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Calum Chambers opens up about his move away from Southampton

Ahead of facing his former club at the Emirates this Sunday, Arsenal’s Calum Chambers has revealed how he kept his move to north London secret – and how an old friend reacted. 

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Chambers joined Southampton’s academy at seven years of age, and made his first-team debut at just 17-years-old. Over the next two seasons the right-back would prove to be strong competition for Nathaniel Clyne, as he seemingly prepared for a long-term future with the Saints.

But in the midst of the 2014 summer exodus, Arsene Wenger saw an opportunity and managed to turn Chambers’ head. The Southampton fan base originally laughed at such rumours, but in what felt like the space of a night, the transfer had been signed, sealed and agreed.

“It was funny because nobody knew about me moving to Arsenal,” Chambers told www.arsenal.com. “We literally didn’t tell anyone, not even my flatmate (Harrison Reed) at Southampton knew.

“I’ve turned up here, all dressed up in my shirt and my jeans, stood outside the office at the training ground and Chambo walks around the corner. He had to double-take! It was brilliant because he just couldn’t believe it.

“Then obviously I’ve had to call up my flatmate and say, ‘Can you give my boots to the kitman? I need my boots’. Then I had to go back, I took my Sky box with me and all that. It was quite a surprise to everyone.”

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Champions League football, training with world-class players and working under Arsene Wenger; these are just a few of the benefits that Chambers would have seen with such a move. But another was having the opportunity to play alongside an old friend, and a fellow academy graduate.

“My relationship with Chambo is quite funny. He broke through into the first team and obviously I was a couple of years younger than him, so we sort of looked up to him. Our age group thought, ‘He can do it, so one of us could do it’.

“In my first training session I trained with him and then we started getting the train in together. Me and Harrison Reed, who lived at my house, used to get the train in from Petersfield to Southampton, and he and Lloyd Isgrove would get on the train halfway. We’d get train journeys in every day together but he was always the first-team player at the time so we had massive respect for him.

“I remember the first day seeing him [at Arsenal] where I turned up and he didn’t have a clue. I stood in the corridor and he just saw me and was so surprised, it was brilliant. I can remember his face and it was so funny. It’s been quite interesting how our paths have crossed throughout our careers.”

Credit to www.arsenal.com for the quotes that have been referenced above

Preview: Arsenal v Southampton

Following a horrific 3-0 defeat to West Ham last weekend, Mark Hughes will be desperate to see a strong reaction from his relegation bound side this Sunday. 

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The only problem, however, is that we’re not getting a second crack at a team who’ve been stealing corner flags, fighting their own fans and arguing with players.

Instead, we’re facing an Arsenal side who come into this fixture off the back of four consecutive wins, and two Premier League games in which they’ve scored three without reply.

So to gain some greater insight into what we can expect from this current Arsenal side, we spoke to Sports Journalist Mason McDonagh, who’s an Arsenal fan and writer for Sportskeeda.

Considering the fact that you’re 13 points off the top four,  is Europa League glory the only way that this season could be considered a success? 

MM: Most definitely. It still won’t be much of a successful season given our terrible defence of the FA Cup, thrashing in the final of the Carabao Cup and a dreadful league campaign, but it will at least get us into the Champions League which is so important.

Which player has surprised you most by truly stepping up this season?

MM: Is it okay to say nobody? It’s hard to pick out anyone who has had a stand out season. If I had to pick, I’d say Ramsey has had another good season, but nobody has stepped up their game really.

You’ve got an abundance of quality in your frontline, but Arsene Wenger still appears to be tinkering with personnel and the formation. How would you like to see them line up?

MM: I’ve always preferred when we play with a 4-2-3-1, allowing Ozil to play as a 10. So, if it was me picking the team I’d have Mkhitaryan on the right, Ozil in the middle, Aubameyang on the left and Lacazette as striker. I’ve been a big fan of both Lacazette and Aubameyang since their arrivals, so I’d like to see a regular starting line-up with them both in it.

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How do teams get the most joy out of your defence?

MM: Based on our defensive performances this season, any way possible. I’d say a high press is what usually forces Arsenal into mistakes with their passing, giving opportunities to the opposite team. And generally, quick wingers/inside forwards usually cause Arsenal some problems.

As an outsider looking in, what have you made of Southampton’s season?

