Three reasons why Southampton can stay up under Mark Hughes
Saints’ Premier League status in the balance
New Southampton boss Mark Hughes got his tenure off to a winning start in the FA Cup last week.
The Welshman guided the Saints to a 2-0 victory over Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium to guarantee a first semi-final appearance in the competition since 2003.
While thoughts of Wembley grandeur are fresh in the mind, Hughes knows that the main task at hand is Premier League survival. The South Coast club have won just once in the league since November and are currently two points adrift of safety.
The Coral News Team have come up with three reasons why the Welshman can keep the Saints in the top-flight…
Players are taking to him
Appointing a new manager is no good if he’s at odds with the players. So Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s recent comments should encourage Saints fans.
The Denmark international has praised the “discipline and intensity” Hughes has brought to the club since arriving last week.
The Welshman appears to be taking things back to basics at St Mary’s. He’ll keep the players on their toes and ensure that they’re fit, focused and raring to go for the final run-in. A squad including James Ward-Prowse, Dusan Tadic, Nathan Redmond and Guido Carrillo does not lack in quality.
But maybe it lacks the edge that is provided by a manager who already appears to be getting the best out of his players.
Wealth of experience
A lot has been made of the fact that this is Hughes’ sixth club in the Premier League. But the 54-year-old keeps getting jobs for a reason.
Wherever the ex-Manchester United man has been he’s made a positive difference. At Blackburn Rovers, he guided the club to a shock sixth-place finish in 2006.
At Manchester City he was responsible for signing world-class talent including Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta. He also kept Queens Park Rangers up against the odds and initially succeeded in changing people’s perceptions of the way that Stoke City play football.
It would be churlish to ignore the fact that things don’t always end up rosy in the long-term under Hughes. But in the short-term at least, on the evidence available he appears to be a canny appointment.
Their run-in isn’t terrible
The Saints have eight matches to save their season.
Fixtures against Swansea City, West Ham United, AFC Bournemouth and Everton will likely decide their fate. They’ve shown since the turn of the year that they’re not an easy side to beat.
The St Mary’s club have lost just three of their last nine matches. The problem is they’ve drawn five of those and won only one.
If Hughes can instil that cutting edge in his side they’ll have a fighting chance in the battle against the drop. Preparation for a vital clash against the Hammers in just under a fortnight’s time may well set the precedent for the remainder of the season.
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