Didn’t know where was the appropriate place to post this, but just wanted to throw out one name for thought and discussions for the future. IF ultimately Mazzarri would be released and that’s still a very big IF, but there is one manager I would really keep a close eye on for a potential rebuilding process.
That person is Mauricio Pochettino, the current head coach of Southampton and also the former coach of Espanyol when Coutinho was there on loan. I’ll try to be as short as possible and just point out the pros and cons of why he could be an option in the near or distant future.
He’s a student of Marcelo Bielsa’s style and philosophy of play and an exciting game is almost always on the cards with this approach. I would assume that most have seen Bielsa’s Chile side when he coached them, then also when he was at Bilbao, so something similar can definitely be seen in Pochettino’s sides and how they play. That’s one of the reasons I always try to catch Southampton’s games and especially against the so called “big” clubs in the EPL just to see how they stack up against them and even though in most cases Southampton lost, they certainly made an impression.
His most favorite and used formation at both Espanyol (from what I can remember) and now at Southampton is the 4-2-3-1, but he is for sure not one dimensional and that’s not the only way that I have seen Southampton play this season as well. So in short, he is the total opposite of Mazzarri, is full of ideas that he is willing and has the balls to experiment on the pitch and not just stick to one formation. I’ve even seen them once line up similar to Bielsa’s crazy formation of 2-4-1-3 and that tells me of supreme confidence in his ideas that Pochettino has by playing in such a way and especially in the EPL.
Next is talent development. At Espanyol he played a lot of youth such as Coutinho, Weiss, Hector Moreno, Alvaro Vazquez, Wakaso and others that I can remember. All were starters and developed into important first team players under Pochettino. At Southampton he’s playing with an even younger squad: Shaw (18), Chambers (19), Ward-Prowse (19), Wanyama (22), Clyne (23) Lovren, Rodriguez, Schneiderlin, Cork (24), Lallana (25). Those are all either starting eleven players or first of the bench most of the times. Especially Shaw and Lallana have really developed under Pochettino and honestly should both be included into England’s World Cup squad. As can be seen, he’s obviously not afraid to put his faith and trust into young talent and would definitely suit the sort of “profile” that Thohir is talking about looking into the future.
And finally, the style of play that Pochettino prefers is also a big plus and upgrade over Mazzarri’s predictable and lethargic play in my opinion. The build-up play of Southampton is really beautiful to watch at times and that’s a direct influence of Pochettino, they never played even close to this before he arrived. Ball control, constant movement, tracking back and helping each other out are just a few of the traits that are most of the time absent in Inters play. Even when they are not in possession, the players press like crazy to get the ball back as quick as possible and that’s a direct trademark of Bielsa. Even Guardiola used the same pressing system at Barcelona and even acknowledged that Bielsa was someone he looked up to. The same characteristics I can also see in Pochettino’s philosophy of thinking of how the game should be played. He even mentioned once, if I’m not mistaken, that he intends to make Southampton play like Guardiola’s Barselona, which might sound a little crazy, but some traits are certainly there to be seen.
Some will look at their results, and like for example today they lost to Man City 4-1, and say that they were thoroughly outclassed. But In reality they controlled possession for most of the game, always looked dangerous and even made City look mediocre for the entire first half. City were simply too clinical for them, the first goal was a penalty, second a complete 100% offside goal, and then 2 bad goalkeeping mistakes (who is also only 22 years) that led to the remaining goals. In most cases, the same has happened in many other Southampton matches, thus results don’t really tell the whole story in this situation.
Defence is VERY suspect. This has also always been a trademark of Bielsa’s style of play that Pochettino it seems has also inherited. I guess the saying that attack wins games and attracts fans into the stands, but defence wins you titles couldn’t be more true in this case. Of course this isn’t Zeman’s all out attack and no defence that we are talking about here, but this is an area of concern that would absolutely make me think twice about Pochettino as a potential coach of THIS Inter. Of course both Espanyol and Southampton on paper didn’t and don’t match Inter’s choice of defenders, but at the same time Seria A is a totally different and demanding league then La Liga and the EPL and there would be questionmarks as to how Pochettino would be able to adapt.
High stamina will be needed for his system. As I already mentioned previously, Southampton players press like crazy at times in order to regain possession and that requires a lot of energy. Do we have the players for this? In some positions maybe yes, but definitely not in all of them. What is more is that the constant pressuring leaves spaces for the opposition to exploit and that is especially dangerous in Serie A, considering that most of the teams usually play counter-attacking football against Inter and this could potentially backfire in a big way.
The next and probably most unknown issue here is the so called “BIG” club syndrome and pressure that would be put on Pochettino if put in charge of Inter. Both Espanyol and Southampton don’t compare to Inter both in terms of history and also expectations. This would truly be a big jump for Pochettino, but if a novice like Strama was given a chance, so why not take a gamble here also? First a CLEAR idea from the upper hierarchy of the club, mainly Thohir, would have to be declared, if Inter will develop and follow a certain style of play OR results are of the utmost importance. If it’s the latter, then I have doubts that Pochettino would be the right man for the job, but if given a 2-3 year time period to work without any pressure for the first season in charge then his hiring becomes a potentially high reward type of gamble.
And finally, locker room influence. At Inter it seems that players truly have a say in some things and that’s never a good environment, especially for still a relatively young coach. If Pochettino would have the same “my way or the highway mentality” that Bielsa has, maybe it could work, but that’s still a very HUGE maybe, but unfortunately he doesn’t. If all the rumors and suggestions about us getting rid of all the oldies at the end of the season are to be true, then I can truly see his hiring as plausible but at this point it’s all speculations and only fantasy talk.
Do I believe that Pochettino is a gamble worth taking? YES, ONLY IF GIVEN TIME. Will it happen if Mazzarri is fired? Probably NO as there are bigger and better “known” coaching names out there. But what I would say is that the eye test never lies. What I have seen of Southampton this season made an impression on me and there is potential in Pochettino, given the right conditions, to really become a top coach. He has his ideas, he’s not afraid to implement them, he’s tactically flexible, seems to make the team believe in his philosophy, simply a modern coach if putting it in simple words.
Why would he even entertain the idea of coaching Inter? The simple fact that I believe this Southampton team is maxed out in terms of results and what they can achieve looking further forward. Most of their top young players like Shaw, Lallana, Chambers, Lovren, Rodriguez have all been linked with summer exits from the club, seemingly leaving Pochettino with another sort of rebuilding process in his hands. If he is truly ambitious, he will definitely explore his options. Inter offers him a somewhat similar situation like when he started at Southampton, with a squad of already developed and in their prime players mixed with young talents that are ready to make the jump to the next level.
We haven’t ever been linked to him so this is purely like a “scouting report” sort of and just a suggestion of a potential coach in the future. It would be great if others would also contribute about some other potential coaches to look at and discuss about.