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Mauricio Pellegrino and his Southampton to do list

The new Saints boss has plenty to do on his arrival into the St Mary’s hotseat

Club Atletico de Madrid v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Mauricio Pellegrino has become Southampton’s fourth head coach in little over three years after signing a three year contract at St Mary’s.

Pellegrino steps into his first managerial role in England, although he did have six months at Liverpool as a player in 2005, after managing in his native Argentina and Spain.

A favourite at his time at Valencia as a player, he had a rather less successful time as manager at the Mestalla as a manager in 2012 as financial problems gripped the Spanish giants. His return to his homeland with Estudiantes and Independiente brought rather more stability, if not prominence in Europe.

But it has been his previous season at Alaves which has attracted plaudits, taking the newly promoted Basque club to a cup final and 9th position with a squad of loanees and misfits.

It may be believed that Pellegrino has walked into a more simple job, with the only pressing matter making a name badge to remind people that no, he is not Mauricio Pochettino nor is he the former manager of Manchester City.

However, the to-do list on the table of his new office at Staplewood tells a different story. SMM takes a look at what might be on those bullet points…

The Virgil Van Dijk Situation

Pellegrino’s first calls may just as well be to his most recent predecessors, given that Claude Puel and Ronald Koeman both had to deal with team captains having tantrums about not wanting to be at Southampton anymore.

Both Jose Fonte and Adam Lallana gave the new coaches headaches on their first day or so, and Van Dijk may be front of the queue to meet Pellegrino to tell him he wishes to go.

The following conversation is important; can the Dutchman be persuaded to stay another year, or is the situation irreparable? Puel may argue if he was given his time again, letting an unhappy player go early on would be better than having him causing problems.

Southampton v Leicester City - Premier League
Could this be the last time Van Dijk wears a Saints shirt?
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

The captain’s armband

Whatever happens with Van Dijk, his actions in meeting Jurgen Klopp mean keeping the armband is up for debate too.

It is hard to imagine the Dutchman will be leading the team out against Swansea on the opening day, but who will be the front of the tunnel?

Steven Davis MBE may well be the overwhelming favourite given he is club captain already, but Oriol Romeu could be an inspired choice given his popularity amongst the fans after a superb campaign in the middle of the park. Academy graduate James Ward-Prowse could be an outside bet.

Southampton v Arsenal - Premier League
Steven Davis could be wearing the armband permanently next season.
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

Give the Black Box a reboot

For all the plaudits that have rightly come Saints way because of their prowess in the transfer market, there has been a few bugs in the system causing glitches.

Sofiane Boufal has reached nowhere near the heights of the man he was meant to replace, Sadio Mané, and for every Van Dijk signed there has been a Martin Caceres who played one game.

Van Dijk is arguably the last signing Saints have made to come in and perform at a high level, so Pellegrino may need to ask Les to give the software an update, or at the very least a restart.

Soccerex Global Convention 2016 Day 1
Reed received criticism for some poor signings last summer.
Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images for Soccerex

Assess the Squad

With the players returning for fitness tests on Thursday 29th June and starting preseason the following Monday, Pellegrino has a bit of time to watch videos of last season before gaining a full idea on the training ground.

It could be the youth players who could give the Argentinian the biggest dilemmas. Puel’s era may not be looked upon fondly now, but his eye for a player did save Saints spending millions on a left back when he moved Sam McQueen into defence.

Pellegrino could follow suit and mould some of the more malleable youngsters into new positions, or he may decide the likes of Yan Valery, Alfie Jones and Josh Sims are ready for more game-time.

On the other hand, time may well be up for the likes of Florin Gardos, Jay Rodriguez or Shane Long.

Southampton v Athletic Club Bilbao - Pre-Season Friendly
Preseason will be important for Mauricio Pellegrini to assess his new side.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images


Pellegrino may deem some of the gaps in the squad cannot be plugged by youth players, and will look from outside to bring the quality up.

Saints don’t need to look for quantity as there is no European trips to plan, so quality needs to be the aim in this window.

That does not alter the fact Southampton need to be proactive in the market in several areas, however. Reinforcements in the form of a goalkeeper, centre-back (two if Van Dijk’s wish to leave is granted), centre-midfielder and forwards, either to play down the middle or any of the three positions behind the striker, need to be considered.

Manchester United v Southampton - EFL Cup Final
Manolo Gabbiadini proved to be an inspired signing
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images