There can’t have been many, Southampton fans or otherwise, who didn’t think the decision to replace Nigel Adkins with Mauricio Pochettino in January was a peculiar one.
And a harsh one at that, given that Adkins had masterminded successive promotions for the Saints, not to mention that his team weren’t exactly struggling on their return to the Premier League, sat in 15th place.
But, just eight months on, and the signs are that it was a brave and inspired masterstroke by chairman Nicola Cortese. The Saints are celebrating a 1-0 win at Anfield this weekend, Liverpool’s first defeat of the season, and lie in sixth place, just two points off second.
And while Pochettino is yet to master the English language, he’s certainly had no trouble adapting to the country’s football. He has gradually moulded his Southampton team, several of whom have been at the club since its League One days, into a side comfortable in possession, solid at the back and quick on the break.
It’s a continental model that’s seen consistent success for Huw Jenkins at Swansea in recent years, and with a similar transfer policy to the Swans – of shelling out big money on promising foreign talent – and a comparable focus on developing the youth ranks, there’s no reason why the Saints cannot enjoy similar success.
And given that Swansea are lining up in Europe for the first time this season, success does not simply comprise of staying in the division. Last year’s League Cup winners showed themselves capable of beating anyone on their day, and while the holders may find their progress in the Capital One Cup curtailed by European commitments this year, Southampton look just the sort of side capable of going all the way.
They set out their stall with an impressive 5-1 victory away at Championship side Barnsley in the second round, and with a home tie against Bristol City next up, they should find themselves comfortably in the last 16.
And with a number of all Premier League ties, including Man Utd vs Liverpool, reducing the competition in the latter rounds, the Saints look fantastically priced at 22/1 to win the Capital One Cup, a price that is sure to come in with more results like their win at Anfield.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.