Southampton have astonishingly announced the sacking of manager Nigel Adkins, deciding to appoint little known Mauricio Pochettino as his replacement.
Adkins had come under pressure from the board earlier in the season following three consecutive defeats to West Ham, Tottenham and West Brom in October, and he admitted himself that his position looked unstable.
However, results have improved since then and the Saints currently lie three points clear of the relegation zone having only lost two of their last twelve Premier League games. Adkins recently guided his team to important victories over Newcastle, Reading, Aston Villa and QPR, all teams below them in the league, and managed impressive draws against both Chelsea and Arsenal.
On all accounts the decision comes across as extremely rash and there are few commentators who can justify it. Club legend Matt le Tissier was especially critical of the decision via his twitter account, referring to the club as a “laughing stock”.
The social media world erupted as news of the sacking broke, mostly in disbelief that the man who had inspired Southampton to back-to-back promotions had been, as the club statement put it, “relieved of his duties”.
In his statement, club chairman Nicola Cortese said: “This decision has been made with long-term ambitions of Southampton Football Club in mind. 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.”
Adkins was named as manager in September 2010 and brought Southampton from League One football up to the Premier League. Cortese’s five-year-plan for Premier League football was attained with two years to spare, but his focus has now switched to turning Southampton into a team that will for European football.
For him, Adkins was not the man to fulfil these expectations, and instead has chosen to mercilessly sack him and appoint the Argentine Pochettino as his replacement.
The move is a massive gamble. Pochettino was previously manager of Espanyol, but he left the club bottom of La Liga after a terrible run of form, picking up just nine points in thirteen games. Nonetheless, the Spanish media speak highly of the Argentine.
They describe him as a gentleman, but more importantly liken his managerial style to that of Michael Laudrup or Pep Guardiola, so we can hope to see Southampton play some attractive in the future.
Only time will tell if the gamble will pay off. Mauricio Pochettino has no experience of English football, did not succeed at Espanyol and does not speak English so it is hard to see the Argentine having an immediate positive impact at the club.
First of all he will have to confront a shocked squad and then will have to set about winning the fans over, starting Monday night at home to Everton. Whatever the result of his appointment, the decision to sack Nigel Adkins will remain bizarre and unbelievably harsh.