The foundations have been laid
When Mauricio Pochettino was passed the Southampton reins following the surprise dismissal of Nigel Adkins in January, it was all to easy for Saints fans to throw their hands up in despair and question the logic of sacking a manager who looked set to steer the Saints to safety.
February 14th, 2013
At the time of Adkins’ dismissal Southampton were on a good run of form, having lost only 3 of their previous 9 games. But disappointing results before Christmas were clearly enough for chairman Nicola Cortese to begin drawing up a list of replacements for his manager.
It was a harsh decision on a man whose achievements at Southampton probably deserved more time to prove that he was the right choice to take the team forward. But, from a purely business based point of view – which is how Cortese runs the football club – the chairman needed to get Saints back to the Premier League and Adkins was the man to do that. Now that Southampton have joined the English elite, Cortese chose to replace his manager with someone who could repeat those successes and take the club as high up the table as possible.
Up steps former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino – a man held in high regard in Spain for his intensive pressing style. Whilst the timing of his appointment is questionable, Cortese clearly did his homework. Southampton already play a similar formation to that used by Pochettino at Espanyol and the Saints are one of the hardest working teams in the Premier League – ideal for a manager who expects his players to squeeze the space from the pitch when they don’t have the ball.
The foundations were laid by Adkins and Pochettino didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. The new Southampton manager said himself, “It may seem like we are running more, but in fact we are just being smarter with our running.” Playing a high line whilst pressing every area of the pitch, Southampton aim to make the pitch tight and crowded for their opponents with the intentions of winning the ball back at the earliest opportunity.
That approach is paying dividends as Pochettino has overseen a difficult run of games with one loss, two draws and a win (Everton, United, Wigan and City) during his time in charge so far.
Despite losing to United, Sir Alex Ferguson heaped praise on Southampton in his post match interview, stating that they were the best team to have played at Old Trafford this season. No surprise then really that just 10 days later and in front of home crowd, Pochettino’s rampant Southampton side brushed aside current champions Manchester City and all but ended their hopes of retaining the league title.
Southampton are now 6 points clear of the relegation zone and playing good football. Whilst no Saints fan will forget our remarkable journey back to the Premier League under Nigel Adkins, there is now a renewed buzz of excitement surrounding our future with Mauricio Pochettino.