Mauricio Pellegrino needs to get streetwise if he's to succeed at Southampton

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 18 December 2017, 13:49

AS own goals go Mauricio Pellegrini deserves his own Christmas comedy DVD.

When your team is getting smashed around the place, it is not really the time to be making a point to your best player.

But by dropping Virgil van Dijk for Saturday’s visit to Chelsea Pellegrino did exactly that and as everybody expected he came off worse.

Van Dijk is the one player being coveted by more of the bigger teams in England than anyone else at Southampton. Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea all fancy a nibble at the Dutch centre half during next month’s transfer window.

Van Dijk has made it clear he wants out. He wants to move on. The club and manager say he is not for sale.

Whether there is a stand off or not between player and club is irrelevant. Pellegrino is in no position to be making bold statements and leaving the £65 million-rated centre half out of his team.

Especially at the home of the Premier League champions where Southampton’s defence could expect to be placed under more pressure than almost anywhere else in the Premier League.

Despite being third, Chelsea are still a force to be reckoned with and Saints’ goalkeeper Fraser Forster’s heroics at the weekend proved it.

Pellegrino was naïve to use last weekend to make a point to Van Dijk because Southampton duly lost and are now five games without a win.

The Argentinian manager has put himself under needless extra pressure and no doubt the decision has just made Van Dijk more determined than ever to leave in the next few weeks.

So the best player is dropped, the team lose and relations between the two parties take a turn for the worse. Nice work Mauricio.

Southampton are 12th in the table and falling fast. One Premier League win since October 21 is getting close to sackable form these days.

They also play Tottenham and Manchester United during that week in between Christmas and new year which can determine an entire season with the knock on effects upon confidence.

The only consolation for Southampton fans is that at least former boss Claude Puel’s early positivity at Leicester is wearing off - it’s a surprise it lasted that long given his lack of charisma.

But from what I hear down on the south coast, Pellegrino is not exactly the inspiring type either.

He has been described as ‘deep thinking’ and ‘philosophical’ - in other words dull. What players need and respond to is a character who can gee them up on their own terms.

Somebody who speaks their language, who communicates on a level with the dressing room.

But more importantly a manager who doesn’t drop his best player and cuts off his nose to spite his face and finds himself three points worse off.

For all Chelsea’s chances at the weekend, they scored from a set-piece. Maybe a giant Dutch bloke standing in the middle of the wall might have made it a bit more difficult for Marcos Alonso to ping the ball inside the post from 30 yards?

Just saying.

Pellegrino needs to get a bit more streetwise if he is to succeed as a Premier League manager and stop having principles.

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