Author Archives: Sam Cox

Out with our old ways, in with the new

After two promising results within a week, Southampton now have to use the momentum gained to do something they haven’t done all season – record back-to-back wins.

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A well-earned point against Tottenham followed by an F.A Cup victory against Watford may well have kept Mauricio Pellegrino in his job for a little while longer. Throw in the addition of Guido Carrillo for a club-record fee and heavy rumours of the highly rated Dutch winger Quincy Promes joining him, and there’s a slight optimism surrounding the club at the moment. However, all of these promising factors will be meaningless if we fail to beat the teams in and around us.

It’s truly been the story of our season; picking up points against top teams and then failing to gain maximum points where it truly matters – a prime example of this is during the festive period. After the boxing-day drubbing to Tottenham, Pellegrino’s side travelled to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. After fears of another thrashing, Saints performed valiantly and gained a point at Old Trafford.

However, Saints failed to build on this performance and lost at home in a real relegation six-pointer against Crystal Palace. At St Mary’s the usual traits in our performances under Pellegrino became apparent. Southampton took the lead through Shane Long’s first goal of the season, buring the second half Pellegrino instructed his side to sit deep and Palace took full advantage.

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Southampton have failed to win in the league for 11 matches which has seen the Saints drop into the relegation zone. They obviously believe he can turn this situation around, but these so called ‘signs of improvement’ still haven’t come to fruition. It’s quite apparent that the board have decided to back him instead of sack him.

In our most recent match against Watford, Saints were controlling the game expertly and limiting the Hornets to virtually no chances. With twenty minutes to go, Pellegrino decided to replace our most creative outlet on the day, Sofiane Boufal, with Maya Yoshida. Saints then dropped deeper and deeper and invited unnecessary Watford pressure. The last twenty minutes shifted the dynamic of play from Saints dominating, to looking shaky as they desperately trie  to defend for the final moments of the match. Unlike recent fixtures, however, Saints survived a late scare and booked their place in the 5th round of the F.A Cup.

Our next two games are arguably our biggest since Southampton returned to the Premier League in 2012. First up is Brighton at home, followed by West Brom away. The Seagulls have one more point than us at this moment in time and are currently two places higher in the league table. The Baggies are currently one place below in the league and two points worse off.

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The enormity of these games go without saying and if we truly wish to retain our Premier League status, we simply can’t afford to lose either.

In the reverse fixtures Saints actually played relatively well. At the AMEX, we controlled much of the first 45 and through a sublime curling free-kick from James Ward-Prowse, Steven Davis was able to nod home the opener on the rebound. In our usual style, however, the Saints decided to soak pressure in the second half and through a weak Glenn Murray header that was matched by an even weaker reaction from Fraser Forster, Brighton shared the spoils. At St Mary’s, West Brom were arguably playing their worst football of the season, but thanks to a Boufal wonder goal, Saints grabbed all three points.

We find ourselves currently sitting in 18th place in the table,meaning it’s now or never to pull ourselves out of this situation. The fans have been great in backing the team and now it’s their turn to deliver. Southampton have only three home games against sides outside the top eight remaining and the only way we climb out of the bottom three is by picking up vital points from those teams around us. We can no longer rely on other teams doing us favours – It’s a far too risky game that we can no longer afford to play.

Swansea picked up all the points against Liverpool and the teams around us are now starting to find their flow under new management. With Pellegrino seemingly set to stay at this moment in time, there are no longer any excuses for the Argentinian to hide behind; the Saints need to show that they’re capable of dominating a game for an entire 90 minutes, and that starts with three points against Chris Hughton’s Brighton tomorrow night.

The same old story

Southampton have once again failed to hold onto a lead under Mauricio Pellegrino, following the most basic of tactical adjustments from the opposition. The Saints have now dropped 11 points from winning positions against Brighton, Arsenal, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace and Watford. That’s simply unacceptable from a team who are no doubt top ten quality and finished 6th only two seasons ago.

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So where has this inability to dominate and control come from? In my eyes, you need to look no further than Mauricio Pellegrino’s in-game management. Each and every time the opposition have made clear adjustments in a bid to disrupt the flow of the game, the Argentine has failed to react in just about any way – be that tactically or through substitutions.

From the outside looking in he doesn’t appear to be installing any confidence into our players, and from the evidence presented to us so far, he’s way out of his depth.

