Tag Archives: Argentina

Mauricio Pochettino: The Man with a Plan

Have we all recovered from the shock yet?

It is going to take a while isn’t it. The thought that Nigel won’t be in the dugout on Monday is a little terrifying. But life goes on, and we have to support the team and the new man. This isn’t their fault.

But who is the new man? I know very little of him, he is the man who tripped Michael Owen for the match winning penalty at the 2002 World Cup. He is a former centre half who played for Newell’s Old Boys, Espanyol, Paris Saint-Germain, Bordeaux and Espanyol again. He was then the manager of Espanyol until he left in November.

Other than that I don’t know anything else, so as is the custom at georgeweahscousin.com I found someone who does! Gary Linton is a Spanish football expert who writes for several sites that specialise in La Liga.

Mauricio Pochettino is unveiled at Southampton.
Mauricio Pochettino is unveiled at Southampton.

As you might imagine, we are all a little bemused by Adkins being sacked, and replaced with a man most of us know little about, do you have any words to reassure the Saints fans?

GL:- ‘Of course I can, first of all every Southampton fan will have read the stat, when Pochettino left Espanyol they were bottom of the league with just 2 wins in 14 games, that of course is a fact.

What else is fact is that when he first took over the club, Espanyol were in the drop zone, 8 points adrift of safety and in a bad way, it was their 13th man in charge in just 11 years. Pochettino had around half a season to steer them clear of relegation. In the end he did, in fact, in the end he finished 10th. Along the way he beat Barcelona in their own back yard (Something they have yet to repeat since) They lost just 5 games out of the 18 he managed that season – Facts.

He had to by the end sell most, if not all of his top players each and every season, and work not even on a shoe string budget, there was no budget, yet he managed to finish the following seasons 11th in the league, then 8th then 14th. Fact.

In the end, he may have been sacked, but he was left with nothing, nothing at all and it was the right move for the club and for the manager himself. He couldn’t do anymore, to be honest I’m surprised they weren’t relegated through-out his time, it just shows how good a job he did.

If that doesn’t show how good a job he’s done, this might – At one point in his stage he was a realistic choice to become the new Real Madrid manager.’

We’ve got used to attractive attacking football under Adkins, what can we expect from the new boss?

GL:- ‘You can expect the players to work hard in training for a start, and not slack off, just ask Pablo Osvaldo, he once said on Pochettino’s training: “At times you want to kill him simply because he makes you suffer like a dog. But in the end you get the right results”

That’s just for the training, as for the game itself. Attacking football you say, well that’s what you’ll get from him. Espanyol were a side that pushed high up the park, playing their football from the back always trying to work hard and press the opposition and most importantly they loved the possession-based style, keep the ball at all times. 

Most would have saw the quote from Pep Guardiola about Pochettino’s team, if not then here it is here: “There are teams that wait for you and teams that look for you: Espanyol look for you. I feel very close to their style of football.”

If that’s not a compliment of the highest order from a man who was at the time the manager of one of the best footballing sides the world’s ever seen, then I do not know what is.’ 

Pochettino is said to encourage development from the academy which is in line with Saints vision, but do you think he will move in the transfer window and what sort of player will he go for?

GL:- ‘He’s a man who loves youth systems, he’s a big believer in them and rightfully so. At Espanyol he worked very closely with the youth set-up at every level, he’d even make each team play in an age group above to speed things up, to improve them quicker and help build them up. During his time as manager, he was well into double figures with the amount of youngsters he brought into the first team, it was over 20 players he had brought through by the time he left, the youngest at 16 years old, he was a believer of the ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’

On transfers, one thing is likely and that’s a profit each transfer window. During his time at Espanyol, a club he had played at for many years he developed a friendship with many he had to manage, it didn’t stop him selling and getting rid of them. Each transfer window he made a profit, and mostly a big profit. For example, he sold Albert Riera to Liverpool for just under €9 million, Espanyol bought him 4 seasons prior for just €2.6M – Had Pablo Zabaleta had to sell, but sold him for double what they paid, 3 seasons before. Nicolás Pareja bought for €4.4 million, season and a half later, sold for exactly double. He bought and kept the likes of Euro 2008 winner, Sergio García, he purchased what can be described as Espanyol’s most influential player in Joan Verdú, on a free transfer!

So yes, he does very well in youth development but also does well in the transfer window.’

