Southampton’s Disastrous Nathan Jones Experiment
During his 94 days in charge of Southampton Football Club, Nathan Jones did not mount a survival charge as the St. Mary’s faithful would have hoped but instead built a legitimate case for being the worst managerial appointment of the Premier League eta. His tenure was the 6th shortest in Premier League history, yet it was memorable for all the wrong reasons. His press conferences were bizarre, his excuses were creative, and his results were dreadful.
Starting with the latter, Jones managed 5 wins from his 14 matches in all competitions at Southampton, but only one of those came in the league. His cup results were half-decent, to be fair. In the EFL Cup, his side squeaked past Lincoln City via a 2-1 scoreline before pulling off a shock 2-0 upset of Manchester City in the quarterfinals.
Eddie Howe’s 10-man Newcastle would end their run in the semi-final, however. In the FA Cup, Jones bested Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park before narrowly scraping past Blackpool at home. However, when you take over a club that is sat in the bottom three upon your appointment, it’s clear that league results must be the priority. They were not.
Jones oversaw eight Premier League games as the Saints’ boss and won just one. That 2-1 victory came thanks to a James Ward-Prowse free-kick winner at Goodison Park against Everton and Frank Lampard, who would be sacked the next week. Outside of those three against a team at rock bottom, the Saints did not pick up a single point in any of Jones’ seven other Premier League games, conceding 15 goals while only scoring 3 in those matches. As Rich Jolly pointed out on Twitter, 11 different Premier League managers have managed to earn at least one point at St. Mary’s Stadium this season, yet despite managing Southampton, Nathan Jones is not one of them.
It’s safe to say that the camel’s back had already broken by the time Wolverhampton Wanderers came to town in what would end up being Jones’ final game as manager, but that result was an extra boulder thrown on top of the already massive pile of straw. Within the first half an hour, Southampton had taken a 1-0 lead through Carlos Alcaraz and Mario Lemina had been sent off for Wolves thanks to two bookings in 18 minutes.
Despite this, the Saints were dominated in the second half and conceded twice on their way to a crushing home loss against a relegation rival which also marked the first time they’d lost five straight matches at home since 1998. They only created one big chance during the nearly 70 minutes in which Wolves were down to 10 men and only amassed 0.42 xG in the entire second half.
After the match, however, Jones actually tried to claim that their numerical advantage worked against them, stating, “For me, the 10 men was to our detriment because it made a free hit for them and added more pressure on us.” He said this as if his team weren’t already up a goal at the time that Lemina was given his marching orders. The only pressure his team felt was that of not completely capitulating, which of course, they did.
Somehow, this is actually one of the milder quotes from his many perplexing press conferences during his 94 days at the helm. After being demolished 3-0 by Thomas Frank’s Brentford, Jones couldn’t help but try to use his successful spell at Luton Town as a distraction from the battering he had just taken, claiming that while there, “statistically, there weren’t many better than me around Europe in terms of aggression, clean sheets, defending in your box and xG”.
After that pummeling, he also complained that he’d, “compromised certain principles because of 1) personnel, but 2) the way people want to play, because of fans and so on.” He then promised that he would compromise no longer because of his success in the past with his preferred style. In the next game, he switched to the 3-5-2 he employed during both spells at Luton Town, and was promptly beaten 2-1 by 10-man Wolves in the embarrassing fashion previously mentioned.
The most unforgettable quote from his short spell in the Premier League, however, undoubtedly came in his Wolves pre-match conference when he said, “I could have stayed in a mining community, been a PE teacher and had a nice life, married a nice Welsh girl. I don’t. I want to test myself on every level & that’s nothing against Welsh women. I want to test myself.” Truly outlandish.
After long-time manager Ralph Hassenhuttl’s dismissal on the back of six Premier League defeats in nine earlier this year, Southampton needed to get this appointment right, and they did anything but. Jones not only turned out to be an egomaniac whose arrogance towered far above his top-flight managerial ability, but his appointment also cost the Saints an astronomical amount of money.
According to the Telegraph, Jones’ 3.5-year contract worth £1.25m per year will be paid out in full despite the Welshman’s departure. Since they also paid £4 million in compensation to Luton Town to pry Jones away, this disastrous appointment will have cost Southampton £8.4m, on top of their chances of survival. FiveThirtyEight’s Premier League predictions model attributes Southampton with a 76% chance of relegation, which is the highest in the division.
Now, former Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch seems set to take over as Southampton’s third permanent manager of the season, but he’ll need to work miracles in order to keep them in the Premier League. The American harbors a similar footballing philosophy to Hassenhuttl, who already proved this season that Southampton’s unbalanced, inexperienced, and lacking-in-quality squad is not cut out for that style of play. Even if Marsch is somehow the right appointment, Southampton have an Everest-sized mountain to climb thanks to the disastrous tenure of Nathan Jones.
By: Garret Post / @ParrettGost
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Dan Istitene / Getty Images