Pochettino’s Southampton FC – European Contenders?

By Sarad Bade Shrestha  |  October 20, 2013
Pochettino’s Southampton FC – European Contenders?

When Nicola Cortese harshly sacked Nigel Adkins in January, many Southampton fans would have been questioning the Italian Chairman’s judgment. After all, Adkins was the man who led the Saints to back-to-back promotions from League 1 to the Premier League. On top of that, at the time of Adkins’ sacking Southampton were sitting comfortably away from the relegation zone and many felt Cortese had lost the plot by sacking the 48-year-old manager.

Former Argentine international Mauricio Pochettino was the man brought in to replace Adkins. Pochettino came with a good pedigree after having a relatively successful spell with Spanish side Espanyol. However, some sections were skeptical about the appointment of the young manager as he had very little experience in the English game and was not a fluent speaker of the language.

The 41-year old did make a good impression early on without doing anything spectacular apart from the 3-1 victory over Manchester City and safely managed to guide the Saints to a 14th place finish. Many still felt though that Adkins could have also avoided relegation if he was still in-charge and that there was no reason to sack him.

However, Cortese’s decision to sack Adkins and replace him with Pochettino was believed to be in order to attract more continental players and push Southampton on to the next level. And that is what has exactly happened this season, with Pochettino emphatically justifying his appointment.

Pochettino brought in players who have had Champions League experience in Dejan Lovren, Victor Wanyama and Pablo Osvaldo to the St. Mary’s Stadium for a significant outlay of around £37million and has blended them in with the exciting crop of young players present at the club to build a formidable side.

The Saints currently sit in 5th position having lost only one match and more impressively have conceded only 3 goals so far. A former defender himself, Pochettino has improved and solidified the defence which had conceded 60 goals last season. The addition of Lovren has been crucial in building Southampton’s strong base and young players such as Luke Shaw, Nathaniel Clyne and Calum Chambers have been flourishing in his company.

Finding the net has been a bit of a problem but the Saints now seem to have the knack of scoring goals at the important stages of the match as evidenced by their last minute goals against Sunderland and Manchester United to salvage important points. With talented players such as Pablo Osvaldo, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez in their ranks, the goals will come eventually.

However, the best performers for Southampton have been the midfield duo of Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin. Defensive midfield is not the most attractive of positions but maybe the most important, and the Southampton midfield duo have been magnificent so far.

Part of the reason why the Saints defensive record is so good is that Wanyama and Schneiderlin provide the shield to the defence and their role also allows the full-backs to bomb forward in attack. The ball retaining skills of Wanyama and Schneiderlin has been crucial for Southampton in controlling the game even against bigger sides. The Saints’ impressive away performances against sides like Liverpool and Manchester United proved that they can more than match up with the big boys.

There have been talks of the Saints qualifying for Europe after their impressive start, which maybe a bit too pre-mature but Pochettino has turned Southampton into a well drilled outfit combining some of the most exciting young players in the country with some established international players.

Southampton have be careful not to get carried away with the start and if this young team can keep their focus, there is a every possibility that the South Coast side can realize their dream of playing in Europe under the impressive management of Mauricio Pochettino.

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