By 90Min
January 02, 2018

Make no bones about it, Southampton - at the time of writing - are in danger of being relegated from the Premier League this season. As a neutral, it's not really a nice notion to accept.

But that is the reality of the situation under Mauricio Pellegrino, who in the six months he has been at the helm at St. Mary's, has done little to convince.

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The Argentinian coach was supposedly the solution to the problems the club faced last season under Claude Puel. Last term, they may have finished in eighth place but the Frenchman was driven out of the club after bringing about negative tactics and overly rotating.

It begs the question then, does Pellegrino even know of the fans' perception of Puel? And if he does, why is he seemingly doing his level best to imitate a man who was fired?

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Pellegrino should know better. Southampton have looked utterly toothless in attack this season, and the manager's continued faith in Shane Long is nothing short of bizarre - the Republic of Ireland striker is without a goal since Ferbuary 2017.

That is an embarrasing return and a run that probably even warrants a loan move away from the club to a fresh environment in order to find his shooting boots again. But Pellegrino persists, and all this while Italian international Manolo Gabbiadini sits gathering dust on the bench. If there's something he is trying to prove by doing this, it is clearly to the detriment of his team.

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The 26-year-old may not run tirelessly into the channels like Long, but at least he can be a goal threat, which really is what the club are crying out for right now, especially with Charlie Austin suspended.

Gabbiadini is a clinical finisher, as he demonstrated when he first joined the club with an array of goals including two at Wembley in the EFL Cup final against Manchester United. Why isn't he getting more game time and when he is on the pitch, why aren't his teammates trying to link up with him more? Surely Pellegrino has to drum that home.

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The Saints may have been relatively solid against United in the league on Saturday evening, but it's now eight games without a win, and he is the second-favourite with bookmakers to be sacked.

Admittedly, the Virgil van Dijk-shaped cloud that's been hovering over the club this season probably hasn't helped. The 46-year-old can probably be forgiven for leaving the Dutchman out for some games, but why then make things even more difficult by benching would-be starters like Dusan Tadic and Sofiane Boufal, two of the club's top creative sparks.

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Tadic is not Juan Mata, David Silva or Mesut Ozil, and Boufal no Eden Hazard or Philippe Coutinho, but both have demonstrated the ability to influence games with their flair and creativity. Though that becomes harder when they aren't being played consistently thanks to Pellegrino's hipster ways.

The former Deportivo Alaves manager just seems to be making hard work of things at the moment. It is normal for new coaches to need time to work with their players to find his best XI and system. What isn't so normal is to chop and change so much that nobody can feed off of any momentum.

It is so naive, and it has clearly had a direct impact on the team's fluidity, cohesion and understanding. It is like he's hoping to stumble across a winning formula when in actual fact these things take careful crafting and logic. Whisper it, but it looks as though he doesn't know what he's doing. What's more, he doesn't appear the most urgent of blokes, and the situation is fast become just that.

Slowly but surely, that same fan unrest that saw the end of Puel is creeping back in at a football club which needs to be doing better - a few seasons ago they weren't a million miles away from the top seven.

(You may be also be interested in Ranking 9 of Southampton's Departures to Premier League Rivals on Success at Their New Clubs).

For many neutrals, it's a bit of a shame to see Southampton sliding towards the foot of the table, and defeat against Crystal Palace on Tuesday night could, and probably should, force chairman Ralph Krueger to think again about sticking by Pellegrino.

If he can get a positive result against the Eagles and halt the slide, and then buy well in the transfer market there may be a chance for him to turn things around. But who's to say he will get that right when's already gotten so much wrong?

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