Tuesday 18 December 2018

Writing on wall for Pellegrino and shameful Southampton

Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie and Southampton's James Ward-Prowse battle for the ball. Photo credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.
Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie and Southampton's James Ward-Prowse battle for the ball. Photo credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

Luke Edwards

There comes a point when a team who have operated under the mistaken assumption they are too good to go down are forced to accept they were wrong.

It is not an easy thing to do - it is painful and divisive - but it must be done if disaster is to be averted.

This is where Southampton find themselves after a humbling 3-0 defeat against Newcastle United.

It is humiliating for everyone concerned and anyone who witnessed manager Mauricio Pellegrino being berated by Southampton supporters - including a group in extravagant fancy-dress costumes - as he boarded the coach to leave St James' Park, must realise these are desperate times.

Newcastle, placed directly above Pellegrino's side in the table before Saturday's match, were more organised, more determined, superior in every facet.

Complacency is dangerous, but when it is mixed with arrogance and disinterest, it becomes combustible. Southampton's players looked all of the above. They should be ashamed of themselves.

It is too easy for them to hide behind Pellegrino, but this was a display that reeked of something toxic in the dressing room.

When a manager accuses his players of "giving up", it is normally him who gets the sack and Pellegrino almost sounded like a man asking for his P45, but these players cannot be allowed to escape censure.

Irony

Some ugly truths need to be realised, the poison must be drained, because too many looked like they do not care.

"Emotions are running high," admitted Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. "But, when training starts again on Monday, we need to be on it and focus on the next target - to get the win in the next game.

"We have to be in the Premier League because that is what we are, but the reality speaks for itself and we can't hide.

"We can't get around it. We have to show the desire to survive and anything less won't be enough."

Strong words, though, need to be backed up by deeds. That is what Newcastle have done and their form, since Christmas, when they embraced the fear of relegation, has been good. Their only defeats since have come against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.

So was the business they did in January. Kenedy has been a revelation up front and Rafa Benitez will try to sign the player permanently from Chelsea if they stay up, while goalkeeper Martin Dubravka has also proved to be a great signing.

"This was a fantastic game to win," said Benitez. "We are confident we will stay up." ©Daily Telegraph, London.

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