Ralph Hasenhuttl A Tale Of Two City's
Monday, 6th Jul 2020 10:13
Friday 25th October 2019 will be a date that stick's in Ralph Hasenhuttl's mind, when one City, in this case Leicester, annihilated his Saints team, now ironically 9 month's later, a result against another City, this time Manchester, completes a remarkable turnaround.
When Saints hosted Leicester City on that Friday night back in October, there was nothing to suggest what would be about to happen as the Saints supporters headed to St Mary's.
Leicester had had a good start to the season and sat in 4th place, but a win for us would see us into mid table and only 6 points behind them, the start to the season had been patchy, but there were signs that we were moving in the right direction.
But there had been writing on the wall, the previous home game had seen us gift Chelsea a 4-1 win and the feeling was that a failure to sign a central defender would cost us dearly.
We didn't start badly against the Foxes, for the first 10 minutes it was an even game before the visitors scored out of the blue and then VAR made matters worse by spotting a foul the referee had missed in the build up to the goal and Ryan Bertrand received a straight red.
We then fell to bits there is no other way to describe it, Angus Gunn in goal paid the price for being dropped, but truthfully he could do little as our team showed a complete lack of leadership and composure in front of him.
We couldn't even just keep it tight in the final few minutes, as Leicester scored twice to equal the Premier League record score, we did not even have enough pride for that.
When you realise that of the 14 players who played a part in that night 8 of them played against Manchester City last night and a further three in Alex McCarthy, Che Adams & Sane Long were unused subs, it makes it even more remarkable the way Ralph Hasenhuttl has rebuilt the confidence of the squad.
There is still a way to go, we still have our issues and they need addressing, but the fact is that there is now a spirit in the side that was missing earlier in the season.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has looked at his side and rooted out the cause of our lack of fight and not been afraid to deal with it.
The long running transfer saga with Pierre Emile Hojbjerg being unsettled by Spurs is one example, we have not allowed that to weaken the team spirit, Ralph acted quickly as the season restarted by stripping the Dane of the Captaincy and handing it to James Ward Prowse, this has been a great move, you can see JWP grow in stature and lead from the front, you can see by the body language of the squad that it has inspired them and showed them that you have to be committed 100% under this manager.
The euphoria of beating Manchester City has pushed one fact into the corner and that is this could easily have been a result that saw us concede almost as many goals as the Leicester game, the stats from both games are very similar, both had 73% possession, both had a very high number of attempts on goal, we had only one more attempt on goal against man City than we did against Leicester, indeed we had the same number actually on target in both games.
Both games followed similar patterns aside from the fact that it was us that scored the first goal early on in yesterday's game.
But after the opening period the pattern was the same in both games, both City's pouring wave after wave of attacks into our half.
Ralph Hassenhuttl had the same defensive issues he had back in October, only this time the whole team defended as one and refused to lay down as they had done 9 months ago, the change in mindset was absolutely astounding and there is one man to thank for that.
This victory should not gloss over the underlying problems we have in certain positions, we were still a little too lax on too many occasions, but what we did do was refuse to let one mistake become two, each player fought for not only himself but his team mates around him, that was not there against Leicester City.
But we have something very strong to build on now, it has given us sight of the top 10 again, but I think ultimately we will fall just short, we cannot produce this level of commitment in every game, no team can, when you are at the top of the table you are there because in most games the quality of your team will be enough to win a lot of games, you only need to be about 90% effort.
But there are always games you need to hit 100% and even the proverbial 110%, the only question is whether you are doing it to get you into Europe or out of relegation trouble.
We have shown we have that commitment, we now need to fine tune the squad with a signing or two, harsh to say when those who will be replaced played so well last night, but football is a harsh game, you have to keep improving your squad.
So last night was a Tale of Two City's, the way we played against one and the way we didn't play against the other, we went a little way in getting over that defeat when we beat Leicester back in January, but it has taken until now, as I mentioned with some irony as it is 9 months since that rout, something we could never have foreseen back then.
As we all left St Mary's in October, some of us a lot earlier than others, we left a ground with not an ounce of unity, from the players on the field, to the supporters that argued in the pubs for hours after the game and on message boards.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has quietly just got on with the job and some credit has to be given to the board here as it would have been easy to sack him, not just on that day but in the following month as we failed to win a game, but they showed that they look at the long term and that this is an ongoing project and Ralph is the best man for the job.
The win against City was not just great because of the spirit, but in another ironic twist it was also the three points that made us mathematically safe from relegation with 5 games left, Ok we were probably already safe the moment we beat Norwich, but this was symbolic on a night that we won our pride back.
As I said I think we will fall just short of a top 10 placing, we will still make those errors as we have done in every game since the re start, in some games we won't be able to get away with it, but we can now look forward to next season with hope.
For the rest of this season we have to set little targets, the next one is to beat the 46 points that were won in Claude Puel's season when we finished 8th, Sheffield United in that position now already have 48 so we will need more than the 2017 total, but beating it will be a big boost.
Then we have to look at that revered season of 2013/14 when Mauricio Pochettino was in 8th himself, he did that with 56 points, that is a big ask, but if we can get anywhere near that it will show how close we are to getting back to our peak of a few years back, perhaps some people will stop harking on about the past and look to the future.
Photo: Action Images
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