Pressure rises on Pellegrino after Newcastle defeat

Mauricio Pellegrino can count himself incredibly lucky to still be in a job if he indeed remains as Southampton manager following his team’s latest humiliating performance.


Maurico Pellegrino has won just one of his last 17 Premier League games. Image : BBC Solent Sport

The Argentine has won just five of his 30 league games as Saints manager, with the only ray of light under his reign being a run to the FA Cup quarter final.

The Newcastle game was seen as a must win. The Magpies were a point ahead of Saints at the start of play, and following dropped points against Burnley and Stoke, this was one of the last winnable games that Pellegrino’s side had left to play.

Despite the importance of the game, though, the side applied themselves with the same lack of intensity, the same lack of attacking intent, and, quite frankly, the same lack of effort that has characterised the season as a whole.

Pellegrino’s team selection set the tone for the game. Josh Sims was dropped despite being one of the only players to come out of the Stoke game positively. This is just the latest example of Pellegrino dropping players after playing well, leading to the disjointed performances and inability to create any sort of momentum that we have seen all season.

Saints boasted 63% of the possession, but once again failed to do anything with the ball. Against a Newcastle side with one of the weaker defences in the league, Saints managed just one shot in the first half.

The boss came out after the game and said: “I haven’t seen a performance like that all season.”

Fans will certainly disagree with that. Take the 5-2 Boxing day loss at Spurs, a 3-0 loss at Liverpool, losing 2-0 at home to Watford, or the 4-1 loss at home to Claude Puel’s Leicester.

The Saints face a break from league action as they face Wigan in the FA Cup next weekend, and there is an international break before the next round of league fixtures, where Saints travel to fellow crisis club West Ham.

Surely now is the perfect time to give a new manager time to bed in, learn about the squad, and prepare for the final run-in. Of course, the board is far too stubborn to do this, and fans will be met with yet more inaction and silence.

The problems with Southampton FC go far deeper than Pellegrino, but what is for sure is, that with him at the helm, the Championship awaits.


Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Southampton



Southampton drastically underperformed last season, but still managed an eighth place finish and reached the League Cup final. However, despite this seemingly good performance on paper, the Saints finished six points above seventeenth place Watford, and were 17 points worse off than the season before. Only the bottom five teams scored less goals than the Saints (41), and their top scorer was Nathan Redmond with just seven goals. Claude Puel’s sacking was largely accredited to Southampton’s poor home form, as only Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Sunderland had worse home records. New boss Mauricio Pellegrino guided newly-promoted Alaves to ninth in La Liga and the Copa del Rey final last season. The Saints have so far kept hold of star players, with Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand linked with moves away from the club. If they want to close the gap on Everton, it is vital that Saints retain their stars, as well as adding quality to the squad. Jan Bednarek, a Polish Under-21 international centre-back has joined the club, and the Saints have also broken their transfer record for midfielder Mario Lemina from Juventus for around £18m. Lemina will slot in alongside last season’s top performer Oriel Romeu at the base of the midfield, allowing Steven Davis to occupy a more natural number ten role. Dusan Tadic underperformed last season, scoring 3 goals and providing 7 assists, whilst record-signing Sofiane Boufal struggled to make an impact. Both will have to step up their game or face being replaced if Saints are going to push for a Europa League place again. However, creating chances was not Southampton’s main problem last season, as they finished seventh for chances created last season, but finished in the bottom five for shot conversion rates (7.45 chances per goal). The Saints have a favourable set of fixtures, facing only Manchester United out of last season’s top seven before November. This should allow new boss Pellegrino to ease himself in to the job and get some points on the board early on, winning over the fans in a way that Claude Puel never managed to.

Key Player: Manolo Gabbiadini. The Italian took the Premier League by storm after his surprise arrival in January, scoring six goals in his first four games, including two in the League Cup final. If the Saints are looking to improve on last season, Gabbiadini will be vital in offering a more clinical option up front than Shane Long or the recently sold Jay Rodriguez. Pellegrino has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation in pre-season and Gabbiadini could feature either as the lone striker or as a part of the three in attacking midfield, which would be more akin to his position at Napoli.

One to Watch: Alfie Jones. The centre back has been a mainstay of the Under 23s side, captaining the side despite being only 19. After the emergence of Jack Stephens in the first team last season, Jones will be looking to emulate that with the future of Virgil van Dijk still uncertain. At 19, it is unlikely that the club’s Young Player of the Year for 2016 will feature much this season, but expect to see him around the first team squad, especially in the cup competitions.

Last Season: 8th

Predicted Finish: 8th