MM: At the beginning of the season, I would have never have tipped Southampton to be anywhere near the relegation zone at this point of the season, so I’d say it’s been a catastrophe. Most times when I’ve watched, Southampton have just looked extremely boring and void of ideas, so hopefully Hughes may be able to change that.

Now that VVD is gone, which Southampton player would you take to join your side?

MM: I’d have to say Sofiane Boufal. Although he has struggled to nail down a place in the Saints side, he is the biggest talent and the most technical player in the side by far. With Arsenal not having any natural wingers with most of the players who play there having being forced out wide, Boufal could certainly offer something different.

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Which Arsenal player would help to improve Mark Hughes’s Saints most?

MM: Aaron Ramsey. I know Southampton have struggled for goals this season, and Ramsey loves a goal from midfield. It would be obvious to choose Aubameyang, but he could become very isolated for a team like Southampton and I don’t think it’d work.

Do you think we have what it takes to beat the drop?

MM: There is a lot of quality in the Southampton side, as I mentioned I can’t quite believe you’re in a relegation battle. However despite that quality, I think you could be going down. I just don’t see where you will pick up any points from your remaining fixtures.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

MM: 3-0 Arsenal. Although Southampton have been somewhat of a bogey team for Arsenal in recent years, I think it should be a comfortable victory this Sunday.

Podcast: Mark Hughes, Austin’s importance and overcoming Pellegrino’s negativity

It’s been like London buses for Fresh Saints and Southampton podcasts. We’ve waited weeks for one to come along, then all of a sudden two arrive at once… 

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So join us as we give our thoughts, views and rants to the Southampton Dellivery podcast, hosted by California based Saints fan, Matthew Markstone.

We discuss the following topics and much much more…

  • Our views on Mark Hughes and the potential impact that he could have on our squad
  • Charlie Austin’s return from injury
  • The damage that Pellegrino’s done to Oriol Romeu
  • Our admiration for Ryan Bertrand – a player who truly knows what it means to be a Saint

 

What’s next for Højbjerg under Hughes?

Before Southampton had kicked off their crunch fixture at home to Everton on November 26, 2017, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg had played just six minutes of Premier League football under Mauricio Pellegrino. Unfathomable, unintelligent and simply unjustifiable… these are just a few of the words that sprung to my mind with regards to Pellegrino’s blatant dislike towards Højbjerg.

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Skip forward two months later and our favourite dynamic Danish midfielder had just played a vital part in recording our first win in ten fixtures against Fulham in the FA Cup. But as the visibly knackered and worn midfielder left the field of play, it was followed by a chorus of boos and chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” chants to Pellegrino – ironically, I think Pellegrino was right to substitute him and save him for the Premier League fixtures, but that’s beside the point.

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has quickly become a fan favourite, netting his first Southampton goal last weekend against Wigan in the FA Cup, under Mark Hughes. At just 22 years old, he is one of the most well-rounded midfielders I’ve seen for a long while – he’s a dominant tackler with a strong physique, phenomenal passing range, and the ability to drive the ball forward. Not to mention his mentality and intelligence that surpasses many of his colleagues, and his sheer captain-like presence that we’ve been missing in hard times.

To say that Pellegrino limited Højbjerg would be an understatement; not only did he have to overcome the issue of rarely starting or being played outside of his natural position, but he also had to combat the fact that our midfield was banished from displaying expansive and creative football.

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However, despite having yet to register a Premier League assist or goal this season, he still averages close to 50 passes per game (48.7 to be exact), with a pass completion percentage of 87.3%, 2.1 long balls per game, and 0.5 key passes per game. Whilst those statistics may not stand-out as world-class at this moment in time, we have to take these in relative terms. This is an extremely young talent who needs the nurturing and guidance to push him higher, he needs more game-time and a manager who will glean the best from him; step up new Southampton manager, Mark Hughes.

My hopes for Pierre-Emile Højbjerg are relatively simple: to become Southampton’s current deep-lying playmaker, and within the next couple of years, to become Southampton’s captain. His mentality and attitude, coupled with his outstanding technical footballing ability at such a young age can only pave a very bright future path for him.

He has a relationship with the St Mary’s faithful which has not been matched by many for a few years: we are never short of tweets, songs or articles that praise him. He was one of the first of the senior team to step up and shoulder blame for our disgraceful performances under Pellegrino – most notably his post-match interview after the 3-0 drubbing to Newcastle.

