Last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Queens Park Rangers made it one win in six games for new Southampon manager Mauricio Pochettino. After replacing the popular and harshly treated Nigel Adkins, the former Argentina defender needs to start picking up wins or Southampton will be relegated. Saturday’s match at Carrow Road against Norwich is the stereotypical ‘six pointer’.
A win for Norwich could take them tenth and pretty much seal their place in the Premiership next season. Chris Hughton has done a fine job taking over the reins from Paul Lambert and may even fancy his chances of finishing in the top half, given Fulham sit in tenth only one point ahead of the Canaries. For Southampton, a win could open up a six point gap to the relegation places, and with a resurgent Liverpool and then Chelsea to come to St Mary’s in their next two games, it is a cushion they could do with.
If the Saints lose they could find themselves level on points with 18th place Aston Villa, who travel to Reading in another ‘six pointer’. After Chairman Nicola Cortese decided to sack Nigel Adkins after the ex-Scunthorpe manager had led Southampton to two consecutive promotions, relegation would spell a disaster and spread discontent amongst the fans. Performances have been good as Southampton battled to a goalless draw with Everton in Pochettino’s first game, then narrowly lost at Old Trafford to Manchester United, but points on the board are what really matters.
Upon Pochettino’s unveiling in January, Cortese said in a statement:
'This decision has been made with the long-term ambitions of Southampton Football Club in mind. Whilst we acknowledge the contribution Nigel has made during the past two years, for the club to progress and achieve our long-term targets a change was needed.
'Mauricio is a well-respected coach of substantial quality who has gained a reputation as an astute tactician and excellent man-manager. I have every confidence that he will inspire our talented squad of players to perform at the highest possible level.
'He also shares my belief that the most successful clubs are built by nurturing young players through a development system that provides a clear path to the first team, thereby creating a culture that keeps them at the club for the long term.
'This is an approach he has employed with great success in the past and I look forward to him bringing that experience and expertise to Southampton.'
Given that Adkins was on a run of four losses in 13 Premier League games and was promoting youth like young left back Luke Shaw (who has subsequently found himself on the bench under Pochettino), Nathaniel Clyne, James Ward-Prowse and Jack Cork, it seems bizarre that Cortese would seek a change of management. If Southampton are relegated it will expose the chairman’s folly, but that is of no significance to the Saints supporters.
Southampton have some eminently winnable games in the run in, including trips to Reading and Sunderland, and visits from West Ham and a out of form Stoke on the final day. However, Pochettino needs a win now before the decision to appoint him is viewed as a disaster. One win in six could become one win in nine and Southampton could find themselves deep in the relegation zone. That makes Saturday’s trip to Norwich crucial.
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