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Southampton Aiming For Champions League Qualification In Two Years

Currently showing immense intent to pursue the aspirations of the motivated chairman, Southampton are continuing their journey to rise up the English soccer ladder.

Understandably, the Italian chairman was doubted when he decided to sack Nigel Adkins in January last season, following a run of just two league losses in 12 matches. However, you would struggle to find a Southampton supporter who would disagree with the chairman’s decision to replace Adkins with Mauricio Pochettino having already seen off Liverpool home and away, Chelsea, Manchester City and picking up a point at home to Arsenal since taking over as Saints’ manager.

The new-styled pressing approach was evident from the first match that the Argentine took over against Everton back in January, but it is now becoming obvious that the Saints team have developed and responded to the manager’s aims since coming over to Southampton.

Some would argue that Pochettino’s side failed to pick up a point at Norwich this season, or even beat a weakened West Ham United team at home, but the Saints side of last season had only picked up three league wins before Christmas, losing to West Brom, Wigan and the Hammers. Ian Holloway’s struggling Crystal Palace team head to St. Mary’s this weekend in search of their second win of the campaign, but Saints fans will be expectant of another three points to keep driving the team up into the top 10.

Any Premier League manager would admit that Anfield is one of the hardest places to pick up a result, so when Southampton went and took all three points last weekend for the first time in 10 years, there was certainly something to brag about on the South coast. There is also the last 16 of the Capital One Cup to boast about too, having seen off a resilient Bristol City side at St. Mary’s on Tuesday evening. Pochettino put out a completely different 11-man team compared to Saturday’s line-up at Anfield and still managed to progress into the next round.

The last two seasons have seen Southampton knocked-out of the League Cup by opposition lower than the Premier League with a full strength side out, but Tuesday evening’s fixture saw more youthful talent take to the field at St. Mary’s. Not only have results been going their way, but the club has also got young prospects coming through the system, as they have done for the past decade.

Calum Chambers, just 18-years-old, has already made four appearances for the first time in the Premier League this season and as a result, has been named in the England Under-19 squad for next month’s 2014 UEFA European Championship qualifiers along with Matt Targett, another Southampton graduate.

Saturday’s goalscorer at Anfield, Dejan Lovren, has confessed that the club are aiming for a Champions League spot within two years:

“Every player here thinks we can get into the Champions League within the next two years. It’s a big job, but everything is possible. Playing in the Champions League is an experience you can never forget and I hope to do it with Southampton. We can do something big this season, I want a place in the top seven or eight.”

Lovren gave up Champions League football to join the Saints during the summer; this shows how the ‘Southampton project’ is highly appealing to players on the market.

Becoming a Champions League team within two years of becoming a Premier League team is clearly a tough ask, but Southampton have already showed a statement of intent this season by beating one of the considered top six clubs in Liverpool. Pochettino’s side are now above Manchester United in the Premier League, but the Southampton fans will not be complacent following their impressive start to the campaign.

Southampton will play host to Crystal Palace this weekend as Ian Holloway’s side will be in search for just their second win of the season. The last time the two teams met were in April 2012 when Rickie Lambert’s brace saw Saints win 2-0 at Selhurst Park. Fierce rivals Portsmouth were also in the Championship during the 2011-12 season, which shows how much has changed from then up to last weekend. Southampton took all three points at Anfield, whilst Pompey lost 1-0 to Fleetwood Town at Fratton Park.

Speculation has surrounded Pochettino and his inability to speak English since joining the club in January, but evidence of the Argentine speaking reasonably good English dismisses this speculation with fact that the manager has spoken in English to Sky Sports presenter Ed Chamberlain (link below). In a recent press conference, Pochettino has expressed that he does speak English, and he will speak English to the media ‘soon’, but for now he will only speak English to the squad.

On 31 August 2012, Gaston Ramirez joined Southampton for a reported £12 million, but the Uruguayan can only find a place on the bench so far this season due to notable appearances from team mates Jay Rodriquez, Adam Lallana and James Ward-Prowse, all young English talent. Ramirez started against Bristol City in the Carling Cup on Tuesday evening and scored the opening goal, reminding Pochettino what the attacking midfielder is all about as he pushes for a first-team spot.

