• Dan Carter

SOUTHAMPTONS FALL FROM GRACE: RELEGATION THREAT, 9-0 DEFEATS AND INCONSISTENCY


Ralph Hasenhuttl has been a revelation since joining Southampton, the Saints were at a low after a poor spell under Mark Hughes where relegation appeared to threaten.


Statistically, Hassenhuttl has been as impressive as ex-managers Mauricio Pochettinho and Claude Puel with his 38 percent win ratio in his 105 matches as manager.


But Southampton now sit 14th in the Premier League and ten points above the drop-zone as another midtable finish is expected, a finish that would’ve possibly been welcomed before the season commenced.


There were clear upgrades in the squad, Shane Long was loaned to Bournemouth in the January window with the incoming Liverpool loanee Takumi Minamino and a lot of young talent brought through the door.


The Saints finished last season with 52 points and 11th in the table, with 15 wins five more than they’ve managed so far meaning it will not be seen as a season of progression.


But that’s not been the case throughout the campaign with Hasenhuttl taking them to the top of the Premier League in November after beating Newcastle 2-0 at home.


Few expected a Leicester City esc season which would see James Ward-Prowse lifting the trophy, but it seemed that they could be pushing for the Europa League places and at least a top half finish.


At one end of the pitch the Saints have continued to be effective with 39 goals scored, only bettered by three teams in the bottom half despite Danny Ings not being at his goal scoring best.


Ings has suffered with injuries once more this year, missing seven games in the league but still managing to contribute with a goal involvement every other game.


But goals have been scored from other areas, Ward-Prowse has been as dangerous as ever from dead ball scenarios and Che Adams has begun to adapt to life in the top-flight.


But defensively they’ve been poor, the 56 goals they have conceded is the second worst record in the division and is more than bottom of the table Sheffield United.


They’ve conceded a number of goals to teams who have struggled to score previously, three to West Brom, three to Newcastle and two to fellow underachievers this year Wolves.


But no result was more detrimental than the 9-0 defeat to Manchester United, a result that can completely kill the momentum of a side, a fact Hasenhuttl has had to learn before after the Saints’ 9-0 defeat to Leicester the year before.


An early red card for Alexandre Jankewitz turned that game on its head and led to a complete collapse, something possibly evident throughout the entire campaign.


The goalkeeper position is one that must be addressed with no definite number one, Alex McCarthy playing 26 times and Fraser Forster 10 times the constant changing will not allow consistency in defence.


Oriel Romeu had also began to offer defensive depth in midfield but has been limited to only 20 league appearances this season and the young Ibrahima Diallo playing a lot more often.


They’ve struggled to maintain a lead when going ahead this season and since the turn of the year they’ve only managed three in the league, a great contrast to the seven wins in 2020.


Their final league games see them take on Liverpool, Leicester, Fulham, Leeds and West Ham none of which will offer easy games with three teams chasing Champions League football, one attempting to stay up and the other managed by Marcelo Biesla who will not allow them to drop their standards.


All of this while also being in the FA Cup semi-final against Leicester means they cannot become distracted and sleep-walk into a relegation battle.


They should be safe from the drop this year and I’m sure almost every Southampton fan would take cup success over a couple of extra positions.


Southampton take on Leicester City in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, April 18 at Wembley Stadium as they bid to reach their first final since the 2002-03 season.