With the arrival of the Argentinian, Southampton have certainly improved. Goal analyzes the Pochettino effect on the new and improved Southampton...When Mauricio Pochettino was announced as the manager of Southampton FC, on January 18, the fans were confused and rather surprised by the decision. It was not so much to do with the new manager, but the fact that club chairman Nicola Cortese axed Nigel Adkins after only losing just twice in 12 matches. The timing of the decision was questioned as it came when the club seemed to be moving along nicely. However, Pochettino managed to silence all the doubters and critics of the club by improving the team since his arrival. He has managed wins over Chelsea and Manchester City, in his short time at the helm of the Saints.
'The Sheriff', as Espanyol fans nicknamed him, learnt a lot about management from Marcelo Bielsa, when he used to play under him at Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina. Pochettino demands a lot from his players, just like his mentor.
When explaining how Southampton plays, he said “Our style of play is to win back the ball as soon as possible and then play it." This can be seen in their games recently, where not only the forwards, but the team as a unit, have pressed the opposition. The aim is to provide the opposing player with as little time on the ball as possible. This also limits the space for the creative outlets in the opposition team to work their magic in midfield. Just ask Manchester City, how difficult it is to play against a team, which presses so effectively as a unit. City ended up losing 3-1, with even the mighty Yaya Toure being kept quiet for large parts of the game. Morgan Schnederlin has been most impressive in his role as a pivot for the Saints and has also managed two goals.
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A high pressing game involves playing a high defensive line. This means, if not deployed properly, such a system can lead to the team leaking a lot of goals. This season itself, the Saints have conceded when teams have exploited the space left behind the defence. Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne as full-backs don’t seem to have any problem with a high defensive line, as they have the pace to cover the space behind them, but it is the central defenders who’ve been facing the problems and Pochettino will be looking at defenders who would suit the system better in the summer.
Pochettino has also encouraged his players to build the attack up from the back. Under Adkins, a long ball to Rickie Lambert was done consistently, though under the Argentine, you see the defenders looking to keep the ball and play out from the back. Lambert now receives more balls to his feet, and has been tasked with bringing players like Schnederlin, Adam Lallana, and Jay Rodriguez into the game, by holding up the ball.
Jay Rodriguez is one player who seems to have benefitted the most from the change in managerial regime. Since the arrical of Pochettino, Rodriguez has seen more regular game time, and has managed 4 goals and 4 assists in the ten games he has played. The 23 year old, signed from Burnley, may have been brought in by Nigel Adkins but it has been Pochettino who has helped him grow as a player and has been given more regular starts. He has managed goals against Chelsea and Liverpool this season and also put in a good shift against Manchester City.
Southampton have certainly improved under Pochettino, and the results along with the position in the table speak for that clearly. In his second game in charge, he received praise from Sir Alex Ferguson when he said, "But in the second half Southampton have been the best team to play here this season. We were fortunate to win." The 'Saints' currently at 11th on the table would prefer to end the season in the top half of the standings. After an initial hiccup, the players seem to understand what the new manager wants. The key will be to not only ensure the season ends on a high, but Pochettino would hope that he will be able to improve in key areas, so as to buy players that suit his style of play, especially in the centre of defence. With the right buys he could possibly emulate what Swansea City did this season.
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The key will be to not only ensure the season ends on a high, but Pochettino would hope that they will be able to improve in key areas in the summer. With the right buys he could possibly emulate what Swansea City did this season.
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