Grading Mauricio Pochettino's First 12 Months in Charge at Southampton

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Grading Mauricio Pochettino's First 12 Months in Charge at Southampton
Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Mauricio Pochettino recently celebrated his first anniversary as manager of Southampton. The Argentine took charge of the Saints for the first time on January 21 of last year, his first match a 0-0 draw with Everton.

When Pochettino took charge, Southampton had just drawn with Chelsea and  were 15th in the table with 22 points in 22 games. Currently, the South Coast club sits in ninth place with 32 points in 23 games. With such improvement, it would be easy to say that Pochettino's first year was a success. 

But there are other areas to examine to get a full picture of the impact a manager is having on a club.

 

Transfers

While former chairman Nicola Cortese handled most of the transfer negotiations, Pochettino certainly had a say in who has come into the club and who has left.

Since taking charge, Pochettino has made three major additions to the squad. Dejan Lovren has been a steal from Lyon, as the Croatian international has been one of the top center backs in the Premier League.

Sang Tan/Associated Press
Before his recent injury, Dejan Lovren was the key man in Southampton's back four.

Victor Wanyama has also been a solid signing. While the Kenyan hasn't contributed much offensively, he has been a regular starter when healthy and has helped solidify the Southampton defense with over three tackles per match, according to WhoScored.com.

Dani Osvaldo has been a mixed bag since joining the Saints. The Italian international has scored three goals, including a wonder strike against Manchester City.

However, the former Roma striker has spent the past month on the sidelines due to suspension. First, he served a three-match ban for violent conduct in a sideline incident against Newcastle United; he is currently serving a two-week ban imposed by the club for a training-ground altercation with Jose Fonte. It remains to be seen if the Italian will still be at the club on Saturday after the transfer window closes.

Grade: B+. The Osvaldo saga keeps this from being an A.

 

Academy

Southampton has a knack for producing young players like they were coming off of an assembly line. Pochettino had Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse as recent graduates to work into the first team when he arrived. In the past 12 months, the Saints gaffer has given three more academy graduates Premier League debuts.

Calum Chambers has proved that he has a bright future ahead of him. The 19-year-old has started 11 matches and has been interchangeable with incumbent right-back Nathaniel Clyne, giving Pochettino a nice dilemma as to who to start from week to week.

Sang Tan/Associated Press
Calum Chambers is the latest Saints academy graduate to impress in the Premier League.

Sam Gallagher earned his first Premier League start on Tuesday against Arsenal. The Scot showed good movement for someone that is 6'4" and had a couple of good chances. The 18-year-old scored his first senior goal for the club in Southampton's FA Cup victory against Yeovil Town last Saturday.

The third Saints academy player to make a Premier League debut for Southampton is Harrison Reed. While his time has been limited to one substitute appearance, the 19-year-old has been compared to Paul Scholes.

Grade: A-. Chambers looks like the real deal and Gallagher was tearing up the youth ranks before being promoted.

 

Tactics

The pressing style that Pochettino has brought to the South Coast has been a bit of a revelation. Instead of playing conservative and putting 10 men behind the ball against the big clubs, Southampton attacks the back line and midfielders to win the ball back in advanced positions. The result has been wins over some of the bigger clubs in the Premier League, such as Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.

On the other hand, Pochettino's tactics don't fare so well against lesser teams. In the past year, the Saints have lost home games to Queens Park Rangers, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa. If Southampton want to become challengers for European places, they must become more consistent in beating clubs from the lower half of the table.

When behind, Pochettino has mixed things up to become even more aggressive at times, such as playing three in the back or playing James Ward-Prowse as an outside back. More variation in formations each week would be a nice change.

Grade: B. Three points against Norwich City count just as much as three points against Manchester City.

 

Results

In Pochettino's 39 games in charge, the Argentine can boast of an even record: 12 wins, 12 losses, 15 draws.

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From the time he has taken over, the club has risen six places in the table and been as high as third this season. A top-half finish seems likely, which is the most a club can realistically hope for in their second season after promotion. After such a flying start to the season, some may be disappointed with the recent dry spell. But that would be harsh considering the injuries Southampton has suffered in recent weeks.

The Saints could perform a bit better in cup competitions as well. Southampton fielded a second-string side against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup and was eliminated in the Round of 16. Pochettino will get a chance to redeem himself as they face Sunderland once again in the FA Cup.

Grade: A-. Winning as much as you lose might not win you fans at many clubs, but that's easily good enough form to hush relegation talk, something Southampton heard plenty of last season.

 

Overall

Pochettino's first 12 months in the Premier League have gone pretty well. Being pretty much an unknown in England, despite managing in La Liga with Espanyol, the 41-year-old manager had his share of doubters when he took the position. 

Pochettino has impressed so much that he was among the rumored replacements when Andre Villas-Boas was sacked at Tottenham Hotspur. The Argentine hasn't been perfect, but he has done a very good job.

Overall Grade: B+

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