Tag Archives: Mauricio Pochettino

What do Saints fans really want?

Last Saturday Saints played out an uninspiring draw at home to Watford in what for many was an Anti-Climax to the exciting build up to the start of the season.

Despite a much improved second half it is fair to say that most were left a little deflated by the result and performance against Watford. In many cases feelings ran a little high. In fact, I was staggered to see the level of reaction by many, which frankly resembled a particularly spoiled hysterical child who hadn’t got their own way.

One game into the season and the new manager, the new players, the tactics, the board and anything else related to the club was written off as not good enough. This was less knee jerk, more collective full body spasm. It was ugly.

I watched the game as usual with the Dubai Saints, who I have to say, on the whole are as level headed as you will find [a few years around the block will do that for you eh fellas ;-)]. But even we found ourselves getting into a fairly heated ‘discussion’ about the level of player investment and ‘ambition’ at the club. I’ve grown to hate that word in all honesty. What exactly is ambition? Some would argue finishing in an automatic qualification place for Europe is as ambitious as Saints can realistically get, others would say that the sky is the limit. There is no rules as to what determines ‘ambition’ and only the people in the boardroom will know what they see as a realistic achievement.

High hopes for JWP to push on under Puel.
High hopes for JWP to push on under Puel.

The centre of our well oiled debate in the ‘Francis Benali Stand’ of the Barasti Beach Bar was whether the club should stick with bringing kids through or spend big to improve the squad now.

It got me wondering what it  really is Saints fans want?

I’m yet to meet one who doesn’t take pride in the Academy at the club. When one of our ‘own’ turns out for England it gives us all a lift, and over the years we’ve all loved watching young players make their first team debut and go on to be stars in their own right. It’s something that sets us apart from other clubs. We know it and they know it. Parents are now trying to get their kids into Staplewood and not Carrington (Manchester United) and our facilities and coaching methods have become the blueprint for many of Europe’s top clubs. Ex-Southampton Academy graduates scoring 60% of the 7 goals in a much overhyped game between Arsenal and Liverpool at the weekend is the advertising that keeps the wheel turning!

We love this about our club. We love the fabled ‘pathway’. But at what cost?

Everybody likes to see their club sign players. These days it’s an obsession amongst fans, to the point where they aren’t even really bothered who it is, as long as there is a new face holding up their shirt. It’s all a little camp and kitsch, with the latest monstrosity coming from Manchester United when they announced Paul Pogba. With every passing season football becomes more like the X Factor, classless and lacking in any real substance whatsoever. This is heightened of course by massive fees, transfer deadline day and the hype that surrounds it. Has anyone in history not looked a dick in a yellow tie?

I rest my case.
I rest my case.

But still, we all like a new player through the door, and this Summer (and most Summers), Saints fans would have liked a few more. With exits in key positions again, most have been frustrated that like for like replacements have not been brought in.

But where do you draw the line? What is the right balance between keeping the ‘pathway’ and strengthening the squad.

Like it or not, and my impression is that most people do, Saints have positioned themselves in the market as a club that will accept first team players moving on for the right price, and might not necessarily replace them. Why? Because you cannot maintain the ‘pathway’ if you keep blocking it with big money foreign imports.

It’s a long term strategy and one not without it’s risks, but if Les Reed was to take an occasional glance at Saints supporting presences on the web (Hi Les!) he could be forgiven for placing his head in his hands when he sees the same people bemoaning Harrison Reed’s lack of playing time last season, crying over the club not replacing Wanyama this.

For the club to keep attracting the best players into the Academy at a young age there has to be continuous evidence that the club will give those kids a chance at the top level.  Logically, if you replace every player that leaves with a like for like copy those kids will be destined to never fulfil their potential at Saints, and eventually other kids will decide it’s not the place to be, especially as others catch up in terms of facilities and methodology.

