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Mauricio Pellegrino vows to fulfill Southampton's ambition

by 15/11/2017 07:07:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Mauricio Pellegrino is philosophical his job as Southampton manager so far
  • He admits he is yet to rectify their lack of goals - which cost Claude Puel his job
  • But Pellegrino says the connection with his team 'could not get any better' 
  • Saints play Liverpool next and Pellegrino has no issue playing Virgil van Dijk

By Jack Bezants for MailOnline

Published: 07:04 EST, 15 November 2017 | Updated: 07:07 EST, 15 November 2017

'He's a lot different to (Ronald) Koeman,’ an employee at Southampton's Staplewood training ground says of the new manager, Mauricio Pellegrino. 'It's not “my way or the highway”. He listens to the players.’

Sometimes, single-mindedness can be what a club needs. Koeman's style might not be in vogue after his Everton tenure but he set two record Premier League finishes at Southampton and got them into the Europa League.

It has, however, been questioned quite how different Pellegrino is to his predecessor, Claude Puel. Southampton ruthlessly axed the Frenchman, Koeman’s replacement, last summer after a season of relative success; he made the EFL Cup final and finished eighth.

Mauricio Pellegrino has outlined his desire to fulfill Southampton's ambitions as a club
Mauricio Pellegrino has outlined his desire to fulfill Southampton's ambitions as a club

Mauricio Pellegrino has outlined his desire to fulfill Southampton's ambitions as a club

The 46-year-old Pellegrino signed a three-year deal at St Mary's in the summer
The 46-year-old Pellegrino signed a three-year deal at St Mary's in the summer

The 46-year-old Pellegrino signed a three-year deal at St Mary's in the summer

Claude Puel was axed as Saints boss despite making the EFL Cup final and eighth in the league
Claude Puel was axed as Saints boss despite making the EFL Cup final and eighth in the league

Claude Puel was axed as Saints boss despite making the EFL Cup final and eighth in the league

But that failed to justify an uninspiring approach. Southampton only scored one more at home (17) than bottom club Sunderland and their points tally of 46 was only six better off than Watford in 17th.

Pellegrino signed for three years after a season that mirrored Southampton’s. He guided Alaves to ninth in La Liga on their return to Spain’s top flight and reached the Copa del Rey final, which they lost 3-1 to Barcelona.

And so far, with three wins in 11 Premier League games and only nine goals, Pellegrino accepts his Southampton are yet to change shape from Puel’s.

‘The last 10 games from last season and the first 10 games in this season, more or less we have had the same problems,’ Pellegrino, speaking on a media day organised by Southampton’s main sponsor, Virgin Media, said. ‘We need a number of chances, really really high, to convert one goal. 

‘At the end, in football there is no truth, there is belief. I like to dominate the game, because when you are in the opposite half I think you have more chance to win the game. When you are defending less, the opponent has less of a possibility to win.

‘I cannot imagine (Sofiane) Boufal, (Nathan) Redmond, (Manolo) Gabbiadini or Dusan Tadic running 90 minutes behind the ball. Our style of players are comfortable with the ball, close to the box. We have got a good squad but we are maybe not miles away from the others.

'Games, like Burnley, Swansea, Stoke or Manchester United, I think we deserved more... when we talk about two or three points in the Premier League, it’s massive.’

Pellegrino explained that Southampton's ambition is what attracted him to take the job
Pellegrino explained that Southampton's ambition is what attracted him to take the job

Pellegrino explained that Southampton's ambition is what attracted him to take the job

Pellegrino's Alaves came ninth in La Liga last year and lost the Copa del Rey final to Barcelona
Pellegrino's Alaves came ninth in La Liga last year and lost the Copa del Rey final to Barcelona

Pellegrino's Alaves came ninth in La Liga last year and lost the Copa del Rey final to Barcelona

Southampton kept hold of Virgil van Dijk in the summer, despite strong interest from Liverpool
Southampton kept hold of Virgil van Dijk in the summer, despite strong interest from Liverpool

Southampton kept hold of Virgil van Dijk in the summer, despite strong interest from Liverpool

MAURICIO PELLEGRINO CV

PLAYER 

1990-99: Velez Sarsfied

1998-99: Barcelona (loan)

1999-2005: Valencia

2005: Liverpool

2005-06: Alaves

Honours: Copa Libertadores - 1994, La Liga - 1999 (Barcelona), 2002, 2004 (Valencia), UEFA Cup 2004.

Champions League runner-up 2000, 2001. 

MANAGER

2012: Valencia

2013-15: Estudiantes

2015-16: Independiente

2016-17: Alaves

2017: Southampton 

After a pedestrian start from a favourable run of fixtures, it is wondered how much time the Saints hierarchy will allow Pellegrino to cajole an improvement, especially given the nature of Puel's exit. 

