Graziano Pelle – The good, the bad and the not-so-ugly
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on March 11, 2016
It’s a well-known fact that in this wonderful, mysterious world of emotion, that we like to call football, there are some incredible and indescribable feelings that we get along the way, being a supporter.
One of these emotions comes in the form of scoring goals. When you’re playing, when you’re watching, when you’re managing; anything. Seeing your team bag a goal is one of the greatest things that you could ever see and a feeling you’ll never tire of seeing; this is very much a striker’s attitude.
For me, as a Southampton supporter, overseeing the club’s progression from strikers who couldn’t really hit a barn door from a yard out such as Jonathan Forte, to players of the highest national prestige and demand such as recent signing Charlie Austin, we often forget just what we had and what we have now; we seem to forget about appreciating what’s in front of us.
Since his arrival on the south coast, Ronald Koeman has turned the tide and defied the odds after being dealt with a hand that seemed quite simply impossible to cope with, losing the club’s top assets and coming into a club whose fan’s, in reality, were in a total state of meltdown and were expecting imminent relegation – how wrong were we?
One of Koeman’s moves that were quite simply essential was to replace cult hero and departing Rickie Lambert as he sealed a ‘dream’ £4 million move to Liverpool in the summer of 2014. It’s safe to say that I, along with anyone associated with the club, were devastated at Rickie’s departure but it was a bittersweet farewell.
However, what an excellent job Koeman did in organising his strikeforce and steadying the ship at the club.
The Dutch tactician made Graziano Pelle, his former compatriot at his latest club Feyenoord, his second signing since arriving at St Mary’s for a fee of just over £8 million; a sizeable fee, admittedly, for someone approaching his 30’s.
Pelle came to the club with an enormous reputation for his goal scoring at Feyenoord, under the influence of Koeman, smashing in 50 goals in just 57 games; a staggering record, regardless of the standard of play in the Eredivise being arguably considerably lower than what was in store for the Italian.
But the dizzy heights of the Premier League did not faze Pelle, as he jumped at the opportunity to play in the world’s most coveted league at his peak and got off to a flying start on the south coast, scoring a highly impressive nine goals in his opening 13 games, however since then, he’s simply not been anywhere near that standard.
Pelle did, last season, manage to score seven more goals throughout the course of the campaign, but he experienced plenty of criticism from Saints fans for his sluggish approach to the game and his long spells without a goal throughout.
A high point for Pelle, however, was in the form of him getting his first ever call-up to the Italian national side and he has never looked back since his international recognition as he continues to lead the line for his native country.
However, as much as it pains me, and other Saints supporters to say it, he simply is nowhere near what he was and is a shadow of the player that he was in last season’s success story.
Although he is our second top scorer, behind the resilient Shane Long, he has been hugely underwhelming this season and has failed to score in over five months of action. He may have been injured for a large part of this time period, but it is inexcusable that a striker of his credentials, and one that Koeman appears to perceive as our best, holds that kind of awful drought to his name.
Shane Long has been absolutely sublime since coming into the team for Pelle, sweeping the first-choice striker position and fully capitalising on his chance in the first team. The Republic of Ireland international gives a much more dynamic dimension to Southampton’s attacking style of play and has far more influence on the match than his fellow forward, Pelle.
Long’s work ethic, composure and cool head in situations in front of goal have paid dividends for both him and the club this season as he was at the heart of their revival going forward and breaking through their bad streak of form last month. The three attributes that I mentioned, very simply, are integral to being regarded as a top class striker, and unfortunately for Pelle, he possesses none of the above.
However, Pelle does have undeniable talent, and there is a reason for Koeman’s high regard of the powerful forward and a clear reason behind the heavy interest surrounding the 30-year-old from his homeland. Italian trio Lazio, Juventus, and predominantly AC Milan are all said to be looking to move for Pelle with the striker set to leave the club this summer, as he has just 12 months remaining on his current deal with the Saints.
So, with under ten games of the domestic campaign left for Southampton and plans already being made ahead of next season and the summer’s ongoings, the real question that will be posed to those up high at the club is – What to do with Graziano Pelle?
In my opinion, Pelle has been a fantastic servant to the club and has played the role in which Lambert left for him extremely well and to the best of his abilities. However, he has hit his peak and he has already reached his heights in the British game; we are looking to take the next big step in the footballing world and we cannot afford to carry passengers, as brutal as it sounds.
But, that’s football. It is a business and it is brutal. Pelle has, as I have said, done a good job for us and we should appreciate his talents and goals that he has provided for us, however, it is time to move on with better striking options and progress from there.
After all; we are Southampton and we are constantly developing.