My hunch is that the modern Southampton supporter would rather see big investment in players each Summer, some would still favour the pathway, while many will be honest enough to admit they aren’t bothered either way as long as the club keeps progressing.

The obvious answer, though there is no right one, is that the balance has to be correct. The club needs to find a workable solution where the kids get their chance, but the squad is strong enough to compete. I would say they had this pretty close under Mauricio Pochettino.

The blip in all this, was the reign of Ronald Koeman, and it didn’t surprise me when there was talk of the club not being overly disappointed that he was off. As good a job as he did, he took the organisation ‘off message’ and long term that wasn’t what the board wanted.

Claude Puel would appear to be the ‘anti-appointment’ to Koeman. A man with a track record of giving some pretty good players their first opportunities in France. Yes, the first game was a little underwhelming, but when have Saints’ opening day fixtures not been? Let’s give him a chance.

Tomorrow night, we take on Manchester United at Old Trafford. A huge money ‘name’ like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Paul Pogba could win the game for them, but then Matt Targett or James Ward-Prowse could win it for us. Which would be sweeter?

Keep the faith.

Kangaroo Court: Gaston or Gast-off?

Many things split the opinions of Saints fans, and Gaston Ramirez is certainly one of them.

The Uruguayan arrived with much promise, but for many he has flattered to deceive, while others think he’s been misused or not given the right amount of chances to show what he can do.

The latter argument has been fuelled most recently due to Gaston’s form for loan club Middlesbrough.

Ramirez has scored six goals in eleven appearances for the Teesiders and looks to be pulling the strings in their push for promotion,  but should Saints be utilising him better, or is this a flash in the pan and the club would be better off moving him on in the Summer?

I put it to the masses on twitter to decide.

The case for the Prosecution:-

@saint_al1976 ‘We all wanted Gaston to succeed – he was the face of a new era at Saints that washed away the memory of Record signing Rory Delap. We had beaten Liverpool to his signature – we had arrived in the big time. But something didn’t sit quite right with me from the start.

Signed on the back of a decent display in the 2012 Olympics “the Championship” equivalent of international football, he immediately looked sublimely gifted – but massively light-weight. Once the early season killer passes and the odd goal wore away with his confidence it was clear that opportunities would be limited in a bottom 5 team.

Pochettino should have been the perfect manager to get the best from Ramirez – unlocking his natural ability and adding that layer of intensity that had been so lacking. But it just never happened – and with willing runners like Steven Davis his chances again became limited. I truly believe that if Gaston had really had it in him, Mauricio would have persevered – but he didn’t. 

And finally we came to Ronald – a man who has worked with the very best in world football. Do you not think that if he felt Gaston was a world class player he would have made it happen at Saints? As it turned out he was allowed to leave for Hull on loan and was duly relegated playing a bit part role.

A string of goals in the Championship has now raised the question of whether Saints missed something, wasted an opportunity? But don’t kid yourselves, it’s still the part of you that wanted to believe. Fact is, the championship although tough, is slower. And in a top of the table team he will be afforded the time and space that would never be available in the top flight. Should he be promoted with Middlesbrough and get a second crack I wish him all the best. But I expect normal service to quickly resume.’

The case for the Defence:-

@TacoAli Cast your mind back to 22 September 2012. Saints were yet to win on their return to the Premier League but Aston Villa were in town and that would soon change. With Gastón pulling the strings in a number ten role, Saints won 4-1, and today the game is a remainder of what might have been.

To say Gastón hasn’t been given chances isn’t true; under Nigel Adkins, who clearly loved him as a player, and Mauricio Pochettino, who didn’t seem quite so keen, he was given chances. To say he didn’t take those chances is also untrue. Injuries and international duty hampered his development, especially under Pochettino, but when he played he always gave Saints something a bit different and invariable made things happen. He’s strong on the ball, capable of going past players with ease, has great vision and isn’t afraid to shoot from distance. Now he’s getting the chance to play regularly, it’s no surprise to see him tearing things up. 