The difference between the two managers yesterday was that one utilised the subs and tools around them when the going got tough, while the other simply hoped and clung on. There was no evidence to suggest that he wished to bring the game to Watford again, or that we were going to attempt to grab the game by the scruff of its neck. Instead, we simply panicked at the thought of over-committing while going forward, and opted to sit back and soak for the remainder of the second half.

Marco Silva threw Troy Deeney on and changed his formation to be more rigid and harder to break down, as well as giving him an easier route into Southampton’s box. With a simple long ball into our area, one of their 6ft plus central midfielders or Deeney would win the initial ball (or at least attempt to) and give the Southampton defence something to think about it. But rather than pushing higher to restrict the danger of their long back knock-downs, we continued to retreat until the very end.

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Pellegrino waited until the 92nd minute to make the final two of his three subs, and once again it was too little too late.

On a brighter note, however, the main positive that we can take away from yesterday’s game was the performance of James Ward-Prowse. He seems to be one of few players at the moment that are willing to take responsibility on the ball, and it’s incredibly encouraging to see that he’s finally adding goals to his game – an area that’s been much criticised over the past two seasons.

What makes yesterday’s result all the more frustrating is that Saints’ first-half performance was actually incredibly promising – we were composed on the ball, organised at the back and played some delightful fluid football. But the hard work that went into the first 45 was dismantled by the usual dismal display in the second 45.

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It’s certainly worth noting that Watford’s equaliser was a handball – it should have never counted. But regardless of that fact, I can’t help but feel that this is only a small factor as to why we didn’t come away with three points. If it wasn’t for our shambolic in-game management, we would have never allowed them to receive that opportunity in the first place.

Following yesterdays result, the Saints have now matched their winless run from the 2004/05 season, and we all know how that story ended…

This is simply not good enough, and the most worrying thing is that the patterns in our games keep repeating themselves, with few suggestions of change or improvement. As we slide towards the Championship, the board must act now both in the transfer market and with the manager, in the hope that any star signings aren’t limited by Pellegrino’s tactical incompetence.

We can’t allow the board to gamble our Premier League safety on their pride any longer.

Two good, two bad: Southampton v Crystal Palace

Southampton’s season went from a disaster to a full blown crisis following the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. There are now no significant reasons why Mauricio Pellegrino should keep his job, but following Ralph Kruger’s interview to the local media, the long overdue sack still seems far away.

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The good…

1. Shane Long finally broke his goal drought. As Jeremy Pied slotted the ball into the box, the Irishman struck the ball on the half turn to give Saints the lead. Not only were the fans relieved but so was Long as his tireless work upfront was finally rewarded for the first time since last February.

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2. As Saints were searching for the opening goal, they looked to have some purpose to their play especially through Jeremy Pied down the right hand side. However, Southampton were unable to maintain this standard.

The bad…

1. Pellegrino’s game plan. Once again, the Southampton manager seemed content with holding out for a one nil win. Saints looked good value for their lead at half time but during the second half looked a completely different side. It’s been proven throughout this season that, under Pellegrino’s organisation, Saints can’t hold teams out. So why do we persist in doing so instead of trying to kill off teams?

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2. Unable to adapt to opposition changes. Roy Hodgson clearly knew that his sides first half performance was not a reflection of their point gained against league leaders Manchester City. After making changes both in personnel and in tactics, Palace looked a stronger outfit and Saints couldn’t adapt to these changes. Not only were the gaping spaces within our back line exploited once again, but Pellegrino’s substitutions were baffling. This ultimately cost us the game as we stare relegation in the face.

Southampton are now on their longest winless run in the top-flight since 2005 and we all know the outcome of that season. Everything that’s wrong with the club and the teams performances are being repeated each week with more questions being raised. What exactly is Pellegrino trying to enforce on our players? It’s quite apparent he’s too far out of his depth and at this rate, relegation is inevitable.

Two good, two bad: Tottenham v Southampton

Toothless and tactically inept would kindly describe Southampton’s performance against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Mauricio Pellegrino’s side were completely blown away by Pochettino’s, only further reinforcing worries that the away side aren’t playing for the manager at this moment in time. 

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The good…

1) We scored two goals. Goals from Boufal and Tadic we’re the only positives for the travelling fans.

2) After Spurs scored their fourth, the home side took their foot off the gas which allowed Saints to look slightly better going forward. Yes, I’m actually using that as a positive.

