The Speedy and Sensational Rise of Southampton FC

SouthamptonThree years ago, Southampton were lying in League One, vying to regain promotion to England’s upper tiers. Now in 2013, the Saints are stable in the Premier League, playing good football, and with good quality players such as Gaston Ramirez in their ranks, it’s not hard to see why. Traditionally one of the better sides in English football, the club have suffered ups and downs over the last few years, but now feel they are finally back comfortably at the top table of England’s football structure.

Even in mid-2012, when the Saints gained a second successive promotion, this time back to the Barclays Premier League with a final day thrashing of relegated Coventry City, it would have been hard to imagine that they would cope so well on their return to the top flight. Many of the players contained in that side are still with the club in the current squad, including now-England international Rickie Lambert. This shows that the team was perhaps just missing a couple of cogs from their full potential.

Even in their first competitive game back in this league, against Manchester City at the Etihad, there were many signs of things to come for the side. They went behind in the first half, before a shock turnaround saw them 2-1 ahead, before goals from Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri gave the Citizens the three points. Despite the loss, there were a lot of positives to take from the defeat, and they built from there.

They ended up finishing in 14th place in the 2012-13 season, sacking manager Nigel Adkins halfway through the season and replacing him with the Argentinian Mauricio Pochetino in February. Pochetino guided his new team to victories against sides like Liverpool and Manchester City (in matches at St. Mary’s). However, whilst they may not have lived up to their early billing, there was clearly more to come from the south coast side.

During the summer, Saints chairman Nicola Cortese sanctioned what fans felt to be some very shrewd purchases. Croatian international Dejan Lovren was the first to join, from Olympique Lyon. The 24 year-old is a highly underrated defender, partly because he had only been playing in France’s Ligue 1, generally considered a poorer league, and whether he is or not remains to be seen.

Dani OsvaldoVictor Wanyama, a Kenyan who attracted attention from the likes of Liverpool during his time with Celtic was another player to join the club over the summer for a fee of £12 million. Again, this is a top-quality purchase, considering the midfielder’s accomplishments during his time with the Bhoys, on both the domestic and continental stage. He has been a Kenyan international since the age of 16 whilst he was still playing youth football with Helsingborg of Sweden, and has amassed almost 30 caps in the six years since then.

The Saints’ third and final purchase of the summer was their very own Johnny Depp impersonator, Dani Osvaldo, from Italian side Roma for a club-record fee of £15 million. The Italian international was also reportedly targeted by Manchester City and Tottenham during the summer but joined the Saints with a couple of weeks left in the window, and has had a positive effect on their results so far. He may have only scored once in his first seven games for the club, but there is a belief in the Southampton cap that he will come good sooner rather than later.

In Southampton’s opening games in this year’s Premier League, they’ve started extremely well, sitting in fifth after eight games above sides like Manchester United. The Saints have also suffered defeat in just one of their games at the hands of Norwich City, and drawn three of their remaining seven matches. However, wins have included a tough victory at Anfield against Liverpool, and also against sides such as West Brom and Swansea.

One notable worry is that Southampton - despite having a strong defense that has conceded just three goals in the entirety of this season - can’t seem to score a huge amount of goals, which comes back to bite them in later months. Indeed, they have failed to score more than two goals in any of their league matches this season, meaning their victories and draws have been down to the defensive side of their game.

Whilst it’s still early on in the new season, the signs are all there that Southampton could be set for a good year in prospect. If the defense continues to perform at the current levels and the attacking side of the game improves, then the Saints could be a very tough nut to crack for the bigger sides this season, much as they were at times last year. With Pochetino at the helm and players like Gaston Ramirez and Victor Wanyama in the side, there aren’t too many weak links in the line-up, which can only be good for the team, and the Premier League.

Written by Ben Warner

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An Analysis of Southampton’s Improvement Under Manager Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio PochettinoIt’s very clear that Southampton have come some way since the post-Adkins era at St. Mary’s. You could say it is down to one man alone: new manager Mauricio Pochettino. Coming from Spain, it enabled him to bring a new style and a new set of tactics to the the team. This immediately had an impact on their results and some of the chances they were creating came from great passing moves.

Their results began to swiftly pick up and they are now in a position where they are a lot more comfortable than teams below them in the league. They have since won 4 games; yes it may not seem like a lot, but the 12 points they have gained from those 4 wins has helped them massively in their bid to avoid relegation.

