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Defeat can't mask Saints progress under Pochettino
THAT Saints were disappointed with a narrow defeat at Everton shows just how far they have come in 2013.
It is 11 months since Mauricio Pochettino’s reign began with a relatively nondescript goalless draw against the same opponents at St Mary’s.
But as 2013 ends with Saints ensconced in the top half of the Premier League, despite yesterday’s result, Pochettino can be very proud of what he has achieved so far.
Everton’s motto – Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, meaning Only the Best is Good Enough – is writ large around Goodison Park but could just as easily apply to Pochettino and his players.
For Saints these days, a 2-1 defeat away to a very handy Everton side is not good enough – by their high standards. But despite ending the year with one win in their last eight games, there is plenty of cause for optimism going into 2014 – for Saints as well as Everton.
In many ways, Everton are Saints’ northern cousins, for the similarities between the clubs do not end with the Merseyside club’s Latin motto.
Both have young, upwardly mobile managers doing a fantastic job in Pochettino and Roberto Martinez.
It is their ability to bring through and nurture top English talent that binds them.
Their creative players stood out yesterday.
Lallana and Barkley make for a particularly interesting comparison as they could well be on the same plane to Brazil at the end of the season.
Barkley is a formidable specimen.
There are shades of Wayne Rooney in his determination to influence games at such a young age (he was still a teenager until a few weeks ago).
While Lallana cuts a much slighter figure than Barkley, who has the build of a middleweight boxer, his ability is just as impressive, if not more so, than his Everton counterpart.
Both will have been very disappointed not to have scored yesterday, each having missed the target.
As a boyhood Everton fan, a goal at Goodison Park would have capped a memorable week for Lallana, following his Christmas Eve wedding.
His Cruyff flick to put in Rickie Lambert yesterday was another perfect example of his wonderful ability to improvise.
Lambert was wrongly flagged offside, while Lallana put wide a gilt-edged chance of his own making after a clever flick from Rodriguez’s pass took him between Distin and Osman.
Barkley marred an impressive display by side-footing wide from eight yards out. But, like Lallana, his natural ability bodes well for the future of both his club and England in 2014.
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