Since Ronald Koeman’s been in charge, and perhaps more importantly Ralph Krueger chairman, Gastón’s been ostracized; shipped out on loan or left to rot not even getting on the bench. He’s been used as a stick to hit Nicola Cortese with, a symbol of the Italian’s apparent avarice and arrogance, rather than being utilised. When he came on against Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season he added some dynamism to Saints’ play and set up Sadio Mané’s equaliser. In those eleven minutes he did more than Jaunmi’s done all season, yet it was he who’s been deemed surplus to requirements, and the latter who remains at St. Mary’s, a bench-warmer in whom Koeman evidently has no confidence.

Gastón’s showed what he can do, but under Koeman he’s never had a chance to do it. When you consider some of the dire football we’ve played this season, that really is a shame.’

Verdict:-

Certainly one that was perhaps closer than I personally expected. Sometimes a player simply doesn’t fit at a club and does for whatever reason perform better elsewhere. It would probably best for all parties if Gaston gets a move away in the Summer. We’ll always have the corn rows.

World Cup of Saints Managers: Quarter Finals

For those of you that have been following, we started with 20 Saints managers past and present (ok, only one present) and now we are down to just eight!

To see the results of the Preliminary Round see here.

The results of the First Round Proper are in:-

Match 1:-

The last man to win a trophy for Saints ousting ex-player Chris Nicholl to progress to the last eight!

Match 2:-

The closest contest of the tournament so far, the ex-England boss claims victory over the ex-Scotland boss!

Match 3:-

It’s the end of the road for Souey, comfortably beaten by the man in the glass and his back to back promotions.

Match 4:-

The current boss and his highest ever Premier League finish is no match for the hapless Stuart Gray. Koeman marches on.

Match 5:-

Pochettino exits faster than you can say ‘translator’ as Lawrie Mac takes the tie of the round!

Match 6:-

What Luggy didn’t want to do here was concede an early sacking….

Match 7:-

Almost a whitewash for Strachan, we contacted him for comment, but he said he had more important things to do. Something about a yoghurt.

Match 8:-

Both men just happy to be involved. Except Pearson he remained angry despite comprehensive win.

So that concludes the First Round Proper. Pardew, Hoddle, Adkins, Koeman, McMenemy, Merrington, Strachan and Pearson will contest the Quarter Finals. Draw Below.

Quarter Final Match 1:-

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Quarter Final Match 2:-

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Quarter Final Match 3:-

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Quarter Final Match 4:-

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So that concludes the draw for the Quarter Finals! Who will make the last four? Voting concludes tomorrow at 1400.

World Cup of Saints Managers: 1st Round Proper

Yesterday saw the start of the ‘World Cup of Saints Managers’!

The results of the Preliminary Round are in:-

Match 1:-

Just goes to show that the draw can often do you no favours, as two of the bookies front runners faced off, and one of the fans favourites had to go. Ronald Koeman advances to the first round proper.

Match 2:-

No major surprise for me here, with the last man to bring silverware to St. Mary’s progressing.

Match 3:-

An early exit for Redknapp, and that can come as no shock. You have to ask yourself how bad your signings were though when the man that brought Ali Dia to the club knocks you out! Oh wait…. Calum Davenport.

Match 4:-

Another landslide, and you have to concede that the only chance Ian Branfoot had of progressing was if he had drawn Redknapp!

So that concludes the Preliminary Round. Ronald Koeman, Alan Pardew, Graeme Souness and Mauricio Pochettino join the remaining 12 ex-Saints bosses in the first round proper. Draw below.

1st Round Proper Match 1:-

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1st Round Proper Match 2:-

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1st Round Proper Match 3:-

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1st Round Proper Match 4:-

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1st Round Proper Match 5:-

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A HUMDINGER of a first round tie!

