Monday, 15 April 2013

The Pochettino effect

Southampton have had a roller-coaster first season back in the Premier League, the Saints supporters have witnessed stacks of good performances which have kept them optimistic throughout the campaign, but a lack of positive results towards the end of 2012 saw popular manager Nigel Adkins sacked in the new year.

Mauricio Pochettino
More recently, Southampton have found a patch of form under their new Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino, who has beaten Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea since joining the club. The players look more composed and seem to have found a new self-belief within themselves as they have adopted the new high-tempo, pressing style of play.

The main concern for Southampton fans this season has been their defence, goals were being leaked endlessly at the beginning of the season when Arsenal put six past Adkins' side at the Emirates, they were also thrashed by West Ham at Upton Park, and more latterly, Chelsea in the FA Cup.

However, since Pochettino has been at the helm, the Southampton back four have looked considerably more stable. The two centre-halfs (Jos Hooiveld and Maya Yoshida) have dramatically improved considering the pair conceded goals for fun before the Argentine's arrival. People should recall that these two defenders were being inconsistently chosen for the starting 11 under Adkins, something Pochettino has changed. Jose Fonte was the more favoured centre-back under Adkins, but after picking up an injury during the 5-1 defeat to Chelsea, the Portuguese defender has found it difficult breaking back into the defence.

Hooiveld and Yoshida have become one of the most composed and reliable defensive partners in the Premier League recently. The pair conceded just one goal in each game against top teams like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Admittedly, they were unable to keep clean sheets, but those three sides have some of the best strikers in the world who have played in major competitions.

As the season draws to an end, teams in the relegation battle must be tight defensively as goal-difference becomes more of an issue, one of the many things Southampton have made sure of since the arrival of Pochettino and co.

When Adkins was sacked by Nicola Cortese, Saints were dangerously sitting three points above the relegation zone in 15th, now, under Pochettino and with confidence running through the whole team, the Saints are considered safe from the relegation battle by some due to their fine form and recent results. The 'magic 40 points' are commonly known to be enough to keep any team in the Premier League for another season and Saints are just two points away from that barrier.

Jay Rodriguez is another player who has improved his performances since Pochettino's arrival, the promising forward has looked more comfortable playing upfront with Rickie Lambert, running at opposing players and using his pace as a primary strength.

New signing Vegard Forren is yet to even be considered as an option for the starting 11 as Hooiveld and Yoshida are continuing to impress at the back, in front of Artur Boruc, who has also found some self-belief and confidence between the sticks.

Southampton fans can expect to wait a little longer yet until they see Forren in action, but there will be bantam complaints as Pochettino proceeds to inject his players with confidence and sharpness. A mid-table finish could attract more world-class players to the club during the summer, especially with coup signing Gaston Ramirez at St Mary's.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Ross looking to end on a high note

Weston forward Ross Stearn has taken to his second stint at the club like a duck-to-water, having already scored 10 goals for the club this campaign, but the 22-year-old has other things on his mind as the season draws to a close.

Stearn, a former Bristol City and Yeovil Town player, has set his sights on breaking a club record. The highest ever Weston league finish is 11th, and with the Seagulls currently sitting just outside the play-offs Stearn is confident of rewriting history.

He said: "With only 10 games to go and currently sitting sixth in the table, I think we have left ourselves with a great opportunity."

Stearn has strong beliefs that the club are constantly improving their stature, and that Seagulls manager Craig Laird has had a major role in the progress.

"For the club, I think it is important that you improve your league position every year, it shows that you are improving as a group and as individuals. Since the manager has come to this club they have done that which shows what a good job he has done since taking over three years ago."

The former Chippenham Towm man has settled in well at Weston and only has good things to say about his first season back at the club.

"I have been very pleased with my first season so far in the Blue Square South and hopefully that will continue until the end of the season, it would be great to top it off by finishing in the play-offs.

"We have proved we are more than capable of playing alongside these sides and with the results we have had over the last few weeks we have given ourselves a massive chance if sneaking into the play-offs." he said.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Bradley Bubb hopes to play his Cards right

Aldershot loanee Bradley Bubb is currently considering his options as the striker's current contract is up at the end of the season.

Bradley Bubb in action for Woking

Bubb, 24, is currently enjoying a successful loan spell at Blue Square Premier side Woking, where the Cards' top scorer has been on fire this season bagging 13 goals in as many league matches, but the Grenadian international has admitted his future with parent club Aldershot Town is currently in doubt with Andy Scott's recent appointment as manager.