The bad…

1) Basics and organisation. For Harry Kane’s first two goals, he was simply given the freedom and space to tap home and break Alan Shearer’s Premier League record. Romeu’s marking for the first was comical as he appeared not to care about the inevitable outcome. Now, as we know, Romeu wears his heart on his sleeve but hasn’t been the same battling Spaniard in recent weeks.

As previously mentioned this signifies a real worry that he and the players aren’t playing for the manager or for the powers at be. For the fourth Spurs goal, Redmond was in the opposition box and carelessly gifted the ball to Son as he tried to pick out Lemina. The resulting counter-attack saw the ball find its way into Forsters net. This lacklustre concentration and execution throughout the pitch is costing us goals and the lack of desire to track back tells the whole story.

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2) Game-plan. Although the players need to stand up and be counted, the game-plan employed at Wembley was totally incorrect as it played into the hosts’ hands. Trying to play out the back against a high-pressing team set us up to fail. The constant rotation of the team-sheet and trying to place square pegs in round holes only sucks the confidence and belief out of the players.

It’s clear to see that there needs to be a big shake up at the club otherwise we’ll be playing Championship Football in the near future. If the players aren’t playing for the man on the touch-line then a change needs to be made. Not only do we need to see ambition and change on the sideline but from the board. Money needs to be invested in the areas that have been crying out for some time. The argument of “there will be worse teams than us” is almost non-existent as the healthy gap between us and the trapdoor has decreased as the teams below have leapfrogged us. If the club doesn’t wake up, we’ll be sleepwalking back to the dark days that Markus Leibherr and co worked tirelessly to pull us out of.

Two good, two bad: Southampton v Huddersfield

Another matchday, another feeling of underwhelming frustration at full-time. Saints failed to score more than one goal once again against Huddersfield and also failed to take three points. Relegation alarm bells are truly ringing as the pressure on Pellegrino is mounting. Things must change drastically within the next few weeks.

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The Good:

1) Much like Jack Stephens a few weeks ago, Matt Targett returned to the starting eleven yesterday and was one of our best performers. Trying to shake Bertrand out the side is never easy so when you get a chance through injury to the England international you must take it. He looked composed on the ball and for the most part looked as though he’d never been out through injury himself.

2) We scored! Charlie Austin’s header, arguably against the run of play, was taken very well and it sparked a good spell for Saints where the Home some had some poise about their play. However, we failed to double our lead, more about that later…

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The bad:

1) Shape. During the second half, it wasn’t clear what formation Pellegrino was employing on his side. There’s becoming a pattern during our games where teams are finding and exploiting vast amounts of space left due to the organisation of the side. Whether it’s the players of managers fault it’s costing us goals most weeks and it played a part in Huddersfield’s equaliser. The space allowed the ball to be whipped in to find an unmarked Depoitre to head home.

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2) Not taking our chances. Yes, Again. Clear chances through both Redmond and Austin had to hit the back of the net to give Saints some breathing space, however, they did not and we paid for it. It’s becoming more and more worrying that when chances fail to go in, the players drop their heads and act like it’ll never will. For me, it’s past a joke now and the coaching staff and board need to take necessary action for us to start killing teams off.

The Saints sit only three points outside the relegation zone and with away fixtures against Tottenham and Manchester United up next, there’s a real possibility we’ll occupy a spot in the trap door going into the new year. We can only hope that it won’t be too late before the higher forces make the changes that are so desperately needed.

Two good, two bad: Chelsea v Southampton

After Wednesday’s embarrassing defeat to Leicester, it’s safe to say that Saints fans weren’t feeling too optimistic about our chances at Stamford Bridge. Despite an improved performance from mid-week the same inevitability’s from Mauricio Pellegrino’s side were apparent, and an improved performance still left Saints picking up no points.

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Two good…

1) Defensive organisation. After looking to have no shape on Wednesday, Saints were certainly more regimented against Chelsea. The goal we conceded was soft from our point of view as Forster should have done better. However, we were hard to breakdown and apart from the goal, Forster was equal to everything thrown at him

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2) Possession. We looked to keep the ball much better than in the game against Leicester and the players didn’t look tentative whilst on it.

