James Grayson wrote a brief post this week on the firing of Nigel Adkins at Southampton. He questions the decision to replace him with Mauricio Pochettino, most recently of Espanyol:

Currently [Southampton's] TSR is 0.406, i.e. not great. However linear regression suggests that a 0.406 team should finish the season with 40 points, and the average points scored by the 15 teams with the TSR closest to 0.406 is 39. In other words what we’ve seen from Southampton to this point is pretty close to their true talent.

I’m struggling to see the upside for the board here. Adkins had achieved two successive promotions and by all accounts I’ve read the fans enjoy the style of football being played. If they subsequently go down it’ll be a PR disaster, and the best they can realistically hope for is an incredible run that still only lifts the team into 11th-14th place.

Interestingly enough, Pochettino provided that incredible run once before, in the latter half of the 2008-09 season. When Pochettino arrived on January 20th 2009 from , Espanyol, previously under coach were in 18th place on 15 points.By the end of that season, Espanyol finished in 10th place on 47 points.

It’s always difficult (if not impossible) to parse out a manager’s affect on a club’s underlying fundamentals, but Espanyol’s Total Shots Ratio (a measurement of team dominance with good predictive power) and PDO (an indication of the team’s luck) slightly before, during, and slightly after offer a glimpse into Pochettino’s relative team impact:

Season Table Position Points TSR PDO
2008-09 (Until Jan 20 when José Manuel Esnal sacked) 18 (as of Jan 20) 15 .405 946
2008-09 (Mauricio Pochettino) 10 47 .440 1072
2009-10 11 44 .486 968
2010-11 8 49 .480 989
2011-12 14 46 .511 974
2012-13 (Until Nov 26 when Pochettino sacked) 20 9 .472 956
2012-13 (Javier Aguirre) 14 (current) 21 .409 1038

From this we can see that Espanyol’s average TSR hovered around the .480 range. Pochettino was no doubt aided by some luck in the second half of the 08-09 season, and he may have been cursed by bad luck when he was finally sacked in November, as the club TSR looked only slightly below average with a low PDO, indicating Espanyol were still likely an okay shout for 15-10th place finish.

The drop off in TSR since Pochettino’s departure should also give current Espanyol fans pause.

What does this mean for Southampton? It’s hard to say. Espanyol is not Southampton and the Premier League isn’t La Liga (duh duh duh), but it does seem on the evidence that Pochettino did the best with what he had, particularly in his first half season with the club when Raul Tamudo suffered repeat injury problems with only Ivan Alonso to replace him. A .440 TSR is not spectacular, but it was a marked improvement.

While Espanyol rarely threatened to do anything interesting in La Liga (as is the case with many mid-table clubs), the club managed to make enough moves to stave off the threat of relegation, one they would have likely avoided again this season had Pochettino stayed. While the chances of success at Southampton are uncertain, the board are hardly mad for throwing in for him now despite reason to believe Adkins could have maintained a safe course.

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