Impressive Southampton flying high under Mauricio Pochettino

From administration to Champions League spots. Southampton's rise has been extraordinary and Pochettino seems to be taking this team to a different level.
 Shikharr Chandra
 COMMENT | Premier League
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Back in 2002, the lives of Mauricio Pochettino and Southampton were contrasting. The Premier League club led by manager Gordon Strachan had finished eighth in the league and were runners-up in the FA Cup after losing to Arsenal 1-0. Pochettino, an Argentine center-back who was representing his country in the 2002 World Cup saw his side crash out in the group stages. It was in the game against England that he took on most of the blame as he he brought down Micheal Owen in the box which led to David Beckham converting the penalty which was ultimately the winner.

Fast forward to 2009, Pochettino took over the managerial reins at Espanyol who were languishing in the 18th position. The Spanish club finished the season in a respectable 10th place. On the other hand, Southampton were going through the worst phase given that they were handed a 10 point deduction as their parent company went into administration. By the end of May 2009, the club was unable to meet its staff wages commitments, and asked employees to work unpaid as a gesture of goodwill. In the following season, they had to play in the League One.

Four years on, few would have thought that two stories of such contrasting nature would meet. Pochettino was announced as the new Southampton manager in January 2013 taking over from Nigel Adkins, the man who master minded Southampton's comeback from the lowly League One to the peak of English football.

Adkins's sacking was questioned not only because of what he had achieved with the club but many considered this to be the death of English managers in the Premier League. A league dominated with established foreign managers, Adkins was making quite a name for himself with his impressive brand of football but six months into the Premier League, the former Scunthorpe manager was given the boot.

Adkins out, Poch in

It was a herculean task for Pochettino given his lack of experience in the Premier League. Having garnered a mere 49 wins in 146 games with Espanyol, his record wasn't impressive which eventually led the club to terminate his contract after a disastrous start to the 2012-13 season.

Two weeks on, the 'Pochettino effect' was upon us. Sir Alex Ferguson claimed his side were lucky to beat the Saints. The club was attracting attention from all corners, Adkins was soon forgotten.

He guided the club to safety having finishing in a respectable 14th place with wins over Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City standing out.

At present, Southampton sit comfortably in fourth place behind Chelsea on goal difference. Their star striker Rickie Lambert is making all the right noises, scoring crucial goals for the national side and the club is closing in on their best defensive start to a season in the top flight football since 1983-84.

The Hampshire club's story has been extraordinary.

Lovren has been the pick of the new signings

"This is my first season with the team starting with an actual pre-season with the team. We have changed and signed some new players."

"We are reaping the benefits of our work and our belief in how we want to play. We just want to keep working in this way, keep our good run and keep on this way." said Pochettino

A proper pre season followed by some key signings, Pochettino is getting the best out his talented squad. The Argentine's trust in his youngsters, most notably Nathaniel Clyne, James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw has been well praised.

Clyne has been in an amazing form this season and it came as a surprise to many when the right back was not called up by Roy Hodgson despite the injury to Glen Johnson. The Saints have not conceded a goal when Clyne has been on pitch. Another youngster coming through the ranks, Calum Chambers has also caught the eye of many this season.

Despite having an impressive squad at his disposal, a few key signings has strengthened the side. The presence of Victor Wanyama has been a key factor in the midfield providing adequate cover for Adam Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin. The former Celtic star provides ample cover when the two full backs go forward.

Dejan Lovren, another summer signing, has played a key role in the heart of the Saints defense which has conceded just two goals this season, the second best record in Europe. Pablo Osvaldo's signing hasn't yet paid off but his presence has certainly made the side less reliant on Lambert.

The pick of the lot though has been midfielder Schneiderlin. The French midfielder has been the unsung hero of the side and his impressive tacklng rate of 3.7 per game tops that of every other Southampton player. The midfielder alongwith Wanyama has provided a solid foundation in midfield.

Impressive Lallana leading from the front

The club has impressive attacking options on the bench with the likes of Gaston Ramirez and Steven Davis still finding it hard to break in.

Artur Boruc has kept five cleansheets in seven games this season and did not concede a goal in the whole of September barring the international games. A Polish sports daily even published an image of him with 10 arms - depicting the former Celtic star's impressive run.

Three wins in the last three games including a confidence boosting win over early pace setters Liverpool has given Pochettino's side hopes of European football next season.

Southampton's journey from the dreaded drop to the highs of Premier League has been remarkable. A Champions League spot come May looks a tad too much but their European dream certainly looks a reality. 

'The Saints are coming!' the very famous Green Day song fits in perfectly, but it won't be long before they have finally arrived.


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