It seems that no matter who leaves Southampton they seem to finish in the Premier League top ten. An eighth place finish and a League Cup final appearance last season was not enough to keep Claude Puel in charge.
There were a few reasons for the Frenchman’s dismissal. One was the fact that the Saints finished closer to the relegation zone than the top seven. Another was the team’s style of play was not exactly exhilarating.
The club have now appointed a replacement for Puel in the shape of former Alaves boss Mauricio Pellegrino, who has signed a three-year deal on the south coast.
A good record with bosses
Many may consider the sacking harsh on Puel. However, if the Saints board believe that it was justified they have to be backed.
The Southampton board have become experts at appointing bosses. They seem to have the knack of identifying bosses with the ability to take the club forward or at least sustain the clubs position.
The appointment of Mauricio Pochettino is the prime example of the Saints shrewdness when it comes to plucking a boss from nowhere. The Saints appointment of the Argentinian was a major gamble, as they had to sack Nigel Adkins to bring in the now-Tottenham boss.
It was an inspired move and the Argentinian helped the club move forward, before leaving for north London. The next boss Ronald Koeman did not do a bad job either, taking the Saints to Europe via the Premier League.
However, the inevitable then happened, as the Dutchman headed to Merseyside to manage Everton lured by promises of a big transfer kitty and massive pay packet.
In all honesty, Puel’s appointment was not a disaster. The fans seem to understand his exit, but some have criticised the decision.
New man has potential
The new boss’s story is similar to that of former Saints boss Pochettino. The 45-year-old Pellegrino arrives as a free agent, after managing a small club in Spain in Alaves. Pochettino arrived with a similar background, having managed Espanyol.
The difference between the two is that Pellegrino arrives on the back of an impressive campaign in Spain. The 45-year-old helped the minnows of Alaves finish ninth in La Liga, while also helping them to the Spanish Cup final.
Some might say that the Argentinian’s record last season was also similar to Puel’s at Southampton. The difference is in the relative sizes of the clubs. The Saints are now an established mid-size English club, while Alaves are still minnows in terms of Spanish clubs.
His spell at Alaves was Pellegrino biggest achievement of his managerial career, having previously managed first at Valencia in Spain, before Estudiantes and Independiente in his home country.
That one season in the Spanish top-flight showed that Pellegrino has the potential to become a very good manager in the future. The team’s style of play has to improve at least under the Argentinian.
What are the expectations for next season?
From the outside looking in it’s hard to judge what the expectations are at Southampton. The Saints have finished in the top ten of the Premier League for the past few seasons and re-established themselves as a top-flight English club.
The sacking of Puel shows that the Saints hierarchy are not just happy with a top ten finish in the top-flight, something they are odds of 8/15 to achieve in the new season.
In one sense, the Southampton hierarchy are right to think big. However, it will be highly difficult to break into that top seven next season, never mind the top six or four. Even Everton, who finished seventh last season have already spent big money this summer.
Maybe everybody connected with the Saints would be happy with a top eight finish next season and some excitement, as by some accounts watching Southampton play last season on a regular basis was like torture.
Pellegrino is highly rated in coaching circles and for Southampton’s sake, I hope he is successful on the south coast. If the Saints other recent choices of bosses are anything to go by the club will still be thriving next season.
Will Mauricio Pellegrino be successful at Southampton?
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