After just shy of three months in charge, Quique Sanchez Flores has been relieved of his head coach duties at Watford, leaving behind a much bigger mess than when he arrived.

At the time of his return, the Hornets were sat just two points from safety, but a dismal run in the following ten league games saw them win just once to stretch that gap at the bottom to six points, with a woeful goal difference all but adding another.

The final straw was an utterly toothless display away at Southampton on Saturday night, in which a lack of both backbone and character saw Watford gift-wrap and hand deliver a victory to fellow relegation candidates Southampton, whose first-half performance could hardly have been more accommodating.

With footage of Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury shaking their heads in disbelief in the stands at St Mary's broadcast across the nation via Sky Sports, it seemed as if their decision had been made as soon as James Ward-Prowse's free-kick hit the back of Ben Foster's net.

The Sunday morning meeting was merely a polite formality extended to Sanchez Flores to say thanks, but ultimately no thanks, for 12 weeks of chiefly soulless football that had turned the atmosphere at Vicarage Road febrile.

When Sanchez Flores' predecessor Javi Gracia was axed, it was claimed that one of the reasons his time was cut short was the persistent recycling of hopeful, yet ultimately empty platitudes about optimism and to say that Sanchez Flores offered more of the same would be an understatement.

The Hornets currently have a shots to goals ratio the likes of which has not been seen since the 2002/03 season, when Sunderland's inability to convert their chances to goals saw them relegated with just 19 points.

Despite that, Sanchez Flores remained adamant his strikers would be able to turn it around on their own, without offering much in the way of a solution. He laboured with an intensely defensive shape that caused untold frustration at home, isolated strikers and saw them score just seven times. An end to the attacking impasse looked beyond his capabilities, even with Troy Deeney on the verge of returning.

At the other end of the pitch, the area the Spaniard was specifically tasked with strengthening, things weren't a great deal better. While they did manage to pick up their first clean sheets of the season, they also conceded eight in one game and five in their last two - a record that could hardly be described a paradigm of defensive stability.

That isn't to say there weren't things beyond Sanchez Flores' control that contributed to the club heading in the wrong direction and he himself was often quick to remind people that this was a situation he inherited rather than caused. Yet his handling of the predicament was still, at times, baffling, with his choice of substitutions the clearest example of how prone he was to misreading a situation.

Sanchez Flores will point to the way injuries plagued his second spell at Vicarage Road and he will likely always wonder how different things might have been had the attacking talents and leadership skills of Deeney been available, but his inability to inspire belief and spirit in his team, or to eke those leadership qualities out from one of the myriad of experienced players in his squad has to be called into question.

So too does his unmalleable approach to tactics. Albert Einstein is widely credited with defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results and Sanchez Flores was a coach who seemed incapable of learning from his mistakes. He persisted with the same tactics and formation week after week while gaining nothing from it, like a moth repeatedly crashing into a light bulb. He may feel hard done to and will perhaps suggest this was an impossible task, but something ultimately had to change and his reluctance to adjust things on the pitch left the club with little choice.

The quest for Sanchez Flores' replacement is ongoing and, by all accounts, doesn't seem to be going quite as the club had envisaged, with their hopes of naming a successor "imminently" all but eroded.

This is the longest Watford have been without a head coach in the Pozzo era and, with mounting reports of potential candidates declining the position, it could be that the owners have to acclimatise themselves to this uncharted territory for the time being.

Claims made by the Atheltic suggest both Roger Schmidt and Marcelino had no desire to take on the task, while Sky Sports are reporting that Jose Angel Ziganda was equally unmotivated by the position.

Chris Hughton remains the favourite with the bookies, which could point to a shift in priorities for the club. Just four teams in the Premier League era have survived with eight points or fewer at this stage, with only two of those teams managing it in a 38 game season. Though the former Newcastle and Brighton man may not have achieved much in the top tier of English football, his record of getting teams there from the Championship is worthy of note.

For now Hayden Mullins is the man the supporters have to get behind in their search for a minor miracle, while any anger and frustration at the way this season has gone needs to be directed at those who failed to address and resolve the club's numerous shortcomings from the previous campaign.

What is clear is that whoever is eventually brought in has a sizeable mess to clean up and it could take a great deal longer than half a season to do it.