Is Mark Hughes' position at Southampton under pressure ?
Mark Hughes is among the seven winless managers after three Premier League games. His Southampton side drew against Burnley to start the campaign then lost 2-1 to both Everton and Leicester. On points, only West Ham are worse, but the Saints sit just above the relegation places on goal difference.
Jose Mourinho's uncertain future at Manchester United is the trending tale in England. The group of seven at the bottom couldn't be more pleased with the distraction. It keeps the spotlight off their early troubles, allowing their bosses to show patience.
That wasn't the case for Frank de Boer at Crystal Palace, last term. The Eagles pulled the plug on the Dutch manager after just four winless, goalless Premier League games. Before television revenues went through the roof, raising the stakes accordingly, De Boer's treatment would evoke shock. Nothing surprises anymore.
Southampton's more patient. The board allowed Claude Puel to deliver an eighth-place finish in 2016/17 before sacking him for playing unattractive football. Mauricio Pellegrino attempted a positive style in 2017/18 but the results were negative. Still, the club waited until a mere eight games remained to lower the boom.
Sparky took command. Despite a woeful season at Stoke, where he'd lost the dressing room, Hughes received a mandate to turn things around quickly. He did just enough, earning a full season at the helm with a mandate to find a balance between attractive football and defensive discipline that produces results. Puel developed a more enterprising style at Leicester that might've been So'ton's had they stuck with him for a second term. Marco Silva was always going to buckle a few swashes at Everton. Surrendering two goals to each while keeping a clean sheet against the Clarets is acceptable from the defensive standpoint. The attack remains at sea, however.
Hughes' 'permanent' three-year deal won't hold water if he doesn't soon find some success. When counting his floundering at Stoke, it's six wins from 31.
Even though Hughes saved Southampton, an argument can be made that almost any manager could make a strong impact following the terrible displays under Pellegrino, who won a single game from his 17.
Tuesday's League Cup win away to south coast rivals Brighton and Hove Albion bought more time. It came against a Premier League side. Regardless, another result against Crystal Palace today might ease the board's concern heading into an international week, an ideal time to make a switch given the new man has a fortnight to set the table before his first action.
If results don't go his way this weekend and after the Saints resume play against Liverpool, Wolves and Chelsea, with another League Cup fracas with Everton thrown in for good measure, Sparky might be packing his bags. The Welsh manager ranks second in the Premier League sack race behind Jose Mourinho. Roberto Martinez and the O'Neill twins [not really] Martin and Michael are odds-on to replace him should the axe fall.
One thing's certain. Hughes can't bank on Southampton being so patient this season.