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1st Round Proper Match 6:-

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1st Round Proper Match 7:-

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1st Round Proper Match 8:-

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So that concludes the draw for the First Round Proper! Who will progress to tomorrow night’s quarter finals?

 

World Cup of Saints Managers

As far as jumping on the bandwagon goes, this is as shameless as it gets….

Seemingly started by Richard Osman of Pointless fame with his ‘World Cup of Chocolate, using the new twitter poll feature as a way of deciding who or what is the best at something in a Knockout competition is a bit a of harmless fun that has now been replicated for all sorts of subjects.

I decided to start my own ‘World Cup’ (although in retrospect it should be FA Cup) of Saints Managers.

This is just for fun. It doesn’t really decide anything, and based on the demographic of Twitter I only went back to Lawrie McMenemy (one of the clear favourites).  I also only included those who were permanent managers. Except I forgot Steve Wigley. Sorry Steve.

Here is the Entry List and their draw number:-

  1. Alan Ball
  2. Alan Pardew
  3. Chris Nicholl
  4. Dave Jones
  5. Dave Merrington
  6. George Burley
  7. Glenn Hoddle
  8. Gordon Strachan
  9. Graeme Souness
  10. Harry Redknapp
  11. Ian Branfoot
  12. Jan Poortvliet
  13. Lawrie McMenemy
  14. Mark Wotte
  15. Mauricio Pochettino
  16. Nigel Adkins
  17. Nigel Pearson
  18. Paul Sturrock
  19. Ronald Koeman
  20. Stuart Gray

I entered the numbers into an online random draw generator https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-cup-fixture-generator.htm and the fixtures were set.

As there were 20, this meant a preliminary round for eight of the managers. Here are the fixtures:-

Preliminary Round Match 1:-

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A MASSIVE first tie out of the hat!

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Preliminary Round Match 2:-

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Preliminary Round Match 3:-

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Preliminary Round Match 4:-

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So that concludes the draw for the Preliminary round. Who will make it to the First Round Proper?

Voting closes at 1400 today (27/01/2016).

 

Five players Saints should consider in January….

It’s always nice to have an outsider take a look at Saints, especially when things aren’t going as well as we’d like, so here is a guest post by 90 Digital on who Ronald might want to take a look at in January… N.B. This was written before Saturday’s defeat at Crystal Palace. – Chris

Southampton haven’t reached the heights of last year’s impressive campaign so far this season, and the recent 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa will have only exacerbated existing frustrations. Having previously stated that he didn’t plan to do any business in January, manager Ronald Koeman may need to reconsider his options if the Saints are to make an impression on the top six markets.

Here are five names that could potentially be arriving at St. Mary’s next month:

Charlie Austin

Queen’s Park Rangers’ Austin will be on many managers’ wish-lists this year, with Southampton reportedly leading the race to sign the forward. In a relegated-QPR side, Austin netted 18 goals in the Premier League last term, meaning that he’s highly regarded by several top-flight clubs as a top goal scorer.

Koeman’s hand may be forced into going in for the striker, especially if one of his prize assets, Graziano Pelle, is poached during the window. But the Southampton boss will be confident that a bid in the region of £10 million would be enough to secure Austin’s services for a Saints team that has struggled for goals in recent weeks.

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Andros Townsend

Things were looking very different for Townsend 12 months ago – he was a key member of Pochettino’s Tottenham side and his club form was rewarded in the form of England caps. But he’s been frustrated by a lack of playing time this season and he needs to leave White Hart Lane in order to resuscitate his international career, with Southampton a credible destination.

Koeman resisted going in for Townsend over the summer after Spurs put a £15 million valuation on the winger, but he’ll surely be available for less in January. Townsend is a direct runner and offers express pace, meaning that he’d certainly enhance Koeman’s offensive options, particularly if Manchester United target, Saido Mané, departs.