The Saints currently sit in a rather respectable 11th place; 6 points clear of the bottom 3. Saints fans may not have taken Nigel Adkins’ departure very lightly; but they will no doubt be happy with the progress their side has made under Pochettino and they now look as if they are going to remain a Premier League club after this season.

Their performances since Pochettino’s arrival have certainly taken them to a new level and they seem like a team that is capable of beating anyone in the league. They are playing with a new found confidence and freedom which has allowed the likes of Ramirez, Lambert, and Lallana to express themselves a lot more and be more creative with the ball.

SouthamptonPochettino gets his players to press opponents high up the pitch, knowing that a mistake could occur by a defender. They have also improved a lot on their possession game. They are able to keep possession of the ball for a good few minutes and make it lead into creating a decent goal scoring opportunity.

Another thing which has improved is the work rate of the players. The midfielders are now putting in a brilliant shift to help out the defenders for a full 90 minutes. Something which has worked a treat. It’s not only in the midfield where this happens; it’s everywhere on the pitch.

Southampton players would be willing to cover every blade of grass on the pitch if it meant they would pick up points. The belief and confidence that this Southampton side has is very evident and has helped them along the way this season.

Knowing that 3 of the sides they have beaten this term are Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea will no doubt keep that confidence very high at St. Mary’s and will give the fans much hope of them staying up this season. They will certainly hold off the celebrations until they are mathematically safe, but most Saints’ fans will probably be looking forward to next season and to what could be a very interesting summer transfer window.

Pochettino will no doubt know he will need to add to his squad to ensure they have strengthened for next season, and the way they are progressing, if they continue to do so, they may be looking at a top half finish next season. There certainly are exciting times ahead for the Saints, and their future looks very positive in the Pochettino era.

Written by OneFutbol

Analyzing the Premier League Relegation Battle: Part 2

Southampton

SouthamptonOnto Southampton, their season has been rather topsy-turvy, but they have managed to gain some momentum and have created a gap between themselves and the drop zone. Having taken points from Swansea, Reading, QPR, Liverpool, and Manchester City this season, Saints fans can be quietly confident of survival this season. The sacking of Nigel Adkins drew a dark cloud over the club and left fans worried about the current situation and how things at the club would change. If anything, they have changed for the better.

Southampton brought in the unknown Mauricio Pochettino as their new manager, and quite frankly, it has worked, as they have picked up two huge wins over Manchester City and Liverpool to pull away from the pack at the bottom. Those wins are Pochettino’s only victories since taking charge at St. Mary’s, but they have also gone on to pick up draws despite losing a few on the way as well.

The key players for them this season have been Gaston Ramirez, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, and Morgan Schniederlin. Rickie Lambert has been praised highly of many a fan this season, with him being the top English goal scorer in the division and having worked his way from the bottom tier of English league football, you could say he deserves a break like this.

Pochettino brought a new style to Southampton, and they now look like they play more fluent football and have a bigger physical presence. This, along with their fantastic attitude to every game, could see them reaching light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunderland

SunderlandSunderland are a team that haven’t really got going at all this season, they have had a few wins now and then but have failed to gather any momentum and have now been sucked into this relegation battle. Martin O’Neill has been in charge for around 18 months now and you’d think he would have got the players all on the same wavelength, but really, it’s the opposite.

The players don’t seem to have a true understanding of each other’s game, which is the main reason they can’t put in a full team performance for 90 minutes, and it all fizzles out for them. When they picked up the win again Manchester City at the Stadium of Light back on Boxing Day, courtesy of an Adam Johnson strike, Sunderland fans would have thought their team might have kicked on from there.

But, with them being without a win in the last 7 games, things are starting to look bleak for Martin O’Neill’s men, and they could find themselves in big trouble really quickly if they don’t find a win anytime soon.

Wigan Athletic

article-0-17731087000005DC-534_634x361Finally, Wigan, the side who always find themselves in a relegation battle but somehow always get out of it. This is down to Roberto Martinez’s style and philosophy. They always struggle for wins in the first half of the season, but at the turn of the year they find their form and go on a run of wins and draws to drag themselves out of the bottom three.

