Where next for Mauricio Pellegrino?

Colin Millar by Colin Millar / 14 March 2018, 09:24

Mauricio Pellegrino’s dismissal from Southampton on Monday evening was inevitable and the first clear sign the club are genuinely fearful of relegation.

The Argentine was one of only two managers (Eddie Howe, Bournemouth) not currently in the top seven, or at the helm of a promoted club, to have remained in his position from the start of the season. The Saints alarming run of form – just one victory in 17 league matches, at basement club West Brom – has dragged them into the mire at the foot of the table.

The 46-year-old had been appointed to replace Claude Puel in the summer but has not been able to land success along the South Coast. Many thought the sacking of Puel was harsh considering a top-half finish and reaching the League Cup final in his sole season in charge, but the decision was made due to a clash in transfer policy and his preferred style of play - regarded as dull and overly methodical.

In hindsight, the appointment of Pellegrino was poorly judged and it can be argued the Saints did not do their homework on the Argentine, who was regarded as one of the more cautious and defensive-minded coaches in La Liga. His success at Alaves last season was notable – guiding a squad of loanees and freebies to a top-half finish and the final of the Copa Del Rey. Yet he was not the man to bring success or more ambitious football to St. Mary’s.

Southampton have managed a meagre 29 goals in 30 outings in the top flight and whilst a large portion of the blame lies at Pellegrino’s door, he inherited an imbalanced squad. The current playing staff are not at the level of Mauricio Pochettino’s or Ronald Koeman’s charges, with a series of star exits not adequately replaced. The January sale of Virgil Van Dijk for a remarkable £75m was not reinvested and has left another gap in the squad.

Pellegrino was also out of luck with Charlie Austin – the squad’s one outstanding goal threat – who has been fit enough to start only five league games this campaign but has scored two more league goals (six) than anyone else in the squad. Marco Gabbiadini has misfired; new signing Guido Carrillo has not hit the ground running and Shane Long has lost his goal-scoring touch. It is arguable this regression is in part due to coaching but the players also must take a large amount of responsibility.

Southampton set to appoint Mark Hughes as Mauricio Pellegrino's replacement

Highly-regarded in Argentina (where he spent three years in spells across Estudiantes and Independiente) as well as Spain, it is unclear at this stage if Pellegrino will return to his native country although it would be unusual for a European-based boss to return home at a relatively early stage in his career.

He will no doubt have many admirers in La Liga – where he also spent time as a player and boss at Valencia - with his impact with Alaves still prominent in the minds of clubs and where a lack of cash and strong defensive organisation are more common, drawing parallels with his previous success. His understanding of the division and a return to his native language may prove too much of a pull.

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