One negative from Tuesday evening’s tie against Bristol City was the attendance at St. Mary’s. Southampton fans have been out in force over the past few seasons during their rise back to the Premier League, but over-priced tickets for the Capital One clash resulted in just 8,000 spectators at the match.

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  1. Steven P.

    September 27, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Southampton have improved under Pochettino and he is one of the bright new managers in the game. As long as they don’t lose their best players and add quality every season then there’s no reason why they cannot make a run at the top 6 and who knows even the top 4 eventually.

    I was impressed by how Pochettino set up his side and his tactics when they played Liverpool away and won. He can change his tactics midstream if need be which is something Rodgers at Liverpool for instance seems unable to do. Better manager than Rodgers in my opinion.

    The future looks bright at Southampton.

  2. Matt

    September 27, 2013 at 9:29 am

    They certainly could snatch Europa League in the next two years, but I think the Champion’s League is too lofty of a goal to reach for in such a small window of time.

    More power to them!

  3. And Eggs

    September 27, 2013 at 4:37 am

    Bale Left Saints as a quality player failing at nothing to say Spurs made him what he is today is laughable. they nearly destroyed him and then were on the verge of selling him. he had the talent from an early age in the saints youth set up, he just need time to develop physically to fully realise his potential, if Spurs were that great at developing players they have more coming through from their youth set up.

  4. gbewing

    September 26, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    talk to me when they reach Europa League- 2 years seems like self promoting spin but will buy a definite player for Europa League which allows them to build more depth and more quality. They haven’t figured out how to use Gaston Ramirez yet-he should play more and Osvaldo -Lambert haven’t figured out a partnership yet- Osvaldo should be the focal point going forward

  5. Frill Artist

    September 26, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    They’re clearly taking the piss.

  6. Bucky

    September 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Southampton produce a very good youngster that go on to fully develop at other clubs. you can point to Bale and Walcott but Bale was almost sold on a few years back because he was failing at LB. Spurs moved him and developed him into what he is today. Walcott was just speed when he left. his finishing and experience came at Arsenal.

    CL football is a great goal to have, but the money required to reach the level is beyond most clubs. LFC and THFC are trying to get into one open spot. But both are trying to improve their stadiums and will suffer for it.

    like someone else said, they should use the Swansea Model and improve, play good football and live in the top half of the table and enjoy the EL. Unless something drastic happens, I just cannot see CL football in their future.

    • Bucky

      September 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      short term future.

  7. Dean Stell

    September 26, 2013 at 11:37 am

    It seems nuts that they’d think Top 4 is reachable. It’s just hard to imagine that happening. I know they have a good youth set-up, but even if you put all of their best youth products on the field at the same time (all in their primes), I’m still not sure that’s a Top 4 team.

    I love what they’re doing, but their best bet is to solidify themselves enough that they can afford to put more emphasis on the Cups.

  8. Smokey Bacon

    September 26, 2013 at 10:37 am

    As much as I admire what is going on at Southampton that sounds like mission impossible to me without serious investment. Southampton should continue to adhere to the Swansea template. Maybe a good cup run and Europa qualification. But champions league? Just look at what Spurs are doing to try to snatch fourth place.

    • And Eggs

      September 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

      The difference between spurs and what Saints are doing, and why there is a good chance that it can happen, is this.
      Spurs don’t have the youth set up or even close to that Southampton do.
      And in this lies the answer. It is how Man Utd and Arsenal have achieved their continued success. Adding to quality youth. Spurs are taking the City, Chelsea approach.
      Bale, Oxo, Walcott, etc

      • Bucky

        September 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm

        Problem is that there are a lot of clubs btwn them and a CL place. Southampton will continue to lose players to other clubs. Shaw is next to go. They will not be able to turn down big money and players will only stay so long before they bolt for CL football.

        • And Eggs

          September 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm

          I disagree Shaw will be here for a while yet, it is about providing an environment in which players feel wanted, the more chelsea tottenham clog their teams with imports the less likely players are going to want to move to these clubs. over the next few years i feel you’ll see a shift in attitude. but we will see.

      • Evan

        September 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm

        “It is how Man Utd and Arsenal have achieved their continued success.”

        Arsenal haven’t won anything in a while. Also, I wish people would stop with the “United only uses their youth” myth. United have consistently been one of the top spenders in the league since it began.

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