When Ronald Koeman left Southampton during last summer the job of replacing the popular Dutchman was always going to be an unenviable task for the both South Coast club, who had to source an adequate replacement, and for the new manager – who had to build on the former Ajax coach’s success.
Indeed, how difficult it has been is evident in the predicament of current manager Claude Puel.
Southampton currently sit ninth in the Premier League table, not a bad position when you consider the turnover of players during the summer; however they are sitting more than twenty points worse off than they did last season.
Whilst the EFL Cup Final defeat was hard for the club to take, if the position of manager Claude Puel is under threat then maybe the cup run might just prove to be a saving grace for the Frenchman.
The fans booing at half time during the recent goalless draw with relegation strugglers Hull City was an indication of the discontent that has taken hold at St Mary’s.
There has been reported training ground bust ups which has added to the rumblings of discontent, most recently with left-back Ryan Bertrand.
Then the very strange decision to take off Shane Long after bringing the Irishman on as a sub.
These stories have added fuel to the notion that Puel does not have a great relationship with this group of players.
The key factor for conflict between Puel and his squad is the playing style.
For much of this season they have looked very one dimensional, obviously losing Charlie Austin was a massive blow for the side, but a lot of the time they sit quite deep and set up into a very solid shape. Rarely do they go direct from back to front.
This, whilst not a million miles away from the playing style of their previous manager, is clearly frustrating for the Southampton players.
The fans have expressed how they do not like the playing style under Puel and that his constant rotation of the squad is hindering any real development for the team.
Talented English players such as Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse and Sam McQueen have been over rotated this season, and then there is the inconsistency of their playmaker Dusan Tadic, which is possibly understandable as he has struggled to form partnerships with his frontline with the constant changes.
Sofiane Boufal who cost the club a record £15 million has been unfortunate with injury but has barely been seen this season.
Manolo Gabbiadini has been one of the few the real positives for the ‘Saints’ this season after hitting the ground running following his arrival during the January transfer window.
Should the Southampton board decide to part ways with the Frenchman then the next manager will have to deal with a consistent problem at the club in recent times – the policy of selling their better players.
Right back Cedric Soares could find himself a highly sought after player this summer with his impressive performances for club and country; Virgil Van Dijk almost certainly will find himself playing for one of the top four clubs in England next season; and Oriol Romeu, Dusan Tadic, Fraser Forster and even possibly Gabbiadini could be other names linked with an exit from the club.
One manager who could have put the Southampton board on alert is the current Hull City manager Marco Silva.
The former Olympiakos man has displayed his credentials in English football – whether Hull City get relegated or not, his reputation in the game is on the rise throughout Europe.
It would be hard to expect to see Silva at the KCOM Stadium next season and, with his age and philosophies, he might just be the man Southampton need to move forward.
Former Villarreal manager Marcelino is another name who could be linked with a number of clubs this summer.
He performed admirably during his time at the Spanish club, and transformed them into Champions league contenders in La Liga, though his style of football, which can be described as a bit dull, may dissuade the Southampton hierarchy.
The hope would be that the Southampton board give Puel a full pre-season, time and funds to get more identity to this Southampton side.
Try and keep hold of his top players and invest money into the central defence and another striker and this team is capable of competing further up the Premier League table.
Though with the money the ‘top’ English clubs are spending in the modern game fans needs to be realistic of what Southampton should be aiming for.