Premier League regulars Southampton, widely regarded as the model club for all mid-table sides to copy, are finding it harder and harder to push themselves away from the relegation zone.
The recent credible 1-1 home draw to Mauricio Pochettino’s effervescent Spurs side, leaves the Saints third-from-bottom with just twenty-two points.
In fact, there are some betting offers in the early stages of 2018, betting offers 2018 have the Saints at odds of 9/2 to prove unable to avoid the inexorable pull of relegation. Betfred have Southampton at 5/1 which tells you that the Southcoast club are in trouble this season.
A portion of blame must surely rest at the feet of current manager Mauricio Pellegrini and his failure to implement any sort of playing style onto his new squadron of stars.
Are Southampton a possession based side keen to pull apart the opposition with intricate play, maximising the talents of cultured midfielders Lemina, Hojbjerg and Romeu? Who knows?
Are they a long ball side, keen to exploit as many knockdowns from Charlie Austin as possible? Again no one is sure.
Are they a side that is keen to congest the play and allow space for their wide men, Redmond and Tadic, to bamboozle opposition defences with their feints, tricks and dummies? Your guess is as good as mine.
Southampton are simply a collection of good players thrown together with no thought to fluidity or cohesion.
Pellegrino’s baffling ambivalence has meant that Southampton veer from game to game with all the surefootedness of a seasoned drunkard.
This image of the man will befuddle those who saw him orchestrate Valencia’s superb side under Hector Cúper and later Rafa Benitez at the start of this century. For both respected managers he acted as an extension of the coach, vocally conducting play from the heart of defence. In just five seasons this alliance, with the help of some hugely talented teammates, helped the Spanish giants to two La Liga titles, a Uefa Cup and two Champions League finals.
This indecisiveness is easier to understand when you consider that Pellegrini is a manager who has completed less that one hundred top-flight European games. Clearly a plethora of games, even at an elite level, is no substitute for the rigors faced in the dugout.
Even his work last season at Deportivo Alavés looks a bit less impressive with the benefit of hindsight. Taking what is far from a big club in Spain to the Copa Del Rey final looked impressive at the time, yet when analysed now, the achievement fails to shine with quite so much brilliance. Alavés’ route to the final; Gimnàstic, Deportivo La Coruna, Alcorcon and Celta Vigo, leaves Pellegrino looking as if he had, at least, a brief flirtation with Lady Luck.
Leading the side to an impressive ninth place finish also impressed at the time. Yet finishing in La Liga’s top half with a negative goal difference should have raised more than a few doubts.
In the era of the managerial merry-go-round, it is easy to lambast a manager and make him the scape goat for all of a club’s failings. The club itself must also should some of the blame. For too long Southampton have seen fit to operate in a buy low, sell high manner. This style of ownership is only sustainable for so long – any well that was once profitable will eventually run dry.
A problem currently displayed by Southampton’s misfiring duo of Sofiane Boufal and Manolo Gabbiadini.
Time is slipping away from the south coast club and, as history has shown, no one is too big to ignore