Southampton have now won twice against ‘big six’ opposition in the Premier League at home under Ralph Hasenhüttl (three games), a feat they didn't manage under their three previous managers combined (14 games).
Does this mean that Southampton are finally moving in the right direction, and crucially, have appointed the right manager in Hasenhüttl - a man that can get the club challenging for a spot in the top 10 once more?
When Mark Hughes was sacked on 3 December 2018, the Saints were languishing in 18th place, with only one win in 14 games. The Southampton hierarchy quickly turned to former RB Leipzig manager Hasenhüttl to galvanise the team and lead it away from the relegation zone.
Although Southampton are currently 16th and only two points above the drop, there has been a marked improvement since the Austrian took over, with some key results pointing to the fact that the Saints have made the right managerial appointment this time round.
Since Ronald Koeman left Southampton for Everton in 2016, having led them to a brilliant sixth place finish, the Saints have had four permanent managers. This suggests a slightly questionable hiring policy, yet the signs are, in the early stages of his Premier League management career, that Hasenhüttl has the footballing knowledge to return the club to the heady days of the 2015/16 season.
In his 17 Saints games so far, the 51-year-old has led the South coast club to six wins in 17 games. His predecessor Mark Hughes only managed five wins at Southampton, and that was in 27 games.
It's clear that Hasenhüttl has improved the Saints since his appointment, but you could argue that they are not out of the mire yet, and that his lack of Premier League experience will come back to bite Southampton.
Yet the counterargument is that in his 17 games as manager, Hasenhüttl has shown more evidence that he is the man to take Southampton forward than former managers Hughes, Mauricio Pellegrino or Claude Puel.
In 15 Premier League games, Southampton have scored 21 goals, for comparison, in 38 league games last season, the Saints scored 37 goals, highlighting how Hasenhüttl's methods are reaping rewards.
Arguably more impressive is the statistic that Hasenhüttl has managed to do what three previous Saints managers have failed to - beat a 'top six' team. In his first home game, the Austrian led his team to a hard fought 3-2 win over Arsenal, showing that his methods were beginning to work with his players.
Some argued that this was the new manager bounce in effect, but a draw at Chelsea in January pointed to a Southampton side that were clearly improving. Then came their thrilling game against Manchester United, where the Saints should have come away with at least a point.
They followed this strong performance with a 2-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur, building on the positives from the United game, this time getting the result they deserved for their efforts.
He should also be commended for using the young British players at his disposal. For example, James Ward-Prowse has long been tipped as a promising talent, yet had only shown it in patches. But under Hasenhüttl he has flourished and become an integral part of the team. Other players like Danny Ings and Nathan Redmond have impressed under the Austrian and this will give the Saints fans something to be hopeful about, especially as Southampton are renowned for their home-grown talent.
If you look at it statistically, Southampton have improved dramatically under Hasenhüttl, but the more telling signs can be seen when you watch them play. The players have smiles on their faces, are playing for their manager, and they also seem to know what they are doing.
Hasenhüttl did well in his previous job at RB Leipzig, especially in developing younger players and the Southampton hierarchy will be hoping he repeats this at St Mary's, and the early signs are that he will.
Before Hasenhüttl's appointment, Southampton seemed to be sleepwalking towards relegation, without a clear plan to stop it. Sunderland, among others, showed that just hiring managers to rescue you from the drop then firing them the season after doesn't work.
In hiring Hasenhüttl, the Saints took a risk. He had no Premier League experience and his biggest job had been at RB Leipzig. But so far, he has impressed, and finally Southampton have a clear style of play that suits their players and suits their club.
In having a summer to bring in the players he wants and to work more with the ones he has, Hasenhüttl will be confident in building a competitive team capable of finishing in the top 10. Some will say that that confidence is misplaced, but I believe that Southampton have the players, and more crucially the manager, to achieve it.
Source : 90min