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Underrated Managers in the Premier League: Mauricio Pochettino

Football can be a cut-throat world. The Barclays Premier League is a gruelling, intense and often cruel competition; success is all that matters. For any manager, time is never your friend. When a side is winning, scoring goals and taking the three points, everybody loves you. The press flatter, fans support and the table becomes a welcomed sight.

But when your side are losing, things aren't so rosy. Suddenly the headlines are calling for the sack, rumours start to spread, fans begin to protest against your managerial reign and the table looks ominous. This season has already claimed the jobs Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway and Italian 'charlatan' Paolo Di Canio.

But for one manager in particular, this season is starting to look increasingly favourable. I'm talking, of course, about the seemingly unknown Argentine who barely speaks a word of the English language, Mauricio Pochettino of Southampton F.C.

When Pochettino was announced as the manager of Southampton in January earlier this year, few had even heard of him. Despite playing for a number of years at Espanyol in La Liga, Paris Saint-Germain in the French top tier and representing his native Argentine on the international stage, including appearances at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Pochettino had somehow gone entirely undetected amongst English audiences.

Reaplacing Nigel Adkins was always going to be a tall order. Adkins was the man responsbile for Southampton's footballing revival. Returning from the abyss of League One, Adkins steered the club back to the top, as a result of successive promotions. Upon hearing the news of his firing, and Pochettino's appointment, few fans welcomed the managerial change.

Former Southampton manager and vice-president of the League Manager's Association Lawrie McMenemy, talking to Radio 5 Live at the time, slated the decision. "With due respect to Pochettino, what does he know about our game? What does he know about the Premier League? What does he know about the dressing room, does he speak English?"

The Southampton board were quick to defend their actions. Chairman Nicola Cortese said in a statement "This decision has been made with the long-term ambitions of Southampton Football Club in mind. Mauricio is a well-respected coach of substantial quality who has gained a reputation as an astute tactician and excellent man manager."

Pochettino's first match in charge was a 0-0 tie with Everton at St. Mary's Stadium. Talk of white-hankie protests over Nigel Adkins' in the days previous dominated the build-up, though an icy reception never materialised and the new man was instead warmed by a promising performance from his side.

It was still early days for the Argentine. Fans were still dubious at his appointment, unsure of his approach, though surprise wins against reigning champions Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea went some way to easing Saints anxiety. Southampton finished the 2012/2013 season 14th in the table, four places from the relegation zone.

It is this season, however, that Pochettino has perhaps stunned most fans. Currently 5th, above Manchester United and Tottenham and equal on points with Manchester City, Southampton are proving tough opposition. Well-drilled, disciplined and tricky to score against, Pochettino seems to have instilled a certain flair to their attack which was lacking under Adkins.

With England forwards Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez, this current Saints side boasts a number of internationals who have won this season against several established teams. An away win at Anfield and a last minute equaliser at Old Trafford have cemented Pochettino's position at the helm.

The style of football that he has looked to create suits this Southampton side. Wide players such as Lallana and Rodriguez often counter with such pace that few teams can cope with the intensity. And with long-serving Saints striker Rickie Lambert up top, the goals just keep on coming. It's entertaining football; it's about possession, passing their way through teams and attacking with intent. Even Bayern chief and former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola was once reported to have said he identifies with Pochettino's style of play.

And last month, to cap Southampton's incredible success, Pochettino claimed the 'Barclays Manager of the Month' award for October last month. His achievements on the English south coast have not gone unnoticed; amid growing concern over Andre Villas-Boas' position at Tottenham Hotspur, the name Pochettino is being mentioned as a potential replacement.

It might be too early to talk of a potential Champions League challange, but this Southampton side have consistently surprised the football world - would you write them off? I wouldn't. Now it seems the man who nobody had even heard of in January, Mauricio Pochettino, manages a Southampton side which has entirely forgotten its predecessor, Nigel Adkins.

Pity his grasp of the English language is so poor. (Come on, he had to have a flaw?)

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