Pochettino at Espanyol.
Pochettino at Espanyol.

How did you rate his time at Espanyol?

GL:- ‘He did well, in fact he did very well. As I said before, he led them away from the relegation the first season, made them into a mid-table team with next to no money and having to sell his best players and relying on youth to make the step up. 

He then took them just 9 points away from a European spot, a team like that in Europe, if someone had said that at the start of that season, they’d be laughed away, he was this close to doing it.

He then kept them mid-table during his time there, in the last season, after every ‘good’ player had been sold, fans were then getting a little annoyed, the board not helping or backing him and with the man himself getting a little miffed and tired, they decided it was time for him to go. Which I guess was fair, but the main point is, he had taken them far enough and when you get ‘NO’ backing, what else can you do. 

In fact, he done an excellent job all things considered.’ ‘

Do you think that he might look at any of his old Espanyol players to improve the Southampton team?

GL:- ‘I don’t see why not, if I was a manger I’d be more than interested in the likes of Joan Verdu, Víctor Sánchez, Christian Stuani or maybe even the goal keeper, Cristian Álvarez to name but a few. I do think though that his best asset will be the long term plan from the youth system. 

But if he has to buy a player or two, I’m sure he’ll come knocking on a few La Liga clubs doors, find the likes of the new Michu kicking around, if anyone can do that then a man who’s been in Spain for that many years, with that many contacts can.’

On the whole do you see this as a good appointment for a Premier League club?

GL:-  ‘I 100% do, I understand the Saints fans point of view, that they didn’t need to sack their manager, he should have got the season and with the job Nigel Adkins did who can blame them.

But what I do believe is that, even though he’s gone, do be happy with who you have in as manager. This is a man who may not be able to speak English but knows how to manage a club who’ll avoid relegation, get behind him as I’m sure you will and together you supports and the manager can come out at the end of this season still in the Barclay’s Premier League.’

Hopefully that will help make Saints fans feel a little more confident about the coming weeks. We have to back this guy now, and it would seem he is no mug.

Thanks to Gary for these enthusiastic answers! Follow him on twitter @AlbaEspana

Chris

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina: Gazza Signs For Saints…

Last night, Saints beat Ligue 1 side Evian Thon Gaillard 1-0 with a Jason Puncheon strike, and as is customary with Saints early pre-season friendlies Nigel Adkins made 11 changes at half time.

This saw the introduction of the lastest new face at St. Mary’s. Goalkeeper Paolo Gazzaniga.

Argentinian Gazzaniga has signed for the club on a four year contract after impressing in League Two with Gillingham last season. The 20 year old started his career with Spanish giants Valencia before making the move to the Priestfield Stadium. Keeping 7 clean sheets in his 20 appearances for the Kent club last season, this may be both Saints most low profile summer signing, but also an important one. Tommy Forecast has headed to the Gills on loan for the season as part of the deal.

Gazzaniga at full stretch.

georgeweahscousin.com caught up with aspiring sports journalist and Gills fan Liam Batch to give us a picture of what we can expect from the young keeper.

“With the news reaching us this morning that Southampton have completed the signing of Gillingham’s prized young asset Paulo Gazzaniga, I was asked as a Gills fan to give you the ‘lowdown’ on exactly what you’re getting for a reported 2.5 million.

Signed after a surprising release from European giants Valencia, Gillingham took the Argentinian initially on trial before ensuring he put pen to paper on a two year contract after some impressive displays. He had to wait for his debut however until October when he got his first taste of first team football in a 3-1 defeat to Barnet. Despite conceding three goals, the Gills hierarchy and supporters alike knew they had something special here in the form of an eccentric, yet very agile, confident young 20 year old goalkeeper.

But I won’t bore you with the background stuff. What you Saints fans really want to know is how good this kid really is and can be right? Well the truth is that many Gills fans regard him as the best young prospect to have played at Priestfield in recent years. Like every 20 year old keeper he is prone to mistakes and of course is far from the finished article, just look at Man United’s De Gea. But ‘Gazza’ does have an abundance of confidence paired with a maturity that see’s him perform years above his age. Like the modern day Goalkeeper should be, Paulo’s shot stopping ability is first class but what struck me the most is his distribution which was frighteningly impressive for a young lad playing on a cold, bleak tuesday evening in league 2.

