(Originally posted October 8th 2013)
When Southampton sacked Nigel Adkins, the man who guided The Saints from League 1 to The Premiership with back to back promotions on the 18th January 2013, there was widespread criticism of The Board and Football in General that Managers get no time in the job, regardless of their achievements. Fast forward 9 Months and already this decision looks like a stroke of Genius.
Mauricio Pochettino, known to most English Football Fans as the Man who “Fouled” Michael Owen to give England a penalty at 2002 World Cup, took over a Southampton side 15th in the table and 3 points above the Relegation zone, he finished it in 14th place and 5 points above the dreaded drop. An unremarkable start, however M.P did guide Southampton to home wins over Man City (his first win as boss in his 4th game), Liverpool and Chelsea. Adkins would go on to be appointed Reading boss in March, but 5 points from 24 was never going to be enough to keep Reading up.
Whilst Adkins started the Summer of 2013 preparing for life in the Championship again, Pochettino was busy spending £33.8 million on 3 new players (Dejan Lovren, Victor Wanyama and Dani Osvaldo).
These 3 new additions add to Southampton’s already impressive squad with the likes of Captain Adam Lallana, promising full backs Nathaniel Clyne and 17 year old Luke Shaw, England’s new striker Rickie Lambert and Uruguayan Gaston Ramirez who was the big coup of last Summer and has since attracted interest from the likes of Arsenal and Juventus.
Southampton kicked off their season with a tight 0-1 win over West Brom thanks to a Rickie Lambert penalty in the dying seconds, just days after his first England goal on his debut, the winner in a 3-2 victory over “Auld” enemy Scotland.
This was followed by a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland, even then Fonte had a score a second successive late strike for The Saints, his header coming in the 88th minute. Southampton back to winning ways 3 days later though after a convincing 1-5 away win over Barnsley in the Capital One Cup.
Southampton then lost to Norwich 1-0 (Redmond ’68) followed by another draw, this time 0-0 at home to West Ham before what would be their first stand out result of the season. A 0-1 win over then unbeaten Liverpool.
This victory showcased how much Southampton have come over recent years and how much further they can progress. A solid defensive display by the away side kept Liverpool, and the man in form, Daniel Sturridge at bay, limiting the Liverbirds to just 10 shots (5 on target) while Southampton had 12 (7 on target). The winner that day coming from a Lovren header 20 minutes from time.
3 successive wins would follow (2-0 vs Bristol City in the Cup, 2-0 vs Palace and then 2-0 again vs Swansea) going into the International break where Lambert will look to shine again in two key qualifiers for England.
7 games in then, 7 scored and 2 conceded and in 4th place. Pochettino is clearly basing his Southampton side on a mean defence, there’s no reason why Southampton can’t keep on in this rich vain of form.
Should Southampton keep getting the results they are, they could be on course for a Top Half, or maybe even Europa League spot if they can maybe get more squad depth in January and keep injury free. Adkins meanwhile is Managing a Reading side 7th in The Championship. How times change quickly.