“It's not down to me whether I go back to Aldershot or not, with the new Gaffer coming in I don’t know his plans yet. It would be nice to go back and play for them as they are a Football League team.” Bubb said.

But with the striker's contract up in the summer, Bubb revealed his perfect scenario at the end of the season would be to join a Football League side, although he is leaving his options open, “To get another professional team, hopefully Woking will be an option, it depends if the new Gaffer wants me.”

“I haven’t had any talks with him at the moment, hopefully I can impress and he can give me a chance next year”, Bubb continued.

Magpie Wall's got it Maid!

Maidenhead United have confirmed that two bids for young forward Alex Wall have been placed by higher-league clubs.
Magpie striker set to leave: Alex Wall in action

Continued speculation surrounding Wall's future at the club has taken a new high following the confirmation that two bids for the striker had been rejected.

The 22-year-old has been in fine form this season for the Blue Square South outfit, who currently lie 14th in the league table. Wall has scored 12 goals in as many matches for the Magpies this campaign and appears to be impressing scouts from other clubs.

The first offer, received last Monday, was turned down by chairman Peter Griffin, but following the team's 1-0 defeat to Chesham United on Tuesday evening Maidenhead manager Johnson Hippolyte revealed a second party were interested, “We had another enquiry for him yesterday, they are going to get back to us in the next few days and we will go from there.”

Wall joined Maidenhead United in the summer of 2009 and began his Magpies career scoring 14 goals that season. The striker has featured as a first-team regular ever since and played a major part in keeping the side in the Blue Square South last season, as they escaped relegation by a single point.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Chelsea 2-2 Southampton

Saints battle to earn a deserved point at Chelsea

Southampton showed great courage to come-back from two goals down and steal a point at Stamford Bridge last night.
Nigel Adkins fielded a side which saw Jay Rodriquez alone upfront, with Jason Puncheon and Guly Do Prado on either side of a packed midfield. Steven Davis came into the side for Gaston Ramirez, who was named amongst the substitutes with Saints top goalscorer Rickie Lambert.

It was a bitterly cold evening in West London as both sides failed to create any clear cut chances in the opening stages, Chelsea were more dominant in possession but Southampton looked very well set-up defensively.

With Fernando Torres on the bench, the pressure was on Demba Ba to produce the goals for Chelsea and the first came 25 minutes in, Ba showed instinct and athleticism following Cesar Azpilicueta's cross into the box from the right-hand side.

As the half went on, Chelsea continued to pressure Southampton, but Adkins' men were resilient and proved difficult to break down. Jay Rodriguez was outnumbered upfront as Saints attempted a long-ball counter-attacking move in hope of an equaliser.

It was looking as though the Champions of Europe would go in at the break a goal to the good, but Eden Hazard doubled the Blues lead, Saints failed to clear their lines as Ramirez smashed a shot against the bar, the rebound fell straight to Hazard who struck the ball well past Artur Boruc in the Southampton goal.

The game seemed to be over at half-time, Chelsea were looking comfortable with their two-goal lead before the break.

The second half began much like the first had ended, Adkins felt a change was needed though and decided to bring on the leading English scorer in the Premier League, Rickie Lambert for Rodriquez.

It took the talisman just two minutes and 47 seconds to find the net, Nathaniel Clyne beat his man and floated an accurate ball in towards Lambert, who looped a superb header passed Petr Cech.

After the goal, Saints had their tails up and were looking more likely to complete a come-back. The Chelsea fans began to sound more and more frustrated with every pass which didn't reach its target.

Richard Chaplow was introduced to the game for Steven Davis, a change which looked to add some fresh legs for a hard-working Southampton midfield.

With 15 minutes remaining, young Luke Shaw raided forward down the left flank and his cross was allowed to bounce across the edge of the area, where it was met by Puncheon to take a touch and fire a fantastic strike past the helpless Cech.

Frank Lampard had a quiet game for Chelsea, but eyebrows were raised when Benitez decided to hoist him off for Torres with just 10 minutes to go.

Torres went out to the right wing, but had little impact as a substitute. The Southampton fans were making all the noise in the final stages and managed to carry their team over the line to pick up a well-earned point at Stamford Bridge.

The Saints moved up to 15th in the Premier League following the 2-2 draw at Chelsea.