Nigel Adkins was relived of his duties as Southampton manager Friday after serving as the Saints' manager for two-and-a-half seasons.
Adkins will be replaced by Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino, who left La Liga side Espanyol in November after 161 games in charge over five seasons.
While in charge, Adkins led Southampton to back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League, where Southampton currently sit in 15th place with 22 points from 22 games. In three seasons, Adkins guided the Saints to 67 wins against just 32 losses and 25 draws.
“This decision has been made with the long-term ambitions of Southampton Football Club in mind," Southampton Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese said in a statement on the club website. "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."
The move comes at a surprising time, as Southampton has been on a decent run of form. Southampton rallied from 0-2 down to earn a draw at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. The Saints are currently unbeaten in their last five Premier League games, winning once and drawing four.
Adkins was certainly under fire earlier in the season. Harry Redknapp and Rafael Benitez were both rumored to be potential replacements back in September after Southampton got off to a sluggish start, mostly due to a brutal schedule. Adkins was known to make some interesting lineup decisions, such as not starting Rickie Lambert or Gaston Ramirez against Chelsea on Wednesday.
But the switch wasn't likely related to the run of form or tactical decisions. Cortese hinted that it was a clash of vision for the future of the club.
“(Pochettino) 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,” Cortese said in a club statement.
Pochettino worked closely with the youth system at Espanyol, redesigning the setup according to Sid Lowe of The Guardian. This was a necessity as Espanyol often lost their best players, unable to keep them because of financial difficulties with the club.
"There is a clear vision to take the club to a new era of sustained success in the Premier League and beyond, which I’m delighted to be part of, Pochettino said in a club press statement posted on the team website.
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Pochettino's players described his practice sessions as fun, but intense. It's a playing style that has been carried onto the pitch during games, as the Argentinian prefers a high-tempo, high-pressure style of football.
“I’m an aggressive manager, in the positive sense, and I like to play dynamic, pressure football with an attacking nature that the fans can be proud of watching their team," Pochettino said in another article on the Southampton website.
Pep Guardiola reinforced Pochettino's style in Lowe's article in The Guardian.
"There are teams that wait for you and teams that look for you. Espanyol look(ed) for you. I feel very close to their style of football," Guardiola said.
Pochettino will run training on Saturday ahead of Southampton's clash with Everton on Monday. The new manager will have one problem: He doesn't speak English well, as proven in this clip from his press conference today.
Pochettino doesn't think that will be a problem though.
“Football is an international language and we’ve seen many other examples of (managers not speaking the native language), Guardiola in Germany for example and it’ll be hard for him," Pochettino said. “I hope in the short period of time that I will be able to stand in front of everyone speaking English.
Pochettino will have one new face joining him on Saturday. Southampton also announced on Friday that Norwegian defender Vegard Forren had agreed to a transfer from Norwegian Tippeligaen champions Molde FK for an undisclosed fee, rumored to be around 4.2 million by The Daily Mail. Forren won the Golden Ball as the best player in Norway last November.