He has the skill-set to keep players like Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina out of the team, and in my opinion, Højbjerg should be considered one of Southampton Football Club’s prized asset – he has an extremely bright footballing future and has the necessary mental capacity to become a club captain. So what next?

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We already know that Hughes has a huge job on his hands to keep the Saints in the Premier League for another season, but when it comes to getting the best out of Højbjerg, I’m hopeful that Sparky can do exactly that.

Pierre gave an interview after the Wigan win in which he praised our new manager’s mentality and expectancy of player performances. A manager in the mould of Hughes, who’s already expressed his desire to deploy football of a higher intensity with greater freedom, will surely enable the likes of Højbjerg to excel and become one of the first names on the team sheet. A manager like Hughes, who has won everything as a player, will also (with great hope) be able to mirror and improve the young Dane’s mentality, and hone him to become even more of a captain-like figure than he already is.

“I think I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say it has been positive,” said Højbjerg, speaking to Southampton’s official website. 

“It is a new impulse, new energy, good vibes, a fresh start. He worked a lot on intensity and discipline, and the desire to go the extra yards as individuals and as a team. The coach said before the game today the key would be mentality, desire and hard work because he knew that we had the quality.”

In Hughes and Højbjerg, we could find a brilliant manager-player partnership that helps us to excel and form a new leader at Southampton Football Club over the next eight Premier League fixtures.

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Club legends such as Rickie Lambert, Claus Lundekvam and more similarly to Højbjerg, Morgan Schneiderlin, had a number of traits in common. It goes without saying that they all boasted a wealth of talent, but most importantly, they had the desire to lead by example and always look to improve. To never accept the levels that they’re currently performing at, and to make sure that their teammates are on board too.

If we stay up – and that’s one massive ‘if’ – then we need to forget the past 18 months of failure and rebuild the same philosophies and values that got us into the Premier League in the first place. And I can confidently say that if we have any hope of doing so, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will be right at the heart of it as our catalyst for change.

Talking with Total Saints Podcast

Earlier this week we had the pleasure of joining Ben Stanners and Lucy Highnett on the Total Saints Podcast. So if you’re still on the hunt for your Southampton fix over the international break, then simply look no further. 

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Join us as we discuss the following topics and much more…

  • Our win away at Wigan
  • Southampton’s financial results over the 2017/18 season
  • The qualities that Mark Hughes can
  • Our upcoming clash with West Ham

Re-igniting Romeu

I’d like to discuss a player who, in my mind, was arguably the biggest victim of Mauricio Pellegrino’s managerial shortcomings: Oriol Romeu.

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It may be harsh to single out Romeu in what’s been a disastrous season for the Saints, but after his breakthrough into the starting XI last year when Victor Wanyama left for Spurs, I was expecting the gritty Spanish midfielder to stand out yet again. For him to become a leader in a relatively young squad.

It’s hard to deny his ball-playing qualities that were developed in Barcelona’s famed La Masia, and it’s certainly arguable that he’s one of the most effective defensive midfielders in the Premier League, with his monstrous physicality and crunching tackles.

But this season he’s been a passenger – something that’s really disappointed me. I expected him to be the first to grab others by the scruff of their neck and pull us out of this rut, especially when you look at his captain-like qualities and characteristics. However, those duties have been left to the younger players such as Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, James Ward-Prowse and Jack Stephens.

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Romeu’s simply not been good enough at breaking down play and shifting the ball in comparison to last season, and there are a number of games in which he’s gone missing. The same mind that was decisive and calculated last season is suddenly being affected by doubt and hesitancy. Something which I can only guess was installed into his game by Pellegrino, a man who spent his time at Staplewood and St Mary’s in constant fear of the opposition.

Over Pellegrino’s 30 Premier League games in charge of Southampton, we approached the vast majority with a negative and fearful approach to just about every passage of play.

Our slow and lacklustre approach to attacking, which would often just turn into a depressing game of keep-ball, forced Romeu into playing countless sideways and backwards passes, knowing that the manager would blast him for playing a risky ball. For over eight months he’s been told to be in constant fear of the opposition picking up the ball, and in turn it’s harmed the way in which he controls the midfield and views the opposition.

