Southampton: The 2013/14 Season Preview
1) 2012/13 season review
It can be said that the 2012-2013 Premier League season was shaped by two key moments for Southampton.
The first was on a cold mid-November afternoon in West London. A match dubbed ‘El Sackico’ between Saints and fellow strugglers QPR, resulted in only the second win of the season for Nigel Adkins’s side, and a first on the road. Southampton produced a superb performance to relieve the pressure on their manager, and heap further misery on the under-fire Mark Hughes and QPR.
From that game, Saints pushed on, going two games unbeaten against Newcastle United and Norwich. They signed off for 2012, with two fantastic away draws at Stoke and Fulham – teams with notoriously good home records.
The second key moment involved perhaps the most unjust sacking of a manager in recent times. On 18th January – after leading his side to back-to-back promotions from League 1 – Adkins was sacked as the club’s manager following a remarkable comeback at the home of the European Champions, Chelsea, to earn a point.
He left Saints 15th in the league; 3 points clear of the relegation zone, with a far superior goal difference. After finally seeming to get to grips with the top division in England, Southampton’s Premier League future was plunged back into uncertainty.
Fan favourite Adkins’s replacement was announced the same day. Little-known Argentinean, Mauricio Pochettino took over the reins, having been sacked as manager of Espanyol in late November, with the Catalan-based team bottom of La Liga with 9 points from 13 games.
And so the Pochettino era began with a solid 0-0 draw with Everton in front of a relatively subdued St. Mary’s, on a bitter Monday night down on the south-coast. With only Vegard Forren – who didn’t make a single appearance – added to the squad in January, Pochettino’s task was simple. Continue what many thought Adkins was successfully doing – picking up the points necessary to stay up.
But after seven games and only one win – albeit a 3-1 home victory over the champions Manchester City – Pochettino’s side sat precariously close to the relegation zone. This all changed as an inspired last minute penalty save from Artur Boruc against Norwich preserved a precious away point and sparked Pochettino’s players into life.
11 points from the next five games followed, including home wins against Chelsea and Liverpool. By mid-April, Southampton’s Premier League survival had all but been confirmed. Despite the season fizzling out with flat performances, 14th place was extremely respectable for a side enjoying their first campaign season back in the big time after a seven year break.
Talismanic striker Rickie Lambert finished as the joint top English goal scorer with Frank Lampard as he contributed 15 goals to Saints’ cause, along with 5 assists. Without a doubt, however, Morgan Schneiderlin was the club’s top performer, leading the league in tackles and interceptions, as well as having an exceptional passing success rate.
With his five goals not to be forgotten as well, it was one to remember for the 23-year-old Frenchman.