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 December 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 six, draw one and loose just once of their next eight matches. This is including their latest 2-1 victory over South Coast rivals Brighton.
Following their latest victory the Saints have now moved up to fifth in the table and are just four points behind the Premier League leaders Spurs.
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.
The England midfielder followed up that impressive display by scoring another terrific free kick against Manchester United, which at the time gave them a 2-0 lead against the Red Devils before they subsequently lost the match 3-2.
While another who has flourished is Ward Prowse’s fellow England international, Danny Ings, who scored 22 goals in all competitions last season. Ings marked his return to the side with a typically composed penalty, which secured the victory over The Seagulls and made him the first Saints player to score in four consecutive away matches since Rickie Lambert between December 2012 and January 2013.
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 next play current strugglers, Sheffield United at St.Mary’s in their first match in front of their home fans since March of this year, before facing tricky fixtures away at Arsenal and then they play Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Although, 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….