It seems like only yesterday that we were praising how well Everton have started the new campaign and how James Rodriguez was the signing of the summer.
Fast forward to the middle of November and it is now Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton who are competing with the early pace setters in the top flight.
Where are the Saints in the current Premier League table?
Indeed, it maybe early days but the Saints have been mightily impressive, they finished last season brilliantly having lost just one of their Project Restart games.
Despite losing their opening two matches, against Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace and Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur, they have since gone on a run that has seen them win five and draw just one of their next six matches. This is including their latest 2-0 win over Newcastle United.
Southampton currently in fourth place, having briefly led the table for the first time since 1988 and are just two points behind league leaders Leicester City.
2019/20 League Low point
It seems certainly remarkable to contemplate that just over a year ago that Hasenhuttl was left to pick up the pieces from what was one of the darkest days in the Saints Premier League history, where they suffered a 9-0 reverse against Brendan Rodgers’ current league leaders.
This proved a significant moment in the Austrian’s reign as manager as it was the not only the biggest ever victory by an away side in the top flight, but it was also Southampton’s biggest ever defeat in their history.
That day saw a hat trick each for both Jamie Vardy and Ayoze Perez following an early red card for the Saints left back, Ryan Bertrand.
The following day, the Austrian was understandably close to sack, but after some constructive talks what resulted was a getting back to basics approach.
Indeed, Hasenhuttl took on board both players and coaches’ feedback and what came about was the Austrian reverting back to his favoured 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 formation.
What transpired from this tactical alteration was an encouraging 2-2 draw at Arsenal, which ultimately began their revival.
Not only that but the players have also now understandably got more use to Hasenhuttl’s methods. His preferred tactics is modelled on that of his former club RB Leipzig and involves: high energy, pressing and front foot defending.
The players who Hasenhuttl has undoubtedly had a positive impact on has been James Ward-Prowse.
Ward-Prowse is now not only the club captain but also figured prominently in the most recent England squads for Euro Qualifiers and The Nations League.
One of the standout performances that demonstrate Ward-Prowse’s quality that immediately comes to mind was at Villa Park in the 4-3 win over Aston Villa where he scored two stunning free kicks.
While another who has flourished is Ward Prowse’s fellow England international, Danny Ings, who scored 22 goals in all competitions last season and has already managed four goals in six, games this time around before his most recent knee injury.
In addition, Che Adams has stepped up in a big way since the unfortunate injury sustained by Ings. Adams has scored three goals in his last four appearances, having had to wait until his 30th appearance to grab his first Saints goal.
Not only that but Adams has since been nominated for the PL Player of the Month award following some of his recent impressive displays.
At the back, meanwhile, Danish centre back Jannik Vestegaard is rapidly becoming one of the most consistent performers in the Premier League after overcoming a rather shaking start to life in the top flight.
Where next for Hasenhuttl’s rejuvenated side?
The big question for Saints fans and Hasenhuttl is can they keep their impressive run going?
Well they do have two potentially tricky fixtures against Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves and the rather unpredictable Manchester United. There is, however, certainly no reason why they could not maintain their impressive start to the campaign with subsequent games against Brighton and current strugglers, Sheffield United.
After all, in this strange 2020/21 season, the side from the South Coast could perhaps start dreaming of a top six finish or more?
Where do you think Southampton will finish this season? Feel free to leave predictions in the comments below….