After watching his side claim four wins from twenty-two matches under his reign, the pressure seems to be mounting on Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino.
The Saints sit 17th in the Premier League table, with only goal difference stopping them from slumping into the relegation zone. With just one win from their last thirteen Premier League outings, the South Coast side are looking worse for wear under Pellegrino, who has been extremely underwhelming during his time in charge.
The dismissal of Claude Puel from the managerial position at St Mary’s at the end of last season now seems uncanny, with Puel’s current success at Leicester leaving a bitter taste in Saints’ supporters mouths. The Frenchman led Saints to an eighth placed finish in the league last season, whilst guiding them to the League Cup final as well. But there was more to the story than just that.
Supporters were growing frustrated with the playing style of the side, with negative football drawing negative opinions. However, at present, it looks like the Southampton board have downgraded with the appointment of Pellegrino.
Is Pellegrino Out Of His Depth?
The Argentinian came in having led newly-promoted Deportivo Alaves to a ninth place La Liga finish, and a Copa Del Rey final, and his opening interviews looked very promising. But now, Saints are relying on a manager who, I feel, is totally out of his depth at Premier League level.
On so many occasions this season, Southampton have taken the lead in fixtures, and looked deserving of their advantage. They look like they could push on, score more try to kill the game off. But no, they just seem to sit back and let the opposition attack them. They sit on their lead like they are trying to hold out for a slender victory. And then the inevitable happens, they concede. At this point heads drop and more goals are conceded. The squad looks completely demotivated and bereft of confidence under Pellegrino, and this is why I feel he needs to be replaced.
Tactically, he is quite simply inept. He is so easily outmaneuvered, and never seems to have a response to opposition substitutions. In the last Premier League match against Crystal Palace, Saints took the lead when Shane Long pounced on a Jeremy Pied cross and steered his shot into the corner of the net. The home side were dominating, and looked deserving of their lead.
In the second-half, a rejuvenated Palace side came out and started getting back into the game. Eagles boss Roy Hodgson then made two substitutions, which Pellegrino failed to deal with. He chucked on two forwards, bringing off two holding midfielders who were doing well and were protecting the back line. Palace then scored twice and subsequently won the match. Pellegrino is naive, and for me is very lucky that the board are as patient as they are.
The Decisive January Transfer Window
The January transfer window has never seemed so important for Southampton, but this one is potentially season-defining. Dutch centre-back Virgil van Dijk secured his dream move to Liverpool before the window opened, giving Saints £75 million to spend. Pellegrino and the board have to re-invest this, or Southampton are in serious trouble. The only way things will get better on the South Coast is if quality is brought in, which needs to happen as soon as possible.
The St Mary’s club have been linked with several players over the past few weeks, such as Atletico Madrid forward Nicolas Gaitan, Arsenal winger Theo Walcott, Swansea defender Alfie Mawson and Manchester United full-back Luke Shaw. Walcott and the latter have been linked with a lucrative return back to the South Coast, where both of them came through the very successful academy.
There have also been rumours of an audacious move for Fulham starlet Ryan Sessegnon, but they would face competition from Europe’s elite, with Real Madrid and Manchester United said to monitoring the 17-year-old full-back.
This is a crucial period for Pellegrino, because if he gets the right signings and turns things around, he will no doubt regain the Southampton faithful’s respect and support. But if things continue and nothing improves, he will surely struggle to remain at the club before May.