegrino’s side, due to the 28-year-old only playing his part in ten fixtures over all competitions, but the early signs are certainly encouraging.

Southampton have recorded two losses and three clean sheets in our ten fixtures with McCarthy, which is in stark contrast to Forster’s final ten games, where he recorded zero clean sheets and faced defeat on six separate occasions.

And with thanks to research provided by Euan Dewar, we’re also able to see that McCarthy’s seriously helped with getting the ball to safety following a save too.

No other team in the Premier League has conceded more goals than Southampton directly following a save from their keeper this season. The point still stands when you extend the scope to ten seconds after the save too. But since McCarthy’s come into the side, we’ve only conceded one goal that meets the criteria, which for the record, was a stunning tipped-save onto the crossbar that was bundled in on the rebound against Watford.

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But sometimes in football, you don’t need stats to prove your point; sometimes the difference is just there for all to see, and that’s certainly been the case with McCarthy. Despite knowing full well that he was considered the second choice keeper at the club, McCarthy snatched the opportunity handed to him with both hands, took his place between the sticks and instantly oozed confidence.

With my hand on my heart, I can honestly say that from his early showings so far, I’m yet to see a single standout weakness to his game. He’s been assertive with every cross that he’s had to claim, been decisive with every shot fired his way, and rushed off his line at every available opportunity. Not to mention that his distributions been more than capable too – a quality that’s long overdue from a Southampton keeper, given that we pride ourselves on playing attractive football in all areas of the field.

At a time when it’s all too easy to hide away and not take responsibility for the position that we find ourselves in, McCarthy’s truly stepped up and decided that enough is enough. Long may it continue.

With judgment day for our top-flight status just around the corner, McCarthy serves as a fine example to our squad of what can happen if you believe in your ability and take your chances.

West Bromwich Albion vs Southampton F.C. – An FA Cup preview

Just under two weeks ago, these same two sides met at The Hawthornes in a relegation six pointer, which arguably served up one of the games of 2018 so far. Southampton came out on top in a 3-2 win over WBA, and in doing so, clawed back some pride and managed to put themselves in a much better position in the fight for survival.

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So let’s fast forward two weeks; Southampton are back in the relegation zone after a dire display against Liverpool, and West Brom have all but given up in their fight for survival, should their fans on twitter be believed. So what’s in store for the FA Cup 5th round tie?

In an ideal world Southampton would play some young guns and those that have not featured as much, and in turn rest some of our more important players. However, that is unlikely to happen. Due to Pellegrino’s tactical incompetence, we’ve offered few curve balls via team selection and formation this season, meaning Southampton will most likely line-up in a deep 4-2-3-1 formation, looking to absorb pressure and win the game 1-0. Our next Premier League fixture takes place exactly a week on from this FA Cup clash, so I naturally expect few changes to be made against the Baggies.

Pellegrino’s team will most likely lineup as follows:

McCarthy, Cedric, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand, Romeu, Lemina, Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg, Tadic, Carrillo.

Pellegrino will most likely continue with the same back four that has leaked goals all season and in recent weeks has seemed fatigued, despite our crunch fixtures in the fight for premier league survival

Hojbjerg, for some reason unbeknownst to me will likely act as the furthest forward of the three central midfielders, as Pellegrino likes to play him as support behind Carrillo – again something that seems at best illogical.

Tadic and Ward-Prowse will look to provide the width, despite both players being more-suited to central roles, and look to cross the ball into our target man, Carrillo.

Boufal may well find his way into the starting XI, however, after being dropped against Liverpool last weekend. If I had my way though, he’d be saved for our trip to Turf Moor. Burnley are a team that have mastered the deep block and that’s something that Boufal specialises in breaking down. 

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My starting XI would look something like this, in a Koeman-esque 4-3-3:

Forster, Pied, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Davis, Redmond, Sims, Gabbiadini.

In defence, I think Forster needs another run out, and the cup is the perfect opportunity, alongside Yoshida and Pied, who need to replace Cedric and Hoedt after the pair’s poor run of form, as both also seem to be fatigued.

In this formation we allow Romeu to sit and hold so he can regain his confidence after what’s quite frankly been a poor season by his standards. Davis and Hojbjerg will then act as two box-to-box midfielders, with one sitting deeper as one pushes forward (and vice-versa). Davis needs some game-time, and whilst Lemina has been in better form than most, he needs to be saved for our crunch Premier League fixtures, especially after our knock in confidence against Liverpool.

Finally, our frontline definitely needs a mixup, I think that Redmond, Sims and Gabbiadini would provide a breath of fresh air, in a dreary and lacklustre strike force. I would hope that we’d play some flowing football, start to hit low-crosses for Gabbiadini’s front-post runs, with Redmond and Sims swapping wings in order to confuse defenders.

In spite of the fact that West Brom are in troubles of their own, and that Saints beat them just two weeks ago, I fully expect a 1-1 draw and a replay. Neither team will want to be overzealous in their attempts to win the game, given their dire straits in the Premier League, so will likely rest players and look to keep it tight and win by a slim margin, but I can see both teams cancelling each other out. Predicted goal scorers: Jay Rodriguez (WBA) and Tadic (Saints).