Then on the rare occasion that we did actually take the lead, Pellegrino would encourage us to take up a deeper starting position with the aim of shutting out the opposition. This means that not only is he being forced into defending in deep areas, where he’s less likely to make risky and game-changing tackles/passes, he’s also having to defend on the back foot. Romeu’s best when he’s playing instinctively and on the heels of the opposition. He has the talent to play one step ahead of his opponent, but Pellegrino’s shortcomings have forced him into showing all too much respect.

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Rather than imposing himself on the opposition and aiming to simultaneously play and bully them of the park, Romeu’s been forced into retreating, reacting and respecting. Having come through the ranks of La Masia, this mentality just simply isn’t in his DNA.

But in the form of Mark Hughes, I’m holding out hope that Romeu can turn his season around.  

In spite of being dropped for the FA Cup Quarter Final against Wigan, I can see Mark Hughes utilising a crunching defensive midfielder like Romeu further down the line. He’s got history of fielding a physically dominant midfield throughout his managerial career, and Romeu certainly fits the billing there.

Hughes hardest task will be encouraging attacking play and positivity throughout the entirety of the squad, so some fans will understandably ask why we would want to field a defensive midfielder.

But I feel like that’s selling Romeu short. Not only does the Spaniard boast an impressive passing range and a fair share of technical quality, but his defensive traits can help the side offensively too. Rewind to last season and I can remember countless interceptions and tackles from Romeu that initiated counter attacks and lifted the side. 

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Playing effective attacking football isn’t just as simple as fielding attack-minded players. If a defensive player can help our attackers to flourish by recovering the ball in dangerous areas high up the field, then I’m all for it.

As a manager who’s had to manage big-name players at Manchester City, and as a player, who’s won everything in the game at teams such as Manchester United, I’m confident that Sparky is capable of re-igniting Romeu and getting the best out of him.

Hughes has a huge task on his hand – getting the best out of Romeu is just one of a number of smaller tasks that will ultimately keep us from being relegated, or not, but I have the confidence that Oriol will return to form over the coming weeks.

Mark Hughes planning summer swoop for Joe Allen

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According to recent report, Southampton boss Mark Hughes is planning a move for Stoke City midfielder Joe Allen if the Saints manage to retain their Premier League status beyond this season.

Hughes emerged as head coach at Southampton last week, replacing Mauricio Pellegrino. The Welshman took on a short term contract with the St Mary resident which will only last till the end of the season.

It is understood that Hughes could be rewarded with a long-term contract if he manages to steer the club away from the Premier League relegation zone in the final weeks of the campaign.

The report further stated that Hughes is already making plans for the coming season, with the Welshman identifying Stoke midfielder Allen as the perfect arrival.

Hughes signed Allen to Stoke from Liverpool in the summer of 2016, and the versatile midfielder has recorded 10 goals in 70 appearances for the Potters.

West Ham United have previously been linked with Allen, but Southampton will seemingly make a summer swoop if they manage to stay in the top flight.

Although Stoke are not having a good season, Allen has been consistent with his play whenever he appears for the club.

Indeed, he has scored four goals and provided seven assists in 31 games, which is an impressive record for a team that has performed miserably all through the campaign.

Southampton are in dire need of a good talent in the central park, and Allen who is valued at £16.2m by transfer market, would bring innovation to the Saints squad and this speculation will give fans lots of betting offer to choose from.

All this could also be dependent on whether Stoke survive in the Premier League this season, and it might well be that both parties remain in the top flight.

Even if that happens, Southampton have the upper hand and they could be successful in convincing Allen to move South due to his close relationship with Hughes.

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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BLACKBURN ROVERS

2004/05  

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

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

2005/06

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

Cups:
– 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

2006/07

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

Cups:
– 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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2007/08

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

Cups:
– 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)

NEW CLUB: POACHED BY MANCHESTER CITY

2008/09

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

Cups:
– 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)

2009/10

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

Cups:
– 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

NEW CLUB: RETURNS TO MANAGEMENT WITH FULHAM

2010/11

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

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

RESIGNS FROM FULHAM AFTER FALLING OUT WITH MOHAMED AL-FAYED

NEW CLUB: JOINS QPR IN JANUARY 2012

2011/12

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

Cups:
– 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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2012/13

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

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

NEW CLUB: RETURNS TO MANAGEMENT WITH STOKE CITY

2013/14

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

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

2014/15

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

Cups:
– 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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2015/16

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

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

2016/17

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

Cups:
– 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.