Not the end of the road for Southampton – Here is why Ralph Hasenhuttl can help the Saints avoid relegation this season

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Ralph Hasenhuttl can turn Southampton’s fortunes around this season

Ralph Hasenhuttl had a fantastic start to his managerial career in the Premier League with Southampton as the Saints got the better of Arsenal 3-2 at the St. Mary’s Stadium on Sunday. Southampton not only turned their fortunes around in the Premier League but also put an end to Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten streak across all competitions.

The fact that Southampton finished the week 17th in the standings, clear off Burnley in the relegation zone on goal difference should have brought some solace to the fans. The Saints showed plenty of promise and produced arguably their best performance of the season so far to outclass a rampant Arsenal unit

Lack of creativity and poor finishing have been the major causes of Southampton’s demise this season. In fact, the goal droughts of Liverpool loanee Danny Ings and Charlie Austin has hit the Saints really hard this season.

With the Saints languishing in the relegation zone, they needed their star man to be on song and he didn’t disappoint the fans this week. Ings headed it in from close range off Matt Targett’s delightful early cross to put Hasenhuttl’s side in the driver’s seat just 20 minutes into the game.

Happiness turned into ecstasy for the Saints when Laurent Koscielny’s bizarre defensive error allowed Ings to score with his head once again, giving Southampton the advantage for the second time after his early goal was cancelled out by Henrikh’s Mkhitaryan’s header.

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Credit should be given to Hasenhuttl for instilling that positive mindset in a Southampton team that has been in tatters this season. And it showed in the way that they approached the game. The Saints never held themselves back and it never looked like that they were trying to see the game off and just keep Arsenal at bay after going into the break with a 2-1 lead.

The change in body language was apparent and there was a spring in every player’s steps after the halftime interval. In fact, the Saints didn’t sit back and continued to play some breath-taking football, winning back possession and creating chances from the wide areas.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was fantastic in the first few games of the season and the former Bayern Munich man once again bossed the midfield. He didn’t seem overwhelmed by the reputation of someone like Lucas Torreira and made some crunching tackles, dispossessing the opposition and dictating the tempo of the game with his flawless passing.

The heads never dropped even after Arsenal got a lucky equaliser. Mkhitaryan’s deflected shot found the back of Alex McCarthy’s net to level the score at 2-2. The easy and the most obvious ploy from Southampton’s perspective would have been to see the game off and settle for a fair share of the spoils.

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That is another area where Hasenhuttl deserves credit. The Austrian summoned the changes and brought on the likes of Charlie Austin and Shane Long to try and bag all three points and his calculated risk paid rich dividends.

Long had a goal ruled out for offside but it was his looped cross that found Charlie Austin’s run at the back post who scored the winner with a simple tap-in. Southampton registered only their second win of the campaign, their first since that 2-0 away win against Crystal Palace back in September.

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The fans had to wait for more than three months to see their team get back to winning ways and they can expect brighter things with games against Huddersfield and West Ham coming up later this month. The Saints need to build on the positives from this inspiring win and this might just prove to be the breakthrough that Hasenhuttl’s Southampton needed to turn their fortunes around this season. They can definitely dare to dream about avoiding the drop now.

 

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