The Premier League’s bottom-side have decided to keep faith with caretaker boss, Ruben Sellés, and he has been appointed manager until the end of the season.
He assumed temporary charge of the club after the sacking of Nathan Jones, who was dismissed after just 94 days in charge, and presiding over a run of seven league defeats from eight games.
And now the Spaniard is tasked with trying to keep the Saints in the top division, which will be a considerable achievement if he can manage it.
A well-respected statistical model has made them the favourites to go down this season, with fellow south coast side Bournemouth and Everton the most likely to join them in the Championship next season.
They are currently managing less than a goal a game, and their xG (expected goals) is the lowest in the division. They are overly reliant on their captain James Ward Prowse and his ability from dead ball situations – he needs to score from just one more free-kick – to equal the all-time Premier League record currently held by David Beckham.
Unless they can find somebody who can find the net for them on a regular basis over what remains of the season, they will continue to struggle.
Southampton began the season with Ralph Hasenhüttl in charge of the club, the Austrian credited with keeping them in the top division for four seasons, despite having comparatively little money to spend.
However, after a poor run of results, he was fired in November, and Sellés, who had joined his coaching staff in the summer, took temporary charge for one game, a penalty shoot-out win over Sheffield Wednesday in the Carabao Cup, before making their ill-fated move for Jones, who had impressed in the Championship with Luton Town.
Following Jones’s dismissal, the club were heavily linked with a move for the American Jesse Marsch, who had become available following his own sacking by Leeds United earlier this move. However, negotiations broke down at the last minute over the length of contract – Marsch was looking for a longer-term deal than Southampton were prepared to offer him.
Who is Ruben Sellés
Instead, the club have put their faith in 39 year old Spaniard Sellés, who held a variety of coaching roles in Greece, Russia, Norway, Azerbaijan and Denmark, before returning to Spain and Valencia to manage their under-18 side.
He joined Southampton as assistant to Hasenhüttl, but has no experience of managing at this level of the game.
However, his new reign began well, with the side winning away at big spending Chelsea last weekend, Ward Prowse with the winner thanks to a trademark free-kick.
Following that victory the Southampton players decided to club together to buy Sellés a new suit so that he could look the part in press conferences.
That win was not enough to lift them off the bottom of the league – they trail Leeds United by a single point with the two teams playing each other this weekend at Elland Rovers.
The South Yorkshire side are under new management themselves; Javi Gracia having been appointed as Marsch’s replacement after they failed to get a number of other preferred candidates.
It is a huge gamble
Entrusting the short-term fate of the club to somebody with no senior management experience, though, is a huge gamble by the club’s owners, and some might argue that they are already preparing themselves for life in the Championship.
They are already burdened by the cost of having to pay off Hasenhüttl and Jones (who had signed a three and a half year deal before his untimely removal), so do they want to burden the club with another expensive manager, when they could be facing reduced revenues and the need to cut their budget next season.
It has been 11 years since they last played in the Championship, managing to stay in the Premier League since them despite having to sell many of their best players.
But it will take a small miracle for them to extend that run.
Whilst many at the club will wish Sellés well, there are others who believe that he is a convenient fall, guy, a figure to blame, a distraction from some of the bigger issues that are wrong at St. Mary’s.
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