Southampton are a staple of the Premier League having established themselves amongst the top 20 teams in the country after seven years in the wilderness.
They bounced back strongly; first managed by Ronald Koeman and then under the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino they became an established force in the top flight. The BBC reported that Europa League qualification followed courtesy of an Arsenal FA Cup win. However, since then it’s become harder to remain in the upper echelons of the Premier League.
A Ladbrokes guide to Premier League managers notes that Southampton had hired two Argentinean managers, with both Pochettino and Mauricio Pellegrino leading the club. Of the two managers, Pochettino was the more successful as he guided Southampton to an 8th place finish in his first full season.
Ralph Hasenhüttl is the current incumbent of the role, an appointment that 90 Min suggests was a masterstroke by the Saints. He took over from Mark Hughes, a manager seemingly taking them out of the top flight.
He turned their season around and had them finishing 16<sup>th</sup>, a respectable position given their early relegation scare. They’re now facing a pivotal season under the Austrian boss, looking to consolidate and stay away from the drop zone.
His main task over the summer has been to add goals to the team. They sold Charlie Austin, with a Teamtalk article suggesting the fee was in the region of £4m, money which was reinvested wisely. Danny Ings scored 7 in 24 during his loan spell and he made that move from Liverpool permanent this summer.
A key arrival was that of Birmingham City striker Che Adams. He’s emerged from the non-league scene to impress with both Sheffield United and the Blues. He bagged 22 goals for Birmingham and that earned him a move to the Saints thought to be worth £15m.
In a world where tactics become ever ambitious and complicated, Hasenhüttl keeps it simple. He’s changed to a flat 4-4-2 with moderate success so far this season. His side held Manchester United at St Mary’s with 10 men, but have suffered a couple of defeats.
The opening day thrashing at Burnley saw him quickly abandon a 3-4-3 formation, with 4-4-2 bringing a win at Brighton. A narrow defeat by Liverpool showed how his resilient and organised team can match the big boys, even if they didn’t come away with any points.
Hasenhüttl will take heart from his win against Brighton, and the side’s draw with Manchester United, but much of their future will depend on the partnership of Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. To pull the formation off, the central midfielders will have to add value at the back as well as supporting the strikers.
If they keep performing to their early levels, there is no reason why the Saints can’t successfully remain in the Premier League. They’d need an injection of quality in the central area to push on towards the top 10, but can surely stay out of the bottom three.
For further reading on Southampton, read how Isle of Wight NHS staff played a charity match to help a family hit by cancer last year.