For Southampton fans this season, it has been a whirlwind of a campaign. Ralph Hasenhüttl was relieved of his duties in November after several disappointing results which meant they were in a relegation battle.
Luton Town manager Nathan Jones was appointed following Hasenhüttl’s four-year tenure at St. Mary’s Stadium and they are now starting to reap the rewards. It has to be said that it was a disappointing start, but now they are building confidence after a flurry of victories.
Hasenhüttl’s time in charge
The Saints had a reasonably successful time under the leadership of Hasenhüttl from when he was appointed in December 2018. In his first season on the south coast, the ex-RB Leipzig manager guided them to a 16th place finish.
The season after, Southampton had their most successful season under Hasenhüttl as they finished 11th, which was helped by 25 goals from Danny Ings. In the 2020-21 campaign, the Saints finished 15th but they struggled last season as Ings left for Aston Villa – but recorded another 15th place finish.
A youth-centred summer recruitment plan
Many questions were raised over Southampton’s signings over the summer. The average age of their squad is 24.3, meaning that they have one of the youngest squads in the division. Despite the lack of experience in the squad, the Saints were certainly preparing for the future and some have proved to be real assets so far this season.
Samuel Edozie, Juan Larios, Roméo Lavia and Gavin Bazunu all arrived from Manchester City with the latter featuring in all of their Premier League games so far this season. He has impressed in between the sticks in his first season in the top flight, while Lavia has already been attracting interest from elsewhere. Duje Caleta-Car joined from Marseille, as well as exciting German defender Armel Bella-Kotchap.
Joe Aribo swapped Ibrox for St. Mary’s and Sékou Mara was brought in as a promising, attacking option. Caleta-Car and Aribo were the two oldest players that were signed, despite both only being 26, which emphasises their youth-centred approach. This additionally shows that they were looking for future prospects that could be sold on later down the line.
An underwhelming start to the season
Southampton had a good start to the 2022/23 season with wins over Leicester City and Chelsea in their opening five games. However, after their victory over Chelsea, the Saints only won once in eight games and that become one in nine following a 4-1 defeat to Newcastle United. That was Hasenhüttl’s final game in charge and despite picking up draws against West Ham United and Arsenal in that run, Southampton opted for a change in manager.
Nathan Jones’ background
The appointment of Jones was one that was welcomed by Saints supporters after working miracles at Luton. The Hatters wouldn’t be where they are today without the 49-year-old and they gained promotion from League Two in the 2017/18 season. Stoke City came calling at the beginning of 2019 but he only lasted nine months at the Staffordshire-based side. He returned to Kenilworth Road in May 2020 and he guided them to 19th place. Last season was the most impressive though as on a shoestring budget, they defied the odds by reaching the Championship play-offs. Jones was subsequently named as EFL Manager of the Season.
The beginning of his reign
Jones had one game before the break for the FIFA World Cup which was a 3-1 away defeat to Liverpool. Their first game back was a close 2-1 victory over Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup, which was followed by a defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion. Two more defeats to Fulham and Nottingham Forest followed, showing that there was a long way to go if the Saints were to improve.
There was a major turning point when Southampton picked up a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace in the Emirates FA Cup. This was followed by a shock 2-0 win over Manchester City in the Carabao Cup, but the most important victory of all came against fellow relegation rivals Everton on Saturday. Despite Amadou Onana’s first half strike, the Saints fought back to win 2-1 courtesy of a James Ward-Prowse brace. Despite it only being January, this seemed like a priceless win in Southampton’s bid to stay up.
Can the Saints stay up?
Despite the recent victories, the Saints still sit bottom of the table on 15 points. However, it is extremely tight at the bottom of the table and by every passing game week, the table is always changing. Jones was known for his front foot, pressing style at Luton and he is slowly implementing that at St. Mary’s.
They have added Mislav Oršić and Carlos Alcaraz so far this January from Dinamo Zagreb and River Plate respectively which will only improve their chances of staying up. But do you think they will do it?