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Mauricio Pellegrino insists he cannot control Virgil van Dijk exit rumours

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Mauricio Pellegrino felt his side showed character and personality in second half of their 5-2 defeat to Spurs but admitted that they made it too easy for Harry Kane in the first half

Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino refused to be drawn on the future of Virgil van Dijk after leaving the defender out of his squad for their 5-2 loss at Tottenham on Boxing Day.

The unsettled Netherlands international was omitted from the Saints matchday 18 for the second successive game, but Pellegrino insisted the decision was tactical.

However, the Argentine, who faced chants of 'you're getting sacked in the morning' from sections of the sold-out away end during the match, claimed he did not know if Van Dijk will be leaving in January amid reported interest from Premier League leaders Manchester City.

"I decide that it's the best for the team. I know that around Virgil there will be a lot of speculation but this is my decision," Pellegrino said.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15:  Virgil van Dijk of Southampton (17) looks on during the Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United a
Image: Virgil van Dijk was left out of the Southampton squad for the second game in a row

"It's tactical reasons. The manager decides which is the best for every single game; we win, we draw, we lost with and without Virgil and in this squad right now I have a lot of players who can play.

"Now he's part of our club and we know that Virgil is an important player for us, but we'll see what happens in the future.

"I cannot control the whispers and the news from outside."

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As good as Spurs were offensively at Wembley, though, it was a poor performance from the visitors as their winless run stretched to seven top-flight matches.

Pellegrino, however, preferred to take the positives out of his team's display, especially their second-half showing at the national stadium that saw them score twice.

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Tottenham 5-2 Southampton

"We reacted well in the second half when we were close to scoring the first goal to make it 2-1 and to be in the game," he said.

"And then they scored the third goal and from this moment it was really, really hard to come back.

"But at least we showed another face, personality and character in the second half. But we also have to congratulate an opponent who were really precise in the chances they had.

"We saw strikers with a lot of quality and they do not need too many possibilities to score and we also made too many mistakes.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his sides fifth goal during the Premier League match between Totte
Image: Harry Kane celebrates after scoring his side's fifth goal at Wembley

"But as a manager, I can draw a lot of conclusions from situations like this and realise how people react in difficult moments. And we can draw a lot of things from today.

"We used to be much better in defence, but today we could not in some moments, especially with this type of striker.

"We reacted well in the second half, pressed higher and were more aggressive, but our goals arrived too late."

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