Nigel Adkins left his post as Southampton manager late Thursday night in a somewhat unceremonious fashion. His replacement, former Argentina defender Mauricio Pochettino was installed early Friday morning in a move which was more in line with chairman, Nicola Cortese’s long-term plans for the club. Adkins, by all regard was on borrowed time after Pochettino revealed that he has been researching Southampton and watching video of his new team for over two weeks bow, suggesting an agreement was made with the Argentine before Christmas and obviously without Adkins knowledge. It’s hardly a respectable thing to do to a manager who has managed to lift the club 51 places up the divisions and into the Premiership for the first time in nine years. Granted the start to life back in England’s top league has not gone quite to plan, with Southampton only managing five wins out of twenty-two matches but still they find themselves in 15th place in the league as Adkins departed.
Southampton fans are understandably upset at the departure of the coach they saw as still the right man for the job, backing him 100%. But Cortese saw things differently and saw the opportunity to appoint Pochettino as one he could ignore. After having lingering doubts about Adkins since the defeat at home to West Bromich Albion in November, the chairman looked to have made peace with a decision to give his current manager until the end of the season to make things right but Pochettino sacking from Espanyol appears to have changed all that. Cortese, who was noticeably absent from the press conference to announce the saints new boss, stated earlier in the day that changes were needed:
“This decision has been made with the long-term ambitions of Southampton in mind. Whilst we acknowledge the contribution Nigel has made during the past two years, for the club to progress and achieve our long-term targets a change was needed.”
Whilst the fans may be dismayed at Cortese’s decisions right now, over time they may eventually accept the decision if Pochettino can perform the same types of miracles on Southampton as he did in Spain with Espanyol. When the Argentine took over as boss of the Spanish club in January 2009, Espanyol were lying third bottom in the division and were bookies favourites to be relegated. What Pochettino did was instill faith and belief back into the players who pulled together and climbed back up the table to finish the year in 10th place. He managed the club during one of its darkest hours when in 2009 central defender and recently appointed captain Daniel Jarque suffered a fatal cardiac arrest during pre season training. The players death rocked Spanish football to the core and threaten to destroy Espanyol’s season before it even began but Pochettino rallied his troops and performed again above expectations to reach a respectable mid table finish in honor of their fallen captain. Financial problems and off field drama in the board room ultimately took their toll this season however and Pochettino was dismissed at the end of November.
Mauricio Pochettino has gained considerable experience and knowledge from his time as a player and looks to be using that in his managerial career. He builds his team around unity and the all for one attitude which influenced him throughout his career especially at his time at PSG in France and with Espanyol as a player. He is shrewd in the transfer market, having often been forced to work within a tight budget, he has made some impressive signings capturing the likes of Pablo Osvaldo from Bologna for a fee of €4.6 million, only to sell him back to Bologna a year later after a 20 goal season for a price of €17.5 million, and making a huge profit in the process. But the one thing that will please Southampton fans the most is that Pochettino often looks to youth as the solution, regularly promoting from within rather than spending to fill the gap. With an impressive selection of youngsters emerging from the Southampton youth teams like Luke Shaw, Jack Stephens, Jake Sinclair and Calum Chambers, the fans are likely to see some home-grown players take the field in Pochettino’s new look team.
As a forward-thinking and thoroughly modern coach, Pochettino’s teams generally play with an attacking but pressing style, that results in a fast pace passing game with his players covering more ground than the opposition. As a solid defender in his day, he prefers to have his players close down their opposite numbers quickly to null the threat and turn it into another attacking opportunity. Southampton already possess good midfielders like Adam Lallana, Steven Davis and James Ward Prowse that can break up play and turn defence into attack and also have flair players like Gaston Ramierez to create goals for Rickie Lambert to score so Pochettino’s main focus in the transfer market is to strengthen his back line. With the Saints already announcing the capture of talented Norwegian defender Vegard Forren yesterday, the strengthening process is already underway. Pochettino may return to Espanyol to raid them for goalkeeper Cristian Álvarez and defender Javi López to further tighten a weak defence but for now he is focusing on Everton this Monday and learning English which is likely going to be a barrier to the Saints potential success.