An injury crisis, three-straight defeats and a first home loss of the season mean Southampton are suffering the first real rocky patch of Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure.
Away matches against Arsenal and Chelsea were always going to be tough – but it was the 3-2 reverse at home to Aston Villa in midweek that would have worried the Saints’ boss the most.
With Victor Wanyama and Nathaniel Clyne joining the growing queue to the treatment room, the pressure is on Pochettino to prevent his side’s early efforts from going up in smoke.
So who are they facing today in the hope of turning their poor form on its head – only Manchester City, a side who will be hoping to make it back-to-back away wins for the first time this season.
When Pochettino first arrived at St Mary’s I was one of a huge number of befuddled observers; to such an extent that I wrote an article entitled Southampton and the season that needed subtitles.
And yet the Argentine’s appointment has proved to be a masterstroke.
But that was when the going was relatively easy. How will he cope under an increasingly bright spotlight, when the Saints are now anything but a surprise package?
With a young squad and the promise of better things to come, Southampton could lose again today and still point to their huge strides as reason enough to be cheerful.
But their manager will want more than that, and he will no doubt have been working hard over the last three days to ensure City have a much tougher time than Villa did at St Mary’s.
They have already shown what they can do against some of the Premier League’s elite, but the sooner Pochettino halts their current poor form the better. His reputation may not depend on it, but it will certainly prove that even when the going gets tough, he has the managerial nous to succeed.
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