After joining the Saints in the summer, Mauricio Pellegrino is starting to see his job come under real scrutiny.
This comes after he has led his side to 13th position in the table, just five points above the relegation zone. Pellegrino was appointed in the summer after the club sacked Claude Puel following an 8th placed finish last season.
Why is there such scrutiny?
The Saints have been a side that have really over performed in the last five years having finished in the top eight for the last three seasons. They also reached the EFL Cup final last season. It’s clear that over the course of this season and last season, the way which Saints have been playing hasn’t been good enough. The team have been goal shy, even with the quality of players available.
The latest defeat came last weekend when Saints were humiliated against Burnley at St Mary’s in another shocking performance by Pellegrino’s side. The team have only faced one of last season’s top seven in their opening 11 matches, which is where much of the frustration lies with supporters. This is because fans know that the three wins have all come against struggling sides, all with just a single-goal margin.
Pellegrino was welcomed by many fans following his appointment after leading promoted side Alaves to 9th place in La Liga. He also got them to the Copa Del Rey final before losing out to Barcelona in the final. This means that he comes with a strong profile, but fans have been left disappointed ever since.
The former Liverpool player seems to have not been pushing the players too much as the team have largely remained the same throughout this spell. At least with Claude Puel you saw a pathway for the younger players and he was happy to give players a chance. Pellegrino appears to be very stubborn.
When any new manager comes in, the question which you have to ask is whether he is an upgrade on who was there previously. Many fans feel as though the manager is a downgrade, as there appears to be no real identity of the way in which the team are trying to play.
Whereas, under former boss Claude Puel it was clear that he was playing a possession based game which at times was successful. Under Pellegrino the Saints have become more frustrating to watch and the results appear to be long way off.
The fixture list couldn’t have really been much easier for the Argentinian. The first three fixtures were presentable, with two home games against Swansea and West Ham before a trip to newly-promoted Huddersfield.
Saints collected only five points, including two goalless draws which just highlighted exactly where the problem lies. As the season has grown, the performances have got worse and worse, as the frustration from the fans has grown.
Claude Puel was, for me, very harshly treated by the club in the summer after leading them to 8th place in the Premier League and a League Cup final. Whilst the football wasn’t the most exciting, the results were still coming and the board were seemingly becoming far too ambitious following on from previous seasons.
Pellegrino therefore had to hit the ground running and this simply hasn’t been the case. Things will need to improve he is to keep his job in the short-term.
Tough times ahead
After having had a favourable fixture list in the opening couple of months of the season the Saints now go on to face a gruelling run of matches up until the new year. Between now and January 30th, his side go on to face all of last season’s top seven which highlights just how much of a predicament they are in.
Last season the club failed to beat any of the top six in the Premier League and this is something which has to change if the Argentine is to keep his job.
A club the size of Southampton, with the players they have got, should really be at least in the top six from the matches they have played so far. They have faced the three teams who were promoted from the Championship, Newcastle United, Brighton and Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town.
Saints have collected just three points and have failed to dominate any of those matches, which is real worry. The reason for this is because Saints are a well established Premier League side now and the need to beat these kind of teams is essential because of the run which is to come.
This starts after the international break when Saints make the long trip to Anfield to face 5th placed Liverpool. which is looking a daunting test with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in top form. The Saints have kept it relatively tight at the back but will be severely tested in the next run of games and this is something which Pellegrino will need to be wary of if he is to keep his job.
With Premier League sackings becoming more and more regular this season, with four bosses already losing their jobs, Pellegrino could well be next unless results improve quickly.
Perhaps he could make some changes to the team or even a change to formation in the hope of improving his results, but it will take quite a lot for him to get many of the fans back on side.
Once more in last week’s in the defeat to Burnley, fans had either left early or stayed partially to boo the team off.
With there not being much between the teams outside the top six, it’s vital the Saints improve their current form otherwise they could really see themselves in relegation dogfight.