Burnley Win Shows Why Ralph Hasenhuttl Should Never Be Written Off at Southampton

Most Premier League clubs would have sacked Ralph Hasenhuttl by now. Twice.

Under the Austrian, Southampton finished 2018/19 with one win in seven, and kicked off the following campaign with a dismal run in form that peaked with a 9-0 defeat to Leicester.

Last weekend's 5-2 hammering at home to Tottenham was the 15th time in Hasenhuttl's 73 matches that they conceded three or more goals in a game. They're a team with medium-term aspirations of European football, yet have lost more games than they have won under a manager who has been in place for almost two years.

Why have they stuck with him, then? It isn't out of stubbornness, arrogance or misplaced self-belief. It's because as long as Hasenhuttl is in charge, Southampton know they can take a beating without throwing in the towel.

The latest example of that came at Burnley on Saturday evening. Hungover from a spectacular finish to 2019/20, the Saints travelled north having lost all three of their matches so far, and were in danger of writing off their lofty aspirations just three weeks into the new season.

Anyone who was surprised when Danny Ings opened the scoring within five minutes clearly hasn't read the script.

The manager's wild celebrations on the touchline were incongruous with a non-eventful 1-0, but they summarised the passion and vitality he has installed over two years into a group of players who previously looked lifeless.

You can see that transformation no more clearly than in James Ward-Prowse, who has re-emerged from the fringes of irrelevance to become the beating heart of everything Southampton do. The new captain's fitness and attitude now set the pace and he hasn't missed a game, in any competition, since December 2018.

Under Hasenhuttl, Ings has put similar injury issues behind him to become one of England's best goalscorers, while Nathan Redmond has put up better goal and assist numbers than he has under any manager at Southampton. Jan Bednarek has become one of the Premier League's leading central defenders outside of the 'big six' and Kyle Walker-Peters looks as if he is finally delivering on the promise he couldn't at Spurs.

The impact he has had on the players on the south coast is incredible, even if their consistency as a unit still needs a bit of work.

After their shaky start to the season, Hasenhuttl insisted that the team had performed better than the results suggested, and their victory over Burnley, though hardly groundbreaking, showed that. At Turf Moor, Southampton saw less of the ball and did most of their pressing in the middle third rather than deep in the Burnley half, both of which can be explained by the fact they were defending a lead for 85 minutes.

Other than that, the stats make for similar reading, and fall in largely with their average over the course of last season. Their xG (bare with us) was fairly low in both matches (0.8 and 0.6), but it outperformed their xG against on both occasions, suggesting they are on the right track.

Considering where Southampton were in December 2018 before Hasenhuttl took over - one win from 15, 18th place and sinking like a stone - the turnaround since has been remarkable. There have been some low points along the way, but he has installed an identity and a resiliency that could only have been dreamt of previously.

It would take something dramatically terrible for the club to turn on him now. Southampton seem as if they are on the Hasenhuttl hype train for the long haul, and with the security blanket of a squad who will never say die, they know they can afford to look up rather than down.

Source : 90min