Two bad…

1) In a match against a side with the quality of Chelsea, if a side is to get anything from it, you need to have some flair a bit of pace and a clinical edge. We showed none of these qualities yesterday. Any half chances you get you need to take and Charlie Austin will be kicking himself after not netting when coming on. Redmond and Boufal didn’t provide the width of pace needed to break on the counter attack and in truth, we looked a bit lost.

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2) During the first half, and during most of the season, when playing Gabbiadini as a lone striker, he’s too isolated. He often makes runs in behind the defensive line, but I can’t recall the last time he was picked out. Perhaps it’s our midfield not wanting to take the risk or maybe it’s Gabbiadini himself, but more often than not it almost feels as though we have no attacking outlet.

Huddersfield at home next Saturday is the biggest game of our season, and we must get three points. A relegation fight is our harsh reality with teams below us all starting to find their rhythm after Pellegrino’s time may be up.

Two good, two bad: Southampton v Leicester

“Are you glad you sacked Puel” was the cry from the Leicester section of St Mary’s as Claude Puel returned to St Mary’s with a potential point to prove; and didn’t he prove it. Leicester showed all the characteristics that’s Saints fans cried out for from the Frenchman last season; pace, power and a clinical edge. Pellegrino was left red faced as his changed side from the draw with Arsenal were taught a lesson at home. It simply wasn’t good enough and without trying to sound too dramatic, I can’t recall a worse performance from Saints since the days of George Burley and Jan Poortvliet. 

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The good…

1) We scored. Maya Yoshida bundled the ball over the line following a corner to give Saints fans a glimmer of hope. Maybe this goal would have been more significant had Charlie Austin tucked home a second just prior to Okazaki’s second and Leicester’s fourth, but at least we saw the ball trickle past  Schmeichel at some point.

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2) Fraser Forster’s saves. Truly scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one, but without a number of reflex saves from Forster, the score line could have been much worse.

The bad…

1) Possession. Saints were so sloppy when retaining the ball tonigt there were countless times where we easily handed the ball back to Leicester. This not only degraded confidence of our players but it allowed the Foxes to execute their game plan expertly. We played right into their hands, allowing them to pick up every second ball and punish us.

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2) Organisation. Passion. Fight. Determination. All the elements that made our performance against Arsenal good were completely void tonight. As fans, we thought we had turned a corner from a slow start to the season, but after tonight it feels like we’re back to square one. We have a massive week ahead of us with Huddersfield at home on the horizon.

In truth, there could have been at least six talking points that could have been included in the “bad” section of this article. Last night’s performance was nothing shy of abysmal and the players and management really need to work together to get us out of another slump. One win from eight games is relegation form, there’s no doubt about that. However, credit must be given to both Leicester City and their fans tonight as both were in great form. The fans were loud from the get-go and fully backed their team. As for the Saints, it’s back to the drawing board.

Two good, two bad: Souhampton v Arsenal

Despite a feeling of frustration from conceding late on, most Saints fans would have taken a point prior to today’s clash against Arsenal. Over the past four fixtures now, Mauricio Pellegerino’s side have shown a considerable amount of improvement from previous showings, and that was once again seen today. 

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The good…

1) The performance levels and professionalism of Charlie Austin, Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Jack Stephens. All three individuals have had to fight for their places in the side after not featuring as much as they would have liked during the opening games of the season. Austin showed his clinical edge, Hojbjerg controlled the midfield alongside Romeu and Stephens showed his calmness on the ball against the likes of Sanchez and Ozil. What impressed me the most was that all three worked their socks off for the team and contributed massively to a strong team performance.

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2) The organisation of the side. The key to such a strong squad performance was that each player evidently knew their role and were on the same page. Saints looked very happy to face the Arsenal front line and for most of the match looked comfortable to soak up and defend the pressure put on our goal. However, with the quality that Arsenal possess on and off the bench, it’s always going to be a tough ask to keep them out for 90 minutes

The bad…

1) Not putting away our chances. How many times are we going to be saying that this season? The game was there to be killed off at times today and unfortunately, we couldn’t find that elusive second goal. As Charlie Austin broke through on goal shortly after his first, many if not all would have thought we would be celebrating his second but he struck low and Cech managed to palm the ball to safety. Romeu striking the bar and Bertrand dinking his effort wide were arguably our best chances of the second half, and the latter had to go in; no excuses.

