Hasenhuttl Showed His Tactical Skills Against Wolves.
Wednesday, 23rd Oct 2019 09:33
Ralph Hasenhuttl took a leaf out of one of his predecessors books when he took his team up to Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend, but some Saints fans barely noticed.
Claude Puel is a much maligned figure for some Saints fans despite the fact that by taking his team to 8th in the top flight plus the final of a major cup competition, the season he was in charge was about 5th in terms of best ever seasons for the club taking all things into account.
But the fans accused him on being boring and his teams of playing negative football and his days were going to be numbered.
But you can't judge a book by the cover as they say and Puel's season was very much one of two halves, in the first even though Fonte was sulking he formed a decent partnership with Virgil Van Dijk and the team played decent football in the first half of the season.
They were very capable of scoring goals as they showed at West Ham in the early part of the season, but in the New Year after losing Fonte and then Van Dijk to injury and finding himself having to play Yoshida and Jack Stephens at the back, Puel changed tactics.
After what should of been a great win at Watford which saw the home side almost claw back a point with two late goals, Puel knew he could not play attacking football for the rest of the season, he had to protect his back four.
That meant that in many games we did not commit people forward in numbers but had the midfield sit back and protect the centre of defence from being caught on the break, it wasn't pretty to watch and at times it was awful, but Puel did a job and not only made sure that relegation was never a possibility but got us up to 8th place for which his reward was the sack.
In recent weeks Saints haven't played that badly, but like three seasons ago they cannot defend on the break the Bournemouth game was real evidence of that, virtual total domination of the game, but the Cherries kept catching us on the break, similar situation against both Spurs and Chelsea and Hasenhuttl must have felt real frustration as al of his forward play was undone as we conceded 9 goals in 3 games all in similar circumstances and to be blunt most could have and should have been prevented.
The sight of our defenders floundering and completely unable to deal with counter attacking football was enough to tear any managers hair out.
That wasn't going to happen for a fourth game when we travelled to Molyneux and we saw a Saints side that in the main was disciplined, but was not prepared to get forward in numbers and play into Wolves hands by letting them run at us on the break.
In the first half we lost discipline twice and on both occasions are central defence was ripped a hole in it and the ball was in the back of the net, luckily VAR intervened and the score stayed level.
In the second half we continued in the same vein and kept our shape and didn't let the home side catch us on the back foot.
But it was not pretty to watch and when we attacked Danny Ings cut a lone figure, if we piled forward to support him as we did against in the previous three games then we would have lost without a doubt, we have the worst central defenders in the Premier League in terms of organisation and we would have been constantly caught out.
So Ralph was not negative and it was encouraging to see that our manager can see what problems he has and that he has to adapt to deal with them, under Puel people moaned that there was no entertainment and no goals, 1-0 wins or defeats were abundant, that is fine, but no one was smiling in those three games mentioned when we shipped 9 goals and scored 3 ourselves, no one was smiling and saying what great games they had seen, what attacking football and end to end stuff.
No they were seeing the frailties of our defence, some of them perhaps for the first time judging by the comments on social media over the past three years.
The job for Ralph is now to get this side through the next 11 games until the January transfer window opens, he will need to temper their attacking flair and concentrate as Puel did on not conceding. In fact make that 12 games as I doubt whether we would be able to have a new man in place when Spurs arrive on January 1st.
There is no other way, the last three years have shown that certain players are not good enough.
Hasenhuttl like Puel is not completely without blame, the Frenchman inexplicably only played out of contract signing Caceres once in three months and we never truly found out if he could have been at least part of a solution and likewise Ralph is yet to play central defender loan signing Kevin Danso in his true position and he could make a big difference.
Hasenhuttl's job is to keep our heads above water till then and then hopefully we can make a signing or two in January, but it is not going to be a pretty sight up to then, you cannot make a purse out of a sows ear, even Hasenhuttl cannot just click his fingers and suddenly turn some of our central defenders into Premier League quality with a brilliant reading of the game, pace and organisational qualities, however he can work with what he has got and as Puel did, pick up some points to give us a foundation to work with in the New Year.
The first test is going to be Leicester on Friday night, possibly not the side we would want to face in that they are not only 3rd in the League, but they rely on Vardy on the break and I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of him and our defence.
However their placing is based on home form where they have won 4 drawn once and not lost scoring 12 goals and conceding only 3, away from home it is a different matter, they have got only 4 points and lost two of their four games, scoring 4 times and conceding 5.
This shows that away from home they are just the type of side we hate to play at St Mary's.
Ralph has to teach his side to play with the discipline needed to get a result, that means staying tight, taking our chances when they come and not giving away silly goals, it also means ensuring that there attackers don't get to run at our defence.
Back in January 2017 when Jamie Vardy slyly ran his foot down Virgil Van Dijk's ankle they could be said to have started the rot for Saints, if that had not happened the future might have been a lot different, we cannot change that now, but with this game we can start to change our future for the better and win ugly and move up the table.
Photo: Action Images
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