Statistical Analysis: The Rise Of Southampton Under Pochettino


In a season full of surprises, the early season form of Southampton has perhaps been the greatest. Today on the blog Barries-View offers a statistical comparison.

Southampton have made an impressive start to the 2013-14 Premier League season – sitting 3rd place in the table after 11 matches. Manager Mauricio Pochettino will be wanting his side to pick up where they left off before the international break when domestic football returns this weekend as the Saints travel to top of the league Arsenal.

Norwich City are the only side to hand Southampton a defeat through 11 games and only Everton has lost as few this season. They have also allowed a league low 5 goals to this point, despite conceding a goal in each of their last two league games.

High Hopes

Southampton headed into this season off the back of a 14th place finish in their return to the Premier League last season – a whooping 32 points off fourth place and Champions League football. However, Pochettino stated pre-season that he had dreams of taking the Hampshire side into Europe's greatest club competition.

The young Argentine coach didn't even spend a huge over the summer. In fact, only three signings were made to strengthen a side that Nigel Adkins had originally put together. Centre-back Dejan Lovren (£8.5m), centre midfielder Victor Wanyama (£12.5m) and striker Pablo Osvaldo (15m) all arrived at St Mary's during the summer transfer window.

Here's a look how the side compares under their current and former managers:

After 22 games in charge, Nigel Adkins was relieved of his duties following a 2-2 draw at Chelsea where they had come from two goals down in the second half. The side was three points the relegation zone, averaging 1 point per game, winning 5.

Mauricio Pochettino's first 22 games in charge at St Mary's were better – picking up 29 points. But it's been since game #20 for the Argentine coach that the side has really been motoring – collecting 17 points from a possible 21 in their last seven league games.

Victories this season have come at Liverpool and West Brom this season, as well as drawing at Manchester United. The Saints are on a four-game winning streak at home in the league, each of those wins coming by at least 2 goals.

Here are those results:

Improved In Defence

The most significant improvement on the field for Southampton since they changed their manager has been the number of goals conceded. Under Adkins, the side were averaging 1.82 goals against per game. Under Pochettino, it's now down to 0.95 goals against per game. And if you only take this season's games into account, it's a staggering 0.45.

The new manager's defensive impact on the club was clear when his side drew 0-0 at home to Everton in his first game in charge, live on Sky Sports.

Jay Rodriguez, who has since made his England international debut has even commented this season that he is fitter than ever thanks to Pochettino's training tactics. Indeed, the former Espanyol, Paris Saint-Germain and Bordeaux centre-back encourages hard work on the pitch.

It is noticeable to see Southampton defending from the front – defending is a team effort to Pochettino. His side close down opposition goalkeepers and do not give anyone much time on the ball.

Southampton were giving up 4.5 shots on goal under Adkins – three goalkeepers played at least 9 matches last season before settling on Artur Boruc. The Polish goalkeeper has been the only player to play between the sticks in the Premier League for Southampton this season, and now the defence is only letting him face 2.8 shots per game on average – a significant improvement.

League High In Fouls Committed

One downside to Southampton's eagerness to win the ball back is that they have committed a joint league high 150 fouls. Only Stoke City have given away as many free kicks as the “Saints”. However, discipline remains high – only Crystal Palace (11 yellow cards, 1 red card), Cardiff City and Norwich City (12 yellow cards each) have received fewer cards than the 13 yellow cards picked up by Southampton this season. They had actually picked up more yellow cards during Pochettino's first 16 games (23) to finish last season than Adkins' 22 (20 yellow cards).

Holding midfielders Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin unsurprisingly lead the teams in fouls. They are followed by the energetic and skilful Adam Lallana who won his first England caps this week.

Scoring, Creativity And Possession

In terms of goals, Southampton have only dropped off slightly – down from 1.36 under Adkins to 1.33 under the new manager. But they are tested goalkeepers more this season. In 2012-13, Southampton averaged 4.4 shots on target each game, compared to 4.8 this season.

Their 15 goals through 11 games ranks equal sixth, although it must be pointed out that their statistics were greatly improved with a 4-1 thrashing of newly-promoted Hull City last season.

Goals from open play has dropped significantly since last season. 64% of their goals in 2012-13 came from open play, compared to just over half this season (53%). Their five goals from set pieces this season already, is down only three on the entirety of last season.

Rickie Lambert led the side with 15 goals in his first Premier League season and five players scored at least 5 goals for the Saints. More than quarter of the way into this season, Lambert leads the team with 4 goals. Jay Rodriguez (3) and Adam Lallana (3) are the only other players to have scored more than once.

Rickie Lambert also leads the team with 3 assists. He, Rodriguez and Lallana shared this accomplishment last season when they set up 5 goals each for teammates.

The possession game is another noticeable improvement since changing manager in January. Under Adkins, the side was averaging 49.7% of the ball. Under Pochettino, it is up to 56.6%. This season, Southampton have averaged 56.9% possession – the sixth highest in the Premier League.

The Odds

Southampton began the season at odds of 11.00 to see themselves relegated. Now they find themselves at odds of 21.00 to complete a top 4 finish, while odds of relegation have blown out to 501.00.

Could they win the league? While it's unlikely, Southampton began the season as 2001.00 long shots to achieve the feat. They now find themselves 'clipped' into odds of 151.00.

Southampton Odds - Odds as at 21st November 2013.

 BetVictorLadbrokesBwinStan James
Win League 151.00 151.00 126.00 151.00
Top 4 Finish 21.00 19.00 15.00 21.00
Top 6 Finish 4.00 5.00 5.00 5.00
Top 10 Finish 1.14 1.11 1.16 1.17




Data provided by Opta Sports

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Premier League blogger, statistician and fan.