Giannelli Imbula

It would appear as if Koeman is preparing for the possible departure of Victor Wanyama in January, as Southampton have supposedly been monitoring midfielder Giannelli Imbula for a while. The 23-year-old only joined Porto in the summer, but is likely to be attracted by the bright lights of the Premier League.

The highly-rated Frenchman definitely wouldn’t be cheap, although after the sale of several big names in recent seasons, the South Coast club most probably have the cash available to them should they wish to pursue their man.

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Solly March

21-year-old Solomon March has played a key role in table-topping Brighton’s success in the Championship this season, which had subsequently made him a target for local rivals Southampton.

Koeman has apparently had March on his radar for the last 18 months or so, and the youngster’s excellent form over the first part of this season is likely to have convinced the manager of his quality. The England U-21 winger has a price tag of around £7.5 million, however, which Southampton may consider to be too much of a gamble.

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Sam Byram

Another Championship star under Koeman’s watch is Sam Byram of Leeds United who the Saints actually failed to sign last summer. The 22-year-old’s head has seemingly been turned by recent interest from a handful of Premier League clubs after rejecting the offer of a contract extension at Elland Road.

Consequently, Byram has been given an ultimatum by boss Steve Evans to decide where his future lies. Southampton will believe that they offer the best place for his development and will be further seduced by Byram’s current contract situation, which could see him being pinched for a fee in the region of £6-7 million.

We shouldn’t expect the Saints to be too busy this January – they sit in a comfortable position in the league and are not plagued by a lengthy injury list. Yet Koeman’s transfer policy may be dictated by incoming bids for his own players, although he may have a better chance of keeping his stars by adding a couple of marquee signings to the squad.

The Pochettino Era Laid to Rest

Saturday’s game with Spurs felt like a full stop on the hostilities between the Southampton fans and Mauricio Pochettino.

‘Ronald Koeman Day’ was marked with orange clothing and the chants from the St Mary’s crowd in what was a fantastic atmosphere generated by both sets of fans were more commonly in support of the current incumbent of the top job on the South Coast than vitriol towards his predecessor.

The fact is, Saints have moved on and while the nature of Mauricio Pochettino’s departure stung at the time, you’ll struggle to find a supporter now who doesn’t believe Koeman’s appointment has improved the club’s fortunes further.

The Argentinian, with his surname like a posh Italian coffee did a great job himself in his time at Saints and hopefully now that can be recognised with the merit it deserves amongst the…

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Saints can heap pressure on former boss Pochettino

All eyes will be on Southampton’s Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary’s on Saturday lunchtime.

For a neutral it is exactly the type of game you want for a televised fixture.

Two sides who are difficult to separate in terms of form and league position, both going for the same prize, and with the added requirement of ‘needle’ that surrounds the return of Mauricio Pochettino.

I wonder though if the vitriol from the home crowd aimed at the Argentine might be more tongue in cheek than particularly angry, given how the season has panned out.

Pochettino must look at his current position, and then look at Saints and feel pretty silly for his reasoning for leaving the South Coast.

For a club like Tottenham, missing out on the Champion’s League is becoming their ‘raison d’être’…

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The Future is bright at St. Mary’s!

What sets Southampton apart from other clubs these days is their investment in youth.

Enough has been said about it now and it is common knowledge that the Saints Academy is the best in Britain, and has been for some years.

Often people will point out though that the Southampton youth sides don’t win anything ‘so can’t be that good’, but in comparison to the youth teams of say Chelsea or Manchester City, the coaching staff of the Southampton Under 21’s are constantly losing their best players to the first team.

In last night’s Under 21 Premier League Cup final that was evident as Southampton faced off against Blackburn Rovers with nine players who have represented the senior side at some point either in this season or last.

Paulo Gazzaniga, Jason McCarthy, Matt Targett, Dominic Gape, Harrison Reed, Sam…

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Saints: A Year in Review Part Two

Following on from Part One we continue our review of 2014 carrying on from April!

April

Apr14

May

May14

June

To be continued…..