One of the strangest managerial departures of the last few seasons came in January 2013 when Nigel Adkins’ contract was terminated with Southampton. After 3 progressive and successful years at the club, Adkins secured The Saints back-to-back promotion and was steadily climbing away from the relegation zone when the axe fell.
Southampton were quick to replace the former Scunthorpe United manager with Argentine, Mauricio Pochettino, who came to the Premier League off the back of being terminated from La Liga side, Espanyol. Doubt surrounded the Argentine’s ability to coach an English side without any prior knowledge of the English league. What Pochettino achieved at Saints in his short time in England has been impressive and has quietened down those who lambasted the club’s decision to terminate Adkins’ contract.
Now after just 18 months in the job, Pochettino has left Southampton to fulfil the empty seat left by Tim Sherwood at Tottenham. He takes over a squad with a wealth of talent that underperformed last season because of managerial changes, a frail defensive line and an inconsistent pair of strikers.
Pochettino’s first job will be to come in and clear a lot of the dead weight currently occupying Tottenham’s squad and replace them with players of a high calibre. With 8 players vying for two midfield places, Pochettino will have to decide early on which players will be best suited for his much preferred 4-2-3-1 position and the formation Spurs played with for the majority of last season.
First on the chopping block is likely to be Brazilian, Sandro. The defensive midfielder had a rather public row with former manager, Tim Sherwood last season that kept him out of the team and with Paulinho, Dembele, Capoue (when fit), and Bentaleb all capable of playing that midfield role, Sandro could find himself closer to the Tottenham door than ever before. Sandro’s attitude may have put himself on the chopping block but his stats speak for themselves as to why he deserves to stay. Sandro’s interceptions double Paulinho’s and in fewer games, Sandro made more tackles and won more aerial 50-50’s than Paulinho.
One man who looked to be leaving last season was Michael Dawson and it appears this season could be his last at Spurs. In and out of the Captain’s armband under Andre Villas Boas, Dawson is prone to a defensive error (4 last season), and no longer looks like a player capable of playing in a top 4 team. A icon at the club and one of a few players in that side who seem dedicated to the badge, Spurs seem to be keeping Dawson for nostalgic reasons more than footballing reasons. Should Spurs and Pochettino manage to acquire Lovren from Southampton, it’s likely Dawson will drop down the pecking order. For a man who played 31 games last season, it’s unlikely Dawson will be happy playing second fiddle when clubs such as QPR are interested in his signature.
If Soldado doesn’t get off to a good start this season, it’s likely the Spaniard will begin to entertain offers from Spain once more. Cutting a despondent figure last season, Soldado only managed 6 goals in 22 appearances and struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League. In Valencia’s setup, Soldado was always the focal point of the attacks, at Spurs, the Spaniard has often had to play second fiddle to Adebayor and has found it difficult to adapt to the power of the English game. If Pochettino can get the best out of Soldado, the striker could find his goalscoring boots once more and help Tottenham fight for top 4.
Pochettino’s record at Southampton showed his ability to turn an average side into a safe mid-table contender. With a squad of Tottenham’s depth and quality, it will be incredibly interesting come the transfer window to see who Pochettino keeps, and who gets the boot. If Pochettino is capable of replicating Southampton’s performances against the big teams last season, something that cost Spurs dearly, Spurs may well be capable of challenging for top 4.