Next season will mark a decade of Southampton’s time in the Premier League. Coming up as an exciting team under the likeable Nigel Adkins, the Saints played an entertaining brand of football, but have always found their best talent swooped up and taken by the more established sides before they have a chance to achieve anything — Mauricio Pochettino, Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mané, Ronald Koeman and many others have came and went from the south coast in an amazing decade.
Of course, this landmark feat may not even happen if the Saints are to be relegated this season, a real possibility. While it is a remarkable achievement that Southampton have risen from the depravity of League One to be where they are now, they simply haven’t been good enough so far this season. Ralph Hasenhüttl has steadied the ship after some turbulent times but having been teetering on the bottom of the table for far too long now, many are questioning his potentials, with tips for him to be the next for the sack increasing on the betting exchange.
It is rare in football that a manager can be on the receiving end of two 9-0 drubbings in consecutive seasons, and with the style of play on the south coast changing from an intricate passing game to long balls with chances being so bereft, it is no wonder fingers are being pointed in the Austrian’s direction — but it isn’t necessarily all his fault.
This Southampton side are a far cry from the calibre of player Hasenhüttl has worked with in the past. There was a time he was renowned as one of the brightest coaches in Germany when in charge of RB Leipzig, developing the likes of Naby Keïta and Emil Forsberg, but Southampton simply haven’t matched his ambition and replaced the players they lost over the summer.
The club took massive hits in the last transfer window, losing key players in Danny Ings (perhaps the best kept secret in the history of football transfers) and defender Jannik Vestergaard without bringing in suitable replacements. It has left the Saints in a relegation dogfight for the third season in a row and with so much uncertainty over their top flight status, is it time to pull the trigger on the Austrian’s project and start fresh?
You have to bare in mind that the fixture list has not been kind to Southampton. Their current run of fixtures looks a lot kinder than the preliminary weeks of the campaign which saw the Saints take points from Manchester United and Manchester City, but ultimately bow out underwhelmingly to Chelsea and Everton. However, they have managed to stay in the League Cup where they meet the former at Stamford Bridge — a run of fixtures that could ultimately decide Hasenhüttl’s fate.
“It is always on him,” said Southampton CEO Martin Semmens. “He would say that ultimately, everything sits with him. The responsibility from how we perform on match day is with him and he is the one in front of the media and standing there on the touchline taking responsibility. So whether we give him what he wants or whether we don’t, he still feels that pressure.
“That responsibility is the key trigger and if Ralph gets that, he will always get results for us.”