Resilient Southampton: This Season's Surprise Package
Not many people would have predicted that Southampton would be in the European places come November. Not only are they flying high in the league but their defence is gaining European recognition.
Mauricio Pochettino was appointed Saints manager in January 2013 too much controversy. Nigel Adkins took over Southampton in League One and lead them to to back-to-back promotions. Halfway through his first season in the top flight, Adkins looked to be steering the south coast side to Premier League safety.
However, Premier League safety was not enough for ambitious chairman Nicola Cortese as he wants Southampton to continue to progress.
Cortese felt that the Saints needed a change of direction, a different style of play and in that he saw to appoint Pochettino.
The Argentine got some good results to guide Southampton to safety. A 3-1 home win over Manchester City and Liverpool and a 2-1 win over Chelsea. But it was over the summer where Pochettino instilled his philosophies into the players.
Pochettino is a big believer in hard work. Work hard and good things will happen to you and you will get the rewards you deserve. The Saints boss is also a big believer in defending from the front. The first line of defence is Rickie Lambert and he should work just as hard defensively as everyone else. As soon as Southampton have conceded possession they pressure the ball and close the opposition down as quickly as possible, trying to regain the ball as quickly as they can. They don't let teams settle and creating a chance is hard to come by.
Only Roma have a better defensive record in the whole of Europe than the Saints and their defensive record is no fluke. Hours are spent on the training ground working on defending as a team, working off the ball so that when it comes to a game, it's second nature.
It's not just their work ethic, new signings Dejan Lovren and Victor Wanyama play a big part. Southampton have not signed quantity but quality and in Lovren and Wanyama, they have real quality.
Lovren was a £8.5million signing from Lyon and he has taken to the Premier League superbly. He organises the defence very well and is the leader amongst the back four. The Saints play a very high line and the Croatian makes sure that his colleagues push up as quickly as possible. As for Wanyama, the Kenyan protects the back four very well. The tough tackling midfielder reads the game well and is good at breaking the play up.
However it's not just these two that play a big part. Young fullbacks Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw will have big futures in the game. The duo are up and down and offer just as much going forward as they do defensively. Morgan Schneiderlin is a perfect partner for Wanyama. The energetic Frenchman works so hard and is more than comfortable on the ball.
It'll be a tough task for Southampton to maintain their current position but a top ten finish is a real possibility. The top six teams are very strong and teams looking to break into that will struggle to keep up with them throughout the whole season. But if Southampton continue to add to what they've got and keep hold of their best players then in time they can break into the top six. In time Nicola Cortese wants his club to be challenging for a Champions League place and with Pochettino's mentality, they could be the next side that looks to do that.
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