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2) The curious case of Nathan Redmond. We all know that Redmond has the talent and potential to become a very good asset to Southampton, but his season so far was perfectly summed up by today’s performance. Poor decision making on top of bad execution with final balls and switches just reflect his low confidence. We saw flashes again today but he looked reluctant to get past a rigid arsenal back three. Credit where it’s due, he worked hard and continually tried to correct his previous errors, but I can’t see what he’s doing to keep Boufal out of the team. The Moroccan possesses the ability to beat a man and look forward as soon as he’s on the ball. Hopefully, we will see the Nathan Redmond we invested £12 million in to.

Who’s to blame?

As we enter the busy Christmas period, it’s safe to say that Southampton’s season has been underwhelming so far. After our 3-0 defeat to Liverpool last week, there seems to have been a social media frenzy, with most of the fans singing the same tune; something needs to change.

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Whether that be management or re-shaping the board, we know the way in which the club has been operating in the past two years isn’t working. On paper, Mauricio Pellegrino has had the easiest opening games of any Southampton manager since our promotion back to the Premier League; yet we find ourselves closer to the trap door than Europe’s elite. Who’s to blame? Is it the manager and his style of play?

Southampton have only scored nine goals in twelve Premier League matches so far this season and the Saints have the second worse shots to goals ratio in the league. There’s two ways we can examine this, firstly style of play and motivation. Is Pellegrino getting the most from our players? Is he motivating them? Or is he just simply out of his depth?

The second way that we can look at it is through recruitment. Are Les Reed and the mystical Black Box struggling to unearth talents in the same way that they used to?

The decision to sack Claude Puel at the end of the 2016/17 season was the correct one, but it was the manner in which we did it that was wrong. Puel was relieved of his managerial duties on the 15th of June 2017; almost a month after the season finished in May. By the time we finally terminated the Frenchman’s contract, we had limited ourselves in terms of options. Marco Silva had already taken up the post at Watford, Rodger Schmidt had made his big money move to China, and many managers who were on the market, were quickly being swept up. 

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Were the board waiting to see if Puel would get another job so we wouldn’t have to pay him off? Or were they just simply too indecisive when coming to that decision?

Mauricio Pellegrino was appointed as Puel’s successor with Les Reed saying he had the quality to play “exciting, attacking football, taking the game to our opponents by playing a high intensity game.” This has not been the reality. I’m not saying Pellegrino must go immediately, but if he refuses to change and remain stubborn in his tactics then there’s a chance we’ll be staring a relegation battle in the face. And that would only lead to one thing for the Argentinian boss

The Southampton Way; the blueprint for Saints’ meteoric rise up through the divisions and into European football. This vision has acted as the foundation of Southampton’s success in recent years, helping them to cement their place as THE model club for any newly promoted side in England’s top division.

Throughout this time we witnessed the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman, as well as the additions of Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle, Toby Alderweireld and Virgil Van Dijk. Helping the club to secure back-to-back Europa qualification and a record points total; it was the perfect plan.

But can the same be said now? As previously mentioned, the recruitment has been below par over the past three transfer windows in the frontline.

Nathan Redmond is a worthwhile project for the club, but he’s failed in even coming close to Sadio Mane’s output. Sofiane Boufal has also shown flashes of talent, but again, I’m sat here talking about what could be from the Moroccan, rather than what I’m seeing. In one single window Southampton sold their two top goalscorers, and in that time the club have only recruited one recognised goalscorer – Manolo Gabbiadini – on top of selling Jay Rodriguez.

How many players in our squad can we truly rely on to reach ten goals plus in a Premier League season?

You can’t deny all the good work Les Reed has done for this football club, but perhaps the clubs priorities have shifted too far toward success off the field, in turn harming performances on the field.

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Ralph Krueger was appointed as the chairman of Southampton to replace Nicola Cortese in March of 2014. He announced big plans to globalise Southampton and its brand, alongside bringing success on the pitch. You must give credit where it’s due at this point, as Krueger has boosted the club in both America and Asia.

Southampton’s kit is manufactured by America’s second largest sports brand, Under Armour. However, my overriding feelings towards this focus is that it’s great to commercialise and build the clubs brand, as long as the football on the pitch isn’t compromised; and for the first two years of Krueger’s tenure it wasn’t. In fact it was the best football I’d seen at St Mary’s and we could really see the progression as fans.

