By James Kilpatrick
Last Updated: 08/12/18 9:32pm
What have we learnt after Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first game in charge of Southampton? We take a closer look…
Hasenhuttl endured a tough start to life in the Premier League as he saw his side lose 1-0 to Cardiff after Callum Paterson pounced on a glaring error by Southampton’s £18m summer signing Jannik Vestergaard.
So’ton vs Arsenal
December 16, 2018, 12:30pm
It was far from the ideal beginning for Hasenhuttl and the 51-year-old admitted post-match there is plenty of work to do on the training pitch, having only taken charge of two sessions so far.
But, with Southampton remaining in the relegation zone, what did we learn about Hasenhuttl’s side and what can we expect to see from them going forward?
Changes in midfield
Although Hasenhuttl has had little time to work with his players, he was not afraid to ring the changes against Cardiff and made six switches to the lineup that lost 3-1 to Tottenham on Wednesday, setting his side up in a narrow 4-3-2-1 formation instead of their usual 4-2-3-1.
Hasenhuttl enjoyed great success at RB Leipzig utilising a 4-2-2-2 and it was evident on his Premier League managerial bow that he likes to have a narrow box-like midfield.
Nathan Redmond and Stuart Armstrong were stationed on the wings on the teamsheet, but it became very clear early on that they would drift inside. Both were seen moving into the number 10 position and the pair switched flanks on more than one occasion.
Despite losing 1-0, there was plenty of time for intricate midfield play and that showed in the fact Southampton registered 63% possession while also having 15% better passing accuracy (75%) than their opponents.
Pieces to fix
Glaring individual errors at the back will not have pleased Hasenhuttl. He started Jan Bednarek and Vestergaard in central defence and both had far from impressive afternoons. After all, Vestergaard’s dithering on the ball arguably cost them the match, while Bednarek switched off in the first half to allow Josh Murphy through into a one-on-one situation.
But there will also still be cause for concern in the forward areas for Southampton fans. Although the visitors registered only one less shot on goal than Cardiff, only one was on target. A lack of firepower has been a problem all season for Southampton and Hasenhuttl may address that in the transfer window.
‘Work and stay together’
“We start working hard now,” Hasenhuttl told Sky Sports post-match.
“I’ve seen a few good things from my team but also in the last period we made too many horrible mistakes today against a team that is also near us [in the table] so it’s a pity [we dropped points].
“Now we look forward to this next home game against Arsenal. We have a few sessions now. We know that it is hard and we have a long way to go in an intensive time for us.
“I saw the guys sitting in the dressing room with their heads down and I told them I understand they’re frustrated, but it’s all about work and staying together. Now we must make the next step in our development.”
Pundit reaction – Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson watched Southampton’s performance against Cardiff on Soccer Saturday and he believes signing a centre-back in January could help them climb up the table.
“They were quite toothless up front for all of the possession they had in the second half and there are glaring errors that they’re making at the back and that’s been the difference.
“He’s got a lot of thinking to do and speak with the people to try and get somebody in. Today it was Bednarek and Vestergaard. The other day it was Yoshida and Stephens. He’s got problems there.
“There’s nice rotation with them in the middle because there’s nice rotation and they’re keeping possession. Lemina was very good. It all looks quite pretty but there’s no end product there. There’s not enough people in the box.”