It was reported that over 22 scouts watched Gazzaniga last season with a whole host of Premier League clubs declaring an interest. I can safely say that although he is still a raw talent who needs a lot of coaching if he is to be the player he should, what Southampton have is an extremely talented young goalkeeper who will fast become a fans favourite once he starts playing on a regular basis. His infectious personality twinned with his desire to win and keep on improving make him a gem.

By the way as a footnote, thanks for giving us Forecast, I hear the lads so bad in goal he couldn’t save a file on Microsoft Word.

Up the Gills”

Thanks to Liam for his input. With a forward, a central midfielder, a right back and now a goalkeeper on board, it seems Saints transfer business is taking shape. A winger and a centre half to come? Watch this space.

Chris

You’ve got to And it to Anders…

The other night I was thinking about that most contentious of issues. The underrated player.

Mainly because, somebody who I have been hailing for some time now is seemingly getting the recognition that he deserves. That man is Richard Chaplow whose performances of late have showed why his £50k price tag and place in Preston’s reserves seems even more ludicrous now than it did at the time when we signed him.

I am a sucker for an underrated player. Those that some just don’t seem to get. I recently wrote a piece on Guly along the same lines, who has since put in a match winning performance at Coventry, yet I still saw comments from fans that other than score and have a hand in the other three goals, didn’t really do a lot…

I put the question to the Saints Twitter faithful on who was Saints most underrated player, and of course the opinions were varied. Suggestions ranged from Perry Groves to Agustin Delgado to Franny Benali to Jo Tessem and current players Ryan Dickson and Danny Butterfield also got mentions. The player that got the most votes was Chris Marsden, but as Sam Dobson pointed out and I am inclined to agree, Marsden is actually pretty highly regarded amongst Saints fans.

One player that didn’t register a single mention, but one that I always felt was sometimes misjudged by fans is likely to line up at Wembley against England on Tuesday for his 122nd or 123rd international cap.

Anders Svensson joined Saints in the summer of 2001 from Elfsborg for a fee of £750k by then caretaker manager Stuart Gray, the 24 year old Swede came in as a relative unknown to the fans, but already had sixteen international caps to his name.

Initially signed as an attacking midfielder to replace the outgoing Hassan Kachloul, Gray expected big things of the Swede “Anders can play off the front man or in midfield. He’s not an out-and-out striker but is certainly a forward-thinking midfield player who pops up in that area.”

Anders Svensson. Turning his opponents inside out.

Svensson was brought in to liven up a goal-shy Saints midfield that had netted just three goals between them in the previous season, and he provided that outlet with some success. Svensson got six goals in his first season, but more notably provided some much needed creativity that saw Marian Pahars race to fourteen goals for the season. As Saints turned their early season poor form around under new boss Gordon Strachan, Svensson was rapidly becoming a key player in the side. Mostly used in central midfield but sometimes on the left Svensson was never really used in his favoured position playing off of a front man, but nonetheless his contributions were notable.

He starred at that summers world cup, famously scoring the free kick that knocked Argentina out!

The 2002/03 season is one that will be forever engrained on every Saints fans mind. Anders played a key role in the side that finished 8th in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final. Although he started less games than he had the previous season, his starring role and brilliant individual goal against Spurs in the 3rd round of the cup was his stand out performance in a Saints shirt.

Often accused of inconsistency, he was regularly accused of not trying, and the 2003/04 season proved to be the beginning of the end for Anders in a Saints shirt. Gordon Strachan left in February 2004, and Paul Sturrock came in March. If anyone in the squad wasn’t a Sturrock type of player it was Svensson and he ended the season having played almost as many games from the bench as he had started. He didn’t find the net once.

2004/05 was another season that will never be forgotten, but for very different reasons. Under messrs Wigley and Redknapp, Svensson was used more frequently but as Saints bimbled to a sorry end to the season and relegation it was clear that the Swede’s future lie elsewhere.

Svensson battles the dutch to secure Euro 2012 qualification.

It was strongly rumoured that Svensson was offered a new contract by Saints, but he was a better player than the Championship, so it was no surprise to me that he decided to move on.  What did shock me was his destination, returning to his former club Elfsborg on a free transfer.

That move hasn’t hindered him at all from an international point of view, though I can’t help thinking there is a certain amount of wasted potential in Svensson. His move to Saints started promisingly but perhaps we, or at least the managers and coaches of the club are as guilty for that as anybody. I think that perhaps we had a very talented footballer at our disposal but weren’t prepared to change our formation or style to maximise his impact.