But if we look back on the season under Puel and the current one, the football is certainly being compromised. The club need to re-vamp and adapt the Southampton Way now so it can once again work to its full potential, because if not, why harp on about a failing strategy?   

This ties in to the recent complains about a lack of transparency from both Krueger and Reed, who assured Southampton fans that their opinions are greatly valued. They claimed that they would hold fan forums and ensure communication was maintained between the club and it’s supporters, but this has failed miserably. Leading many to question why they are so reluctant to do so.

Saints are more than capable of pulling themselves out of this slump, it’s just a case of rediscovering what made these players tick so well in the past. The players need to be re-inspired and motivated to take a hold of the current situation, and Mauricio Pellegrino needs to prove to the fans he’s the man that can do it.

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There’s ways to lose a football match with your head held high, and with my hand on my heart, I can say that I’m yet to experience that this season. Being beaten by Burnley in the most predictable fashion one week, and then failing to register a single shot on target against Liverpool the next, is quite frankly embarrassing.

We’ve had a brief taste of European football and perhaps our expectations as fans have greatly increased over the past few years, but what’s wrong with that? That same belief and ambition from the board is what got us into Europe in the first place. Now it seems that they are playing catch up.

As fans we don’t expect to be dining at Europe’s top table every year, but what we do want to see is fight, determination and an identity; something I can’t say I’ve seen from Pellegrino’s side so far.

This weekend presents a season defining fixture for Southampton Football Club, so for the sake of our entertainment starved fans, something simply has to change. I can only hope that’s achieved without waving goodbye to Mauricio Pellegrino.

The early promise shown by Mauricio Pellegrino

During Ronald Koeman’s reign at Southampton Football Club, I remember racing to watch each and every press conference, desperate to hear his comments on the week’s drama and results; and following an entire season of quite the opposite, it’s wonderful to have that back again with Mauricio Pellegrino.

Southampton announced the appointment of Pellegrino on the 23rd of June, and it’s safe to assume that he’s a name many English fans aren’t particularly familiar with. Yet despite the Argentinian being in charge for less than a month, I’ve already been left excited for the project that could be under our new boss.  

We’re yet to see a ball be kicked in a single competitive game, yet solely through Pellegrino’s early press conferences and interviews, my interest has been captured and my attention grasped. It’s not a matter of accent and dialect, it’s his knowledgeable mannerisms, phrases and aura that has already created an excitement about the product we may see on the pitch.

The Saints have just concluded their pre-season training in Switzerland after a 0-0 draw with St Gallen, and the videos shared throughout the week have helped to give the fans a slight idea of how the Argentine will operate at the club. It appears that there’s been double sessions, drills on high intensity, and pressing the opposition; similar to the style of play Pochettino enforced at Southampton. If this is the case then it’s not only pleasing to watch, but it’s also an exhilarating style which the Saints fans will welcome with open arms.

One clip in particular that stuck with me was the crossbar challenge between Pellegrino and Kelvin Davis. As a fan it’s always nice to see certain figures ‘break character’, so seeing our new manager and a club legend partake in this was highly entertaining; which also helps the club to connect with the fans.

Admittedly, Claude Puel was also known for getting stuck in during training, which I personally loved, but as we later realised, player/manager relations were not as they seemed on the outside.

During Claude Puel’s short time in charge of Southampton Football Club, he guided us to an EFL cup final, developed a number of players into first team stars, and even pushed through a number of academy prospects. But whilst the headlines will predominantly focus upon our goalscoring troubles and dull football, off the field issues played an equally important part in his sacking. When a manager continues to present tedious, predictable and repetitive performances and press conferences, combined with a non existent relationship with fans, something has to give.

Which brings me onto a vital aspect of being a Southampton manager where Puel clearly fell short; unity in the squad.

This is something that Pellegrino has clearly acknowledged himself, as he proves when asked about his objectives and goals from pre-season…

“We have to create one style of playing, one model, one behaviour, and an understanding between manager and players, medical staff and us. Not just inside the pitch but always outside the pitch too.

“We have to meet how they are because in modern football today there is a lot of diversity. We are a lot of people with different behaviours and different beliefs, and you have to try to unify them to create one team on the pitch. It’s something that looks really easy, but it’s not too easy.”

Now by no means am I getting carried away or forgetting just how much more there is to prove; but just like any other fan, I’m growing increasingly optimistic of seeing us rebuild that bridge between the club, the manager and the fans.