With them being the most experienced side in this situation, it is difficult to say that they won’t be able to get out of it again. They have managed to pick up 8 points from their last 6 games and are in a good run of form. Striker Aruna Kone has begun to find the net when it is really required most. Also, youngster Callum McManaman has become a star figure in the Wigan side over recent weeks and has had a very positive impact on the squad, also netting a few of his own.

With their style, experience and belief, their fans and many neutrals will only think that the Great Escape is on yet again for Wigan, and Roberto Martinez can mastermind his way to an even higher profile than what he has now.

Summary

In saying all of this, none of the bottom 10 are truly safe, as one slip up can be very costly, especially going into the final 9 games of the season, where all teams will be playing their hearts out and doing everything possible in order to pick up those vital points. All teams from Fulham and below all need to start doing something quickly, otherwise we may see one of the tightest relegation battles ever and it could very well go down to the final day of the season to determine who stays up and who goes down. It truly will be a survival of the fittest.

Written by OneFutbol

Rickie Lambert

2012-13 Barclays Premier League Season So Far: Part 3

Queens Park Rangers

Adel TaarabtThe London club have had some troubles in the Premier League so far, but Harry Redknapp has come in and taken on a hell of a job. QPR are unbeaten in 5 games now and have kept some vital clean sheets against Manchester City and Chelsea. Julio Cesar has put in some vital performances in goal and has been a key player in getting points. He has to be just as consistent in the next part of the season if QPR have a chance of staying up. Adel Taarabt is one of the best play-makers in the Premier League and is the joint top goal scorer for QPR with 4 goals. He will certainly be a vital player in the future to help assist goals for his squad. After spending so much money, QPR simply cannot afford to be relegated, so I believe it will be the players’ responsibility to keep them up.

Reading

After winning the Championship last season, Reading entered the Premier League with the hopes of staying up. However, they did not win their first game until the November 17. Since the 26th of December, Reading have won 3 out of 6 games and only lost 1, and are showing a lot of fight to keep themselves beyond the dreaded Relegation Zone. At the end of January, they finished 19th, but picked up great results against Chelsea, Newcastle, and West Brom, and have now earned themselves the new nickname of the “Come Back Kings.” Adam Le Fondre has been on great form the last couple of games, after scoring 5 in 3 games and scoring 12 goals in total this season. I think even though Brian McDermott has what it takes to keep Reading up, the team is simply not strong enough to weather the likes of QPR, and will likely be relegated back to the Championship the following season.

Southampton

Rickie LambertAt the start of the season, the Saints would have been one of the teams predicted to participate in the relegation battle. However, a good start to the season from Nigel Adkins has left them in a convincing position. In January, a surprise sacking of the manager left the Saints with a new manager, who, unfortunately for them, cannot speak English. Mauricio Pochettino has lead the team to two draws and one loss since then. A key player this season has been the experienced Rickie Lambert, who has scored 11 goals, but the Saints have relied on him to score goals too many times. The signing of Gaston Ramirez, who joined in the summer for around £12 million, has been disappointing so far. He has scored only 3 goals after being brought in by Adkins to help Lambert and take pressure off of him. I think Southampton, with their new manager, will have to start turning draws into wins, and Pochettino will have to bring the best out of his players if they want to end the season in a higher position.

Stoke City

Tony Pulis’ men had a great start to the season, and were probably the hardest team to beat due to their strong defense.  However, recently, they have not been in the best form and have been conceding way too many goals for their liking, a total of 17 in their last 7 games. A key player in Stoke’s season so far has been goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. The Bosnian international has attracted a lot of attention from clubs due to his superb form but is getting let down by his defensive partners at the moment. Stoke’s top scorer is Jonathon Walters with 8 goals, and they will need him to carry on goal-scoring if they want to finish the season well.

Sunderland

Martin O’Neils team have had a fairly average season so far, finishing 12th at the end of the season. Steven Fletcher has scored 10 goals for the team after joining for 12 million in the summer from the Wolves. A lot of people would have thought he was not worth the sum they paid for him, however, he has proved that he was worth it and has exceeded the expectations of Sunderland fans. After joining from Manchester City, Adam Johnson has been in great form for Sunderland, and has been providing Fletcher with the assistance he needs. I think Sunderland are in for the same kind of finish they are in at the moment, however, will have to keep picking up results as they are only 8 points from the Relegation Zone. This will certainly be on Martin O’Neils mind throughout the remainder of the season.

Written by PAFCBake