Mark Hughes was confirmed as Southampton’s new manager last month, and he will be keen to get to work to ensure that his new team don’t find themselves in another relegation battle following their close shave last season.
The Welshman arrives at St Mary’s in March with the south coast outfit in a precarious position with just eight fixtures remaining, but eight points from their final five matches proved to be enough to save them from the drop, with the 1-0 win at fellow strugglers Swansea City proving to be the pivotal result.
After four successive top-eight finishes, Saints’ defensive weaknesses proved to be one of the reasons why they found themselves battling against the drop, having conceded 56 times in their 38 top flight games.
12 of those came during Hughes’ spell in charge – including three each in their defeats against West Ham United, Chelsea and Arsenal – and bringing a new centre-back to the club will surely be a priority for the 54-year-old before the window slams shut on August 9.
Southampton, whose potential £13m summer deal could have big consequences on their bid to sign Quincy Promes as well as for Sam Gallagher, are yet to effectively replace two leaders and huge characters in Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk – who both captained the side – with the likes of Wesley Hoedt, Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida often struggling without an imposing and vocal player alongside them.
It is something that Hughes needs to put right this summer, and he needs to find that experienced centre-back that can guide younger players like Hoedt, Stephens and Jan Bednarek in the Premier League next season.
One player that is available is John Terry, and while it would certainly be something of a shock move given he played for Aston Villa in the Championship last term, he showed that he has still got it – he made 215 clearances and won 96 aerial duels in 35 league appearances, as per WhoScored.com.
The 37-year-old veteran made 32 outings before appearing in all three of their play-off fixtures, but he was unable to prevent them slipping to a 1-0 defeat in the final against Fulham at Wembley.
Terry has already announced that he will be leaving Villa Park when his contract expires at the end of the month, but even though he is without a club and is getting no younger, it doesn’t mean that it would be an easy task for Hughes to bring him to the south coast.
One of the reasons the former England international dropped into England’s second tier is because he didn’t want to play against Chelsea, and of course if he did sign for Southampton that would be the case.
The Welsh boss should look to offer the 37-year-old an extra incentive to link up with him at St Mary’s, and that could be a role as a player/coach so he can begin to prepare the future and be closer to walking straight into a Premier League job when he eventually hangs up his boots.
While it wouldn’t be widely accepted, Hughes could perhaps come to an agreement where Terry didn’t feature against the Blues if he did insist on it, but it is a decision that wouldn’t go down well with Saints supporters – especially considering he would be a controversial signing given his character and his past.
That said, convincing the 6ft 2in tall centre-back to come to St Mary’s and use his experience to help them next season could prove to be an inspired decision, and indeed Hughes’ best one of the entire summer prior to the new campaign gets underway on August 11.
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