Former Alaves manager Mauricio Pellegrino has joined Southampton on a three-year contract. He replaces Claude Puel, who was sacked after just one season at the helm, but who is Mauricio Pellegrino?
Claude Puel was relieved of his duties, after finishing 15 points outside of the Europa League qualification spots. Overall, it was a disappointing season for Puel in terms of his first Premier League campaign.
The saints suffered notably heavy defeats to Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Manchester City. They also exited the UEFA Europa League in the group stage, behind Sparta Prague and Be’er Sheeva.
However, he did enjoy some sort of success during his time at the helm with Southampton. He guided them to the EFL Cup final, where they were defeated by Manchester United, by beating Arsenal and Liverpool on their route to Wembley.
It was time for Claude Puel to go, but the question was who will be the next manager of Southampton? In steps Mauricio Pellegrino into the mysterious world of the Premier League with the adventurous rollercoaster set to begin at start of the 2017/18 season.
He’s previously managed Valencia, Estudiantes, Independiente and Alaves. His managerial record isn’t squeaky clean but he made a great impression in his previous job with Spanish club Alaves.
Overall, Pellegrino has taken charge of 204 games with his four previous clubs. He does boast some Premier League experience, following a spell as assistant manager with Liverpool under Rafael Benitez.
He’s also been highly praised by Southampton vice-chairman Les Reed, who was impressed by his “depth of knowledge, motivation and ability”. At only 45-years-old, the future has the potential to be very bright for Pellegrino, although this is arguably his toughest ever managerial challenge.
What will be expected of Pellegrino at Southampton?
Mauricio Pellegrino has a tough task ahead of him at the St Mary’s Stadium. Champions League qualification will be expected during his three-year spell. The saints have been flirting with qualification for Europe’s most prestigious tournament over the past four seasons but are yet to succeed.
Ronald Koeman came closest to securing Champions League football but missed out by only three points. Southampton took a step backwards last season, finishing eighth place and 20 points outside of the Champions League qualification places.
It was a disappointment for a club previously on the rise and it cost Frenchman Claude Puel his job. The Frenchman showed promising signs, notably transforming Oriol Romeu into one of the team’s strongest players, but poor results cost him and Southampton.
Mauricio Pellegrino will have the job of ensuring consistency and continue Southampton’s rise in English football. It’s not set to be an easy task for the Argentine but he’s impressed Lou Reed with his characteristics and has a great opportunity to enhance his managerial reputation.
Virgil Van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand, Jay Rodriguez and Dusan Tadic have been linked with moves elsewhere. He’ll either have to form a barrier to prevent players from departing or find adequate replacements.
Ronald Koeman succeeded in finding top quality replacements, whereas Claude Puel struggled. Sofiane Boufal and Nathan Redmond replaced Sadio Mane and Charlie Austin was relied upon to replace Graziano Pelle.
However, Manolo Gabbiadini joined from Napoli during the transfer window to provide goals. He achieved this scoring 6 goals in 8 appearances in all competitions but spent the majority of March and April on the side lines due to injury.
Sofiane Boufal struggled to adapt to the speed and physicality of the Premier League. He’s got tons of potential, boasting great dribbling and technical skills. However, he remains a raw talent and needs to erase the mind set of taking a player more than once.
Nathan Redmond didn’t explode into life during his first season at Southampton but should take confidence from a strong European Championships with the under-21s, especially if the three lions go onto win the tournament in Poland.
Kevin Wimmer has been linked with Southampton over the past two weeks, which has further fuelled the rumours of an imminent departure for Virgil Van Dijk. However, they require two centre-backs if the former Celtic defender moves to Liverpool this summer.
Maya Yoshida doesn’t make the cut for me and Jack Stephens is still very young to have the responsibility of guarding Southampton at the back. They’ve also released Martin Caceres, who only joined the club in January, meaning they’ll be short of back up.
Southampton did continue to feature young players during last season’s campaign under Claude Puel. Jack Stephens, Sam McQueen, Harrison Reed and Josh Sims played during the 2016/17 season.
They will also be boasted by the return of Sam Gallagher from his season-long loan at Championship club Blackburn Rovers. Overall, it was a dismal campaign, but Gallagher was a bright light, scoring 12 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions.
Southampton have consistently produced top young talents, with Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alan Shearer graduating from their academy. Pellegrino will have to respect this and continue to process.
Mauricio Pellegrino is relatively unknown to the English public but this means very little in my opinion. Pochettino succeeded at Southampton, despite only spending three years with Spanish club Espanyol.
He’s a young promising manager, who has made his mistakes early in his career. His spell at Alaves, where he reached the Copa Del Rey final, symbolises the improvement he’s made in recent years.
Southampton mustn’t set their expectations too high for the Argentine’s debut season in England. The Premier League is extremely competitive in recent years and breaking into the top four seems improbable.
We saw Leicester City surprise us all and secure the Premier League title at the end of the 2015/16 season. However, the usual suspects returned to the top places in the Premier League last season and I think it’ll remain that way.
A 7th or 8th place finish will be successful but Pellegrino must reduce the gap between themselves and European qualification next season. A stronger performance in the FA Cup could also boost his reputation, as Southampton exited the competition in the 5th round following a 5-0 defeat at home to Arsenal.