Southampton are a club ruled by the results of a performance index that ultimately decides if its clubs players or managerial staff are good enough for the South Coast club. Earlier this summer the club ditched Claude Puel as its Manager, despite an 8th place finish in the Premier League and an appearance in the League Cup final against Manchester United, a final that perhaps the Saints should have won. Now heading into the 2017/18 Premier League season it's no surprise that a club famed for substantial change is up to familiar antics. We take a look at what new first team Manager Mauricio Pellegrino will bring to Southampton ahead of the new football season.
Who is Mauricio Pellegrino?
Age: 45 (05/10/1971)
International Appearances: 3 for Argentina
Is Pellegrino a former player?: Yes
What were his former playing clubs?: Vélez Sarsfield, Barcelona, Valencia, Liverpool, Alaves
2008-2010: Liverpool (assistant)
2010: Inter Milian (assistant)
Southampton's new manager has been in the coaching game for a year shy of a decade and got his first coaching position by the current Newcastle manager, Rafa Benitez, with the former Liverpool manager who gave Pellegrino a first team coaching role, finding himself at a club with national expectation in the Premier League a lot lower than that of Pellegrino. Southampton are a now established Premier League club, with Pellegrino entering only his third full season as a Manager in charge of a European club.
2016/17 was Pellegrino's breakthrough year as a club Manager, taking newly promoted Alaves to the Spanish Cup final against Barcelona, and finishing the club in 9th place. It's a remarkable feat for the manager given that unlike in the Premier League, with TV rights money equally distributed, in La Liga the TV money isn't equally distributed, meaning that a newly promoted club with less televised matches tends to find themselves on a shoestring budget compared to top half sides.
Alaves in the 2016/17 La Liga Season
Draws: 13 (most in La Liga)
Goals Scored: 41 (joint 17th worst)
Goals Against: 43 (6th best)
How does Pellegrino like to play his football?
The stats from Alaves hint that his side last season played with defensive organisation, taking the few chances they had in front of goal as Alaves shot up the La Liga table. In their Cup final against Barcelona, which Alaves lost 3-1, they commanded just 27% of possession, but did manage 15 shots, though only 2 were on target, one which hit the back of the net.
Alaves did however get their biggest win of the season at the Nou Camp in a 2-1 victory in La Liga. In that victory that defended in a block of 5 at the back, and a block of 4 in the middle, with one lone forward. A Premier League comparison would be how Burnley lined up from the first kick of the ball, to the last, in their return to the Premier League. Alaves defended with every man behind the ball in a deep compact block that was utilised to stop Barcelona's free-flowing attackers, and it is a tactic that could once again be deployed against sides from the Premier League's top 6 clubs.
A tight defensive display is particularly endearing to Southampton, as their fan base grew tired of Puel's inability to shut up shop in the first half of the season, though the Saints did regain their compact nature at the tail end of the season, with Jack Stephens and Mayo Yoshida dominating in central defense.
When announced, this is what Pellegrino stated, hinting a potentially more attacking style of play.
“I am really happy to become the new coach of Southampton Football Club. The club has a great reputation for having a strong and stable structure, competing in the Premier League and playing attractive football,” Pellegrino said. “I think my philosophy and the culture of the club will work well together. We have to be a team on and off the pitch; I want to make the supporters proud of the players and to feel part of the game every week. I want to win matches, be successful and develop a team spirit where everyone gives 100 per cent and supports each other... I am excited and passionate about what the future holds for us and look forward to meeting the players and beginning our preparation for the new season.”
Southampton in the Fantasy Premier League
Pellegrino's arrival at the Saints will undoubtedly have FPL players wondering what the Manager offers, and where the standout players will come from. It's pretty much unanimous in the FPL community that the Saints have a delicious opening ten fixtures, only playing one of last season's top 6 teams in their opening teams, and it's Man United, the worst of the best bunch.
SOUTHAMPTON'S FIRST TEN PL FIXTURES
GW1 - Southampton vs. Swansea
GW2 - Southampton vs. West Ham*
GW3 - Huddersfield vs. Southampton
GW4 - Southampton vs. Watford
GW5 - Crystal Palace vs. Southampton
GW6 - Southampton vs. Man United
GW7 - Stoke vs. Southampton
GW8 - Southampton vs. Newcastle
GW9 - Southampton vs. West Brom
GW10 - Brighton vs. Southampton
Southampton Overall: 6 home fixtures, 4 away - London Stadium is hosting the World Athletics Championships in August, meaning West Ham can't play in the stadium until September - a change of venue for Southampton to host their GW2 fixture has been approved.
Encounters with last season's top 6: Southampton host Man United for GW6
Promoted clubs: Southampton play all 3 promoted clubs in their first 10 ten games, traveling to Huddersfield (GW3), hosting Newcastle (GW8), and traveling to Brighton (GW10)
Who could be FPL options for Southampton?
The transfer market hasn't even opened yet, so the tale of the Saints is far from written. Depending on the Virgil van Dijk situation and player acquisitions, we could be left with a different tale to tell when Southampton open their Premier League account with a home trip against Swansea.
Based on Pellegrino's background however, we can only draw to the conclusion that defensive assets with be imperative for Southampton yet again. The club wanted a manager to progress academy players and bring players up, which means Jack Stephens (CB) is a nailed on FPL asset for the new season, with his price likely to be £4.5m or £5.0m (hopefully the former). If Ryan Bertrand (LB) or Cedric Soares (RB) have not been moved on by the club, both will offer attacking potential as well as defensive. With the earlier comparison Burnley's style of play with Alaves, Southampton might be reliant on Fraster Forster (GK), whose expected £5.0m price tag might be enough to tempt FPL players to entrust their faith in the England international.
Higher up the pitch is harder to gauge, but we're unsure if Charlie Austin is mobile enough to fit in with the style of forward that Pellegrino favours. Manolo Gabbiadini is the obvious forward choice, for now, but with a bad run in the FPL to close the season, there's not a lot of faith in the Italian international as the season begins to unravel.
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