Sack Race: Why Saints boss Pellegrino is great value at 14/1

Date published: Friday 15th September 2017 9:00

With just four games gone in the Premier League the Sack Race has already seen a victim and is already in full swing.

Crystal Palace were quick to part company with Frank de Boer this week after four defeats from four and no goals scored. It seems a ludicrous decision to change tact from a long-term approach to the short-term. De Boer’s plan was to change the club’s style of play and four games in was hardly long enough for him to show that.

But such is the fear of falling out of the top flight that Steve Parish felt forced to act. De Boer’s reported arrogance certainly did not help his cause, but the pair’s differences would have no doubt been overlooked if De Boer had won his first four and not lost his first four.

But with one gone, we are now looking for number two and look no further than Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino, who is currently a 14/1 poke to be the next Premier League boss to leave his post.

I admit my eyes were opened to Pellegrino by a Twitter acquaintance. And while the 16/1 has been long since hoovered up by the shrewdies, I still believe the 14s about Pellegrino to go is value.

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic (7/4) and Rafa Benitez (8/1) at Newcastle are the two the bookies have ahead of the Saints boss. And it’s hard to argue against those two, but both recorded wins last weekend with Bilic’s men blowing away Huddersfield, while the Toon Army sunk Swansea without Benitez in attendance.

That may set alarm bells ringing but the Spaniard was still recovering from a minor operation and such is the calibre of the man he managed to inspire his team to victory at Swansea over the phone.

There has been talk of Benitez packing it in at Newcastle all summer and news of a £6million release clause in his contract only added to the speculation. But he has more than once insisted he is “100% committed to the cause” and he is well aware of the conditions he has to work under.

Benitez is an intelligent man and he knows he almost has a free ride at the moment such is the low expectation and the restrictive budget he is working under. Anything better than an 18th-place finish will be seen as a feather in the cap of Benitez, while relegation is unlikely to reflect badly on him.

Will Mike Ashley axe Benitez? Very unlikely indeed such is the manager’s standing in the game and with the fans and so then the 8/1 looks rather short.

Bilic on the other hand is a lively contender to go. There was talk last season of the Croatian getting the boot after they failed to live up to the expectations of the previous campaign.

Bilic’s contract was not extended in the summer and that decision was made by both parties. He is in the final year of his Hammers deal and it could well be that the two part ways next May. That may well have been already agreed and so for either party to end the relationship early would renege on that.

Of course, a dreadful run of form may well change the “dildo brothers'” thoughts, but their win over the dogged Terriers suggested they might be ready to finally get things going at the London Stadium.

That brings us to Pellegrino, whose Saints side have five points from four games – hardly a disastrous start.

But their latest showing against Watford – a 2-0 defeat at St Mary’s,  was disappointing to say the least.  And their goalscoring problems remain from last season.

Only the bottom five teams last season scored less than the 41 goals Saints managed and the one shot on target against Watford and three goals they have scored this term points towards the same problems this time around.

Pellegrino has no idea which is his best side, especially his attacking options and with some difficult games ahead he may find himself with little or no time to work that out.

Saints travel to Palace on Saturday, who already have new boss Roy Hodgson in situ and you’d imagine the former England boss will generate a rapid reaction from his Eagles players. Palace’s defeat at Burnley was unlucky to say the least and not just showed how senseless the decision to axe De Boer was, also proved the club are far better than their four results to date.

Manchester United are in town after that and then Saints travel to Stoke, who have already rolled Arsenal over on home soil.

In theory Pellegrino could be gone by the end of the month and while the fixtures are tough it’s the club’s propensity to swap and change that makes Pellegrino an eye-catching bet.

Claude Puel lasted just 12 months despite guiding the club into eighth and reaching the EFL Cup final last season. Add into that the departure of Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama last summer and the fact that he lost captain Jose Fonte to West Ham in January and Virgil van Dijk was injured in January and Puel’s efforts were impressive.

Puel’s problem was that he failed to win over the fans and that was mainly down to their lack of goals at St Mary’s. The club issued a statement when he was sacked referring to a “long-term vision” and Pellegrino was then appointed on a three-year deal.

In fact Puel was the third manager to leave Southampton in the past three years, following Mauricio Pochettino’s departure to Tottenham and Ronald Koeman’s move to Everton.

And while both Pochettino and Koeman were wanted elsewhere their relationships with previous majority shareholder Katharina were questionable.

Koeman claimed he was forced into a contract ultimatum with the club insistent he agreed a new deal, while he was happy to see out the remaining 12 months of his deal. It led to his departure to Everton, while Pochettino left for Spurs just six months after executive chairman Nicola Cortese quit the club in January 2014 amid a bitter dispute with Liebherr.

It’s fair to say Liebherr’s relationships with previous managers has been frosty.

Saints are now effectively under new ownership after Chinese businessman Jisheng Gao paid £210m for an 80% stake, leaving Liebherr with the remaining 20%.

Liebherr though promised fans and employees it was “business as usual” last month, and if she is true to her word then we will surely see some friction between Pellegrino and herself and we may well see him on his way.

Matthew Briggs

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