Clever 65th minute ‘injury breaks’, convincing stars they CAN be the next Sadio Mane and no panicking under pressure… Ralph Hasenhuttl follows the masterplan to keep Southampton out of danger
- Southampton have defied expectation this season and find themselves in 10th
- Their win at home to Everton was their seventh victory in the league this season
- Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side has lost just one of their last 11 games in all competitions
There were few grumbles when many pundits tipped Southampton for relegation this season. They had a strong case.
Talismanic striker Danny Ings had been sold, the club was up for sale and the academy production line seemed to be stalling.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side looked low on experience. Following Aston Villa-bound Ings out of the exit door were seasoned professionals Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand, who both joined Leicester.
Southampton were predicted to battle relegation but have excelled and are in 10th place
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s inform side has lost just one of their last 11 games in all competitions
But after easing past Everton on Saturday, Saints consolidated their place in the top half. They’ve lost just once in their last 11 games in all competitions and, in that run, have beaten Tottenham, drawn with both Manchester clubs and are still in the FA Cup.
So, what are the secrets of Saints’ success? It starts and ends with chief executive Martin Semmens’ utmost backing of boss Hasenhuttl.
‘It’s not about where we finish in the league,’ Semmens said last week in a BBC podcast. ‘It’s about the stability and consistency in planning.
‘Do we plan to keep our players or sell them? People assume we are a selling club. It’s nothing to do with money, it’s to do with the pathway. If we don’t let Tino Livramento go to Liverpool one day if they want him, the next players don’t come in.
In that run they have beaten Tottenham, drawn with both Manchester clubs and are in the cup
‘We give people the view that they could one day be the next Sadio Mane (formerly of Southampton) at Liverpool and that’s why they want to join.’
It was a fascinating interview which revealed the club’s vision. Nobody at St Mary’s is still mourning the three key players lost last summer. Others have stepped up.
Livramento and Kyle Walker-Peters are one of the league’s most exciting full-back duos, while Armando Broja, the 20-year-old Chelsea loanee, has bullied defenders.
Mohamed Salisu, plucked for £10million from Real Valladolid, is looking like the complete defender Saints have never quite found since Virgil van Dijk’s £75million exit four years ago.
Hasenhuttl looks for fine margins and they are starting to see out games after dropping points
Part of that might be down to an intriguing pattern of an ‘injury’ around the 65-minute mark
The list could be extended to wax lyrical about all of Hasenhuttl’s squad. They have all improved this season.
The Austrian spent much of the Covid pandemic drawing up a digital playbook. It is a blueprint of his philosophy for his players, coaches and scouts to follow.
Hasenhuttl looks for fine margins and they are starting to see out games after a wretched record of dropping points from winning positions.
Part of that might be down to an intriguing pattern of an ‘injury’ around the 65-minute mark.
In 15 of 25 league games this season, a Saints player has received treatment at that time
In 15 of 25 league games, a Saints player has received treatment at that time and the rest of the squad have trotted over to the touchline to take on energy gels containing maltodextrin, a form of carbohydrate that can quickly fuel athletes.
One of Hasenhuttl’s playbook’s latest recipients is Rasmus Ankersen, the former Brentford talent spotter and now part of Southampton’s new owners, Sport Republic.
As co-director of football at Brentford, he led the Bees to the Premier League with a similar ‘pathway’ strategy to Saints.
In his time in west London, he bought and sold the likes of Ollie Watkins, Neal Maupay and Said Benrahma. Those three alone raised profits just shy of £80million.
One of Ankersen’s go-to phrases sounds daft but it might outline where he plans to take Southampton.
‘If you were to place a frog in a pot of boiling water it would immediately jump out to save its life. But if you slowly increase the temperature it would be unaware of the danger and it would not jump.’
The rest of the squad have trotted over to the touchline to take on energy gels to refuel
As the author of books such as The Gold Mine Effect and A Winner’s DNA, let’s trust Ankersen’s slogan. It’s a metaphor for being alert to danger and recognising a need to change.
It’s why Saints never panic when faced with adversity. Every player can be replaced via their extensive data-led scouting system, while the club also have Hasenhuttl’s eventual successor in mind.
‘There is somebody in the Premier League now who is No 1 on our list by miles,’ added Semmens. ‘He came into the league not long ago, we know who they are.’
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