How Ralph Hasenhuttl Has Made Southampton European Qualification Contenders

"Two intensive years, with a lot of games, a lot of very good moments and also some not-so-nice moments, but this is part of our business".

This week marks the second anniversary of Ralph Hasenhuttl's appointment as manager of Southampton - a landmark that many thought would not be reached after the infamous 9-0 loss at the hands of Leicester City in October 2019, one of his 'not-so-nice moments', as he puts it.

Managers have certainly lost their job for less, and it is no wonder that speaking to the club, he expressed his appreciation for being given the chance to turn the team's fortunes around.

"Normally it is the next manager that gets to turn things around, and not you," he said. "But if you get the chance to do it and you can do it like this then that is something you can be proud of, and this is something I am really proud".

Southampton suffered the worst home defeat in Premier League history, but kept faith with Hasenhuttl | Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The dire position the club were in upon Hasenhuttl's appointment in December 2018 is often forgotten, as they sat 18th, and the task was initially simply to ensure the Saints maintained their Premier League status.

His appointment in itself was a symbolic move away from the perplexingly popular merry-go-round of 'old school' British managers who typically 'know how to keep a team up', as he replaced Mark Hughes as the Saints boss.

With the benefit of hindsight, going from Hughes to Hasenhuttl is some upgrade, but there was no guarantee a risk like this would pay off. Southampton should be applauded for embracing that risk, as they should also for keeping the faith after Leicester's embarrassment of them.

Southampton are not particularly well known for their trigger happy owners, but have undoubtedly struggled for stability and consistency in recent years. They have had six managers in the last seven campaigns, although admittedly Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman were head hunted by other clubs rather than having been sacked.

The Austrian has managed to bring his own style to the club and implement it, and his players have embraced it. While the idea of progress and a genuine team ideology has been bought into by everyone at the club, Hasenhuttl is keen to explain that the Saints' journey has only just begun.

"I am very happy here, I really love my job here, and part of this journey is to be always motivated to try and do the best for this club. The Premier League is never easy, and when we are still focused and we stay hungry, there is no reason why we shouldn't be successful in the future."

Danny Ings is enjoying the form of his life under the Saints boss | Pool/Getty Images

His Southampton tenure has been a case of building blocks thus far.

Ensuring safety in his first season by securing a 16th place finish, followed up with an 11th place finish in 2019/20, which happened to be their best finish in three seasons. They currently sit fifth with Danny Ings back to full fitness and scoring the winning goal against Brighton on Monday, it is now a matter of how high up Hasenhuttl can get his team to finish.

He is no stranger to the upper echelons of league tables either, unlike the Mark Hughes' of this world, as he did have an impeccable managerial pedigree coming into his job at St. Mary's.

At FC Ingolstadt he achieved promotion to the Bundesliga as champions in 2014/15 and consolidated their top division status with an 11th place finish the following season, before moving to newly promoted RB Leipzig. A debut season finishing as runners-up beaten only by Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich, has proven he is comfortable scrapping for points at both ends of the table.

What has also been noticeable is the contribution of key players since his arrival. He has managed to find the Danny Ings that Liverpool thought they had signed, and most importantly keep him fit (most of the time), as he has delivered a hearty 31 goals in 59 league during his tenure.

Both Ward-Prowse and Southampton are enjoying a more fruitful campaign | Naomi Baker/Getty Images

James Ward-Prowse has also been more involved in the action, with four goals and three assists already this season, which is easily on track for his best season ever. Che Adams is also starting to look like he can score a goal or two, with three in his last seven...the Danny Ings effect.

With a lot of early season attention on the likes of Everton for their 'galactico' signings, it is nice to see Southampton continue to efficaciously go about their 'business'. If Ings and other key members can stay fit, Hasenhuttl could heighten his already growing reputation by delivering European football to a club that were asking for his assistance to avoid the drop two years ago.

Source : 90min