Southampton are on the rise. They have booked their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals and are ticking along nicely in the Premier League too. Ralph Hasenhuttl has once again got the Saints marching with the south coast club set for an interesting finish to the 2021-22 season.
The Austrian has been well-regarded since he joined from RB Leipzig in 2018, but he has never been linked with a switch to one of the big boys, which many will put down to the two occasions his side were embarrassingly beaten 9-0. However, there have been many ups and downs for Hasenhuttl at St Mary’s, with the inconsistency shown by those two record defeats the major stumbling block between the club achieving more success in the top-flight.
The perfect example was when they had such a strong first half of the season in 2020-21, finding themselves at the summit of the table at one point, but unexpectedly collapsed as they had a polar opposite second half culminating in a 15th place finish.
The signs were there in those first six months that Hasenhuttl was forging something strong in Hampshire and the key to unlocking the project’s true potential was finding that bit of consistency that just wasn’t there last year. The 54-year-old seems to have learned from mistakes of the past and he has worked hard to make sure his team have evolved to ensure that they can compete until the season’s end.
Whatever formula the Austrian has concocted for his philosophy this year has worked a charm and a major influence on their success has been making their home a fortress. In their 15 matches in all competitions at St Mary’s this year, the Saints have lost just once (vs Wolves) and are currently on a brilliant run of 12 unbeaten.
The spine of the team is looking strong with an imperious defence consisting of a solid partnership of Mohamed Salisu and Jan Bednarek, along with the attacking full-backs of Kyle Walker-Peters, Tino Livramento and Romain Perraud. Then the midfield is where the offensive ammunition arrives in the form of another sturdy duo in the middle of the park. James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu have offered the perfect balance of skill going forward and resilience out of possession and Hasenhuttl will be thrilled with how well-drilled his side are in his 4-4-2 system.
Hasenhuttl also has a lot to be thankful for in his strike partnership of Chelsea loanee Armando Broja, who has been a revelation in the top-flight this year, and Scotland international Che Adams. Adams is currently in fine form for the Saints and has been involved in five goals in his last seven matches in the league (four goals, one assist). Combined with the unbeaten home run, Southampton could well be flying under the radar and could sneak into contention for European football next year.
10 points separate the Saints from the Hammers who occupy fifth and Hasenhuttl’s side boast much better form over the last five league matches than David Moyes’ side, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The deficit behind the Hammers may seem too big to catch but with six more home games to come between now and May, an unexpected opportunity could present itself.
Regardless of the fine work he is accomplishing at Southampton, it still feels as though Hasenhuttl is not given the credit he deserves as his stock continues to rise. He is one of the most under-appreciated managers in the world but Southampton supporters will be hoping it stays that way as they know their future is bright under his leadership.
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