Southampton enjoyed a meteoric rise from League One but nobody at the club considers that a reason to tolerate a plateau.

But Pellegrino is a winner. His name resonates across Europe from his playing days, where at Valencia he won two La Liga titles, the UEFA Cup and played in two Champions League finals, infamously missing the decisive spot-kick in the 2001 shootout with Bayern Munich. 

Southampton’s ambition, he explains with a philosophical touch, is what enticed him from the Basque country.

‘When I met the technical directors, Ross (Wilson) and Les (Reed), they told me that the club wants to grow and for me, that's the most beautiful thing in our life - to try and be better tomorrow than today.

‘But the big risk in football is to work in football. It's like the biggest risk is to be alive, no? When you're on the motorway, you are taking a big risk.

‘I played football from my childhood and I got the feeling of success, of failure, to lose, to draw or win. When you win, you are happy an hour and you have to train again and try to win again. When you are champion, you are happy for a day and after you have to train again to try achieve another title.’ 

As a player, Pellegrino (right) won La Liga twice and the UEFA Cup in his time at Valencia
As a player, Pellegrino (right) won La Liga twice and the UEFA Cup in his time at Valencia

As a player, Pellegrino (right) won La Liga twice and the UEFA Cup in his time at Valencia

Pellegrino forged a considerable reputation for himself across Europe as a central defender
Pellegrino forged a considerable reputation for himself across Europe as a central defender

Pellegrino forged a considerable reputation for himself across Europe as a central defender

He joined Liverpool in January 2005 in a six-month spell under then-Anfield boss Rafa Benitez
He joined Liverpool in January 2005 in a six-month spell under then-Anfield boss Rafa Benitez

He joined Liverpool in January 2005 in a six-month spell under then-Anfield boss Rafa Benitez

Such determination kept star man Virgil van Dijk from joining another club Pellegrino played for, Liverpool, last summer. During a protracted saga, the Holland international handed in a transfer request, trained alone and did not play until after the window closed.

Saints head to Anfield on Saturday knowing Van Dijk wanted to be lining up against them but Pellegrino is unconcerned.

‘I don’t think it will be difficult because Virgil is focused 100 per cent on our team and is training well. He wants to improve his performances because obviously he was injured (from January) and he didn’t play any games.

'Obviously we cannot control the market and every single transfer window clubs are looking to buy our players. It’s no secret that sometimes players are distracted but it’s normal.’

Liverpool is a difficult fixture with Pellegrino still working to impose his identity on a goal-shy squad. But such is the 46-year-old’s belief in his players, he is relishing the encounter.

‘The first progress was to make all of the team ready to play and I now feel the dynamic of the training sessions is really good,’ he explains. ‘We could try to play in a different way (to score more) but for Southampton’s confidence we need to find different solutions because professionally I think the connection we all have could not get any better.

‘You have to think in the same way, whether you attack or defend because in the end everything is connected. If you defend badly, it is really difficult to attack well. If you attack badly, it’s difficult to defend.’

Pellegrino repeatedly refers to his side’s 1-0 home defeat by Manchester United in September as a source of encouragement. He feels performances of that ilk will forge a strong connection between team and fans.

‘When you have a good side in front of you, you can see how you are against one of the best teams in the Premier League. The people have to be proud of your team. They have to see that your team is doing its best every single game.

‘At full-time it is not always about the result, it is about the people’s feeling that 11 players are giving everything, every single game. Like the game against United - the crowd were really impressed with the team, but we lost. The people were happy because the crowd could see the team were giving it everything.'

Already, Pellegrino appears at ease in his surroundings. He organises - and plays, still very well - in weekly games with staff across the club. Football, he explains, has brought people from numerous walks of life together at Southampton and getting out on the pitch is the best way for them to grow closer. 

‘Doctors, scouts, analysts, technical staff, the chef - there is a big team behind the team and we use this moment to try to be together. I am happy because right now I am totally out of my comfort zone. To speak with you I have to think about every single word. I’m in a different culture with different people. I love football, I love this sport that can reach different cultures - every single game around the 200 countries in the world.

'I have everything to be happy. We have got everything that we need.'

Pellegrino later joined Benitez's coaching staff at Anfield once his playing days ended 
Pellegrino later joined Benitez's coaching staff at Anfield once his playing days ended 

Pellegrino later joined Benitez's coaching staff at Anfield once his playing days ended 

The Saints boss has been encouraged by what he has seen from his Saints players in training
The Saints boss has been encouraged by what he has seen from his Saints players in training

The Saints boss has been encouraged by what he has seen from his Saints players in training

 

 

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