Now aged 35, he is still with Elfsborg and still playing a key role for his country. He is the Swedish vice-captain to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and second only to the great Thomas Ravelli in caps, ahead of such notable players as Olof Mellberg and Henrik Larsson.

He was part of the Sweden side that secured qualification for Euro 2012 with a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands last month and can hopefully look forward to appearing at a fifth major championship.

So look out for Anders at Wembley on Tueday night and wonder what might have been. Perhaps his time to arrive in the English game was a little too soon, and with the wrong managers…

Chris

p.s. Saints fans, don’t forget to check out our competition!

Design For Life…..

Amongst the humdrum of pre-season gossip and speculation, Saints fans were able to concentrate their optimism on not only who might be coming in and out at St. Mary’s, but also on the design of the new strip.

After taking a break from the traditional Red & White striped offerings of previous years for last seasons 125th anniversary celebrations, the “sash” was released to very mixed reviews, and the anticipation of a striped return reached fever pitch over the summer.

This got me thinking. How important is kit design? We took a notable scalp in one of the Premier Leagues most infamous games, when we defeated Manchester United in 1996. Sir Alex Ferguson blamed the sides grey change strip for their first half hammering and made them change into Blue & White in the second half. Which they won 1-0.

Are stripes a particularly successful kit design? On the face of it no. There are notable exceptions of course. AC Milan and Juventus have had some results in their time, and Barcelona look likely to reign in European football forever, yet Crystal Palace, who adorn the same stripe design as the Catalan club aren’t likely to danger Manchester United in a Champions League semi final any time soon.

Argentina have twice been crowned world champions in stripes (although they were in their plain blue change strip for one final victory), and of course, they cheat.

Saints new shirt - Return of the Stripes. Image courtesy of @MrGlennJones

Domestically, it is a tale of woe for the striped teams. In the FA Cup you have to go all the way back to 1987 for a striped winner, when underdogs Coventry City shocked Spurs, a staggering five teams in stripes (though Saints wore their away yellow) have been runners up in that time. In fact, unless I am mistaken, there have only been twenty one FA Cup winners who play in stripes, many of which are the same club several times, and many of which may not have played in stripes in the final. There have been twenty seven runners up.

In the League Cup it isn’t much better. Sheffield Wednesday were the last stripe wearing winners in 1991, and only they again have since made the final, runners up in 1993. Actually, and I am hoping someone will prove me wrong on this, but it seems there have only ever been two striped winners. Wednesday of course, and Stoke in 1972. There have been six runners up.

There have been one hundred and twelve seasons of the football league. Striped winners? Nineteen. As famously taken this May, Manchester United have this many on their own.

So are stripes a hinderance? Are they simply bad luck?

From Saints personal viewpoint, there have been some differing results, which give some disappointing outcomes for the stripe lover. We had our highest ever league finish in 1983/84 wearing a “thirds” of white surrounded by red sleeves. We won our solitary FA cup in solid yellow, and of course last season we secured promotion in the sash.

But what does all this mean? Well nothing. The fact is, less teams play in stripes, so less trophies is a given. Only one side outside the top four has won the FA Cup since 1995, and they did it with ill gotten gains. From a Saints perspective, and without looking to upset anyone, we aren’t exactly overrun with silverware anyway.

The likes of the aforementioned Juventus, Milan and Barca are trophy laden giants in Europe, even Saturday’s opponents Atletico Bilbao have had some success over the years, and they have done it using a red & white striped kit inspired by us! The nerve.

Had Roman Abramovich tipped up in 2003 and poured his billions into Sunderland instead of Chelsea, I am sure the FA Cup and League winners tallies would have a few more striped scores on them.

It is probably naïve to think that these days, clubs don’t have some sort of psychologist having an input on kit design, but then surely they would all come to the same conclusions, and clubs would all be changing to the same pattern?

The fact is you make your own fortune, and with the right personnel, tactics, coaches, finances, luck and fanbase any team can be a world beater and they can do it whatever kit they like.

To end this pointless yet informative piece , I can quote the Bill Murray film “Stripes”

“A hundred dollar shine on a three dollar pair of shoes”.

It’s about what is underneath the shirts not how they look.

Chris