SAM COX examines the career of the new Southampton manager…
Profile of the new Saints boss
WHEN appointing a new manager, it’s imperative that thorough scouting has been done in order that the new boss fits the ethos of the club and that he is able to take it forward.
Whether this is style of play or man-management, in the current climate many football clubs can’t afford to appoint the wrong man.
As many clubs strive to be efficient and correct in their scouting policy, many would envy the system that Southampton have in place.
Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman alongside Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk shows just how well Southampton unearth footballing gems on both management and playing sides; but after a glistening track record, Koeman’s replacement, Claude Puel, was sacked this summer.
Despite a top eight finish and an EFL Cup final appearance, reports of growing unrest between players and staff became common which coincided with stale and predictable football on the pitch. Southampton’s board were left with only one choice.
After another transitional summer where Saints were searching for a new manager whilst battling against interest in their top players, they maintained their scouting values. After a few weeks of examining potential targets, Mauricio Pellegrino was appointed as Puel’s successor.
Last season, Pellegrino led newly-promoted, Alaves to a ninth-place finish in La Liga and to a Copa del Rey final, which they lost 3-1 to Barcelona.
Some would argue that Alaves’ season only mirrors Southampton’s but as the former were La Liga new boys, they didn’t have the quality squad of Southampton.
With much better facilities alongside a stronger squad, it’s apparent to see why Southampton traded Puel for Pellegrino.
Pellegrino made his professional debut in his homeland of Argentina for Velez Sarsfield in 1990 after breaking through their youth ranks.
After an impressive eight years of service, Pellegrino swapped Argentina for Spain as he joined Barcelona on a year-long loan spell.
After featuring regularly for the Catalan giants, he lifted the 1998/99 La Liga trophy but joined Valencia, permanently, in the summer.
During his six-year stint at Valencia, he was one of the first names on the team sheet as he won La Liga twice plus a UEFA Cup.
He signed a six-month contract with Liverpool in January 2005, linking up with former Valencia boss Rafa Benitez, but he failed to impress at Anfield and was released at the end of the season.
Pellegrino’s playing career finished on a sour note as he was relegated from La Liga with Alaves.
After retiring at the end of the 2005/06 season, Pellegrino rejoined Valencia, becoming coach of their youth team.
Following two years in charge of ‘Cadete-B’ he, once again, left Valencia to join Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool, this time as assistant coach.
After two years on Merseyside, he followed Benitez to Inter Milan where he won the Supercoppa Italiana and the FIFA Club World Cup.
After Benitez failed to impress in Italy, he ultimately resigned which saw Pellegrino also depart.
After the poor spell at Inter Milan, Pellegrino landed his first job in management, succeeding Unai Emery at Valencia in 2012.
The former Valencia centre-back was appointed on June 4 but his tenure as manager was short-lived as he was dismissed 20 games into the season.
After the short stay at the Mestalla Stadium, Pellegrino returned to Argentina to become the manager of Estudiantes in 2013.
Estudiantes failed to win the Primera Division or Super Cup under Pellegrino and, as a result, he was dismissed, by club president, Juan Sebastian Veron.
After his dismissal in April 2015, he wasn’t out of a job for long as he was appointed manager of Independiente two months later.
After a successful season in charge, leaving Pellegrino with a 51.22% win ratio, he returned to newly promoted Alaves, replacing Pepe Bordalas.
Alaves enjoyed an impressive start to last season as they remained unbeaten during the opening four fixtures, including an away draw against Atletico Madrid and an away win against Barcelona.
Prior to the start of the season, Alaves were tipped for relegation, but at no point during the season did they look in danger of falling through the trap door.
Pellegrino enforced a defensive-based style where his team would build from the back, with full-backs being influential. Although this way of playing sounds similar to that of Puel, the main difference between the two managers is their ability to change and adapt.
Throughout last season, Saints rarely changed their on-field tactics, which resulted in the previously mentioned predictability.
However, Pellegrino has the ability to change his tactics and style to be competitive against different teams and to suit changing situations.
For example, after three defeats on the bounce in April Pellegrino changed formation from a 5-4-1 to a 4-2-3-1. Helped by this change in formation, Alaves finished the season unbeaten.
After being in touching distance of their first major honour since 1976 last term, Saints fans will hope that the unheralded Pellegrino can help them take the next
step. After the reports of player unrest, Pellegrino has already showed unity and squad harmony is important as he has already got the players on his side. As Southampton aim to compete for European places once again, they will hope that Claude Puel was the anomaly on their near-perfect scouting record as they embark on a new era under Mauricio Pellegrino.
Top Saint: Mauricio Pellegrino