From 0-9 to cloud nine - how Southampton changed their fortunes to become one of the Premier League's in-form sides

talksport.com, 13 July 2020, 03:53
From 0-9 to cloud nine - how Southampton changed their fortunes to become one of the Premier League
At the end of October, it was looking bleak for Southampton - a humiliation on a wet and wild Friday.

They dropped to 18th in the Premier League table, had the joint-worst goal difference after 10 matches and had just been beaten 9-0 by Leicester City at St Mary's. A shellacking in their own backyard.

It's Saints' biggest defeat in their 135-year existence and also equalled the record of the largest winning margin in Premier League history.

talkSPORT's Alex Crook, who was present for that downright miserable night for Southampton at St Mary's, saw it coming.

"It's the worst home performance from a Premier League team I've ever seen," Crook told talkSPORT.com.

"Once the first goal went in, some of the players visibly downed tools and you got the sense it was going to be a big scoreline. I remember saying at 4-0 that the record could be under threat so the writing was on the wall."

Naturally questions about manager Ralph Hasenhuttl's job would surface after such a harrowing defeat but before any sack talk got momentum, the club briefed the media that he still had their backing.

Things surely couldn't get much worse after that? Well, they didn't lose by nine goals again but Saints still left Premier League clashes against Manchester City and Everton empty-handed as the season paused for the November international break.

At that stage, Southampton were 19th in the table, having only amassed eight points from twelve matches. It all changed after that.

Crook points to Saints' first match after the break as the moment where the season turned for the better. They narrowly missed out on a win at Arsenal with Alexandre Lacazette equalising in the sixth minute of stoppage-time but there was spirit and character that most certainly wasn't there when Leicester came to town.

Results came together around Christmas and the new year, including impressive victories over Chelsea and Tottenham, while later in January there was redemption as they secured a victory against the side that had served them up a huge humiliation two-and-a-half months before.

Prior to the weekend's fixtures, a Premier League's form table shows Southampton were the fifth best team in the land since the weekend of the draw at Arsenal. They were ahead of the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, and Spurs, as well as being two points better off than Champions League hopefuls Leicester who so ruthlessly thrashed them.

What was done in that international break that turned Southampton's season around?

"At the start of the season they'd stopped pressing, they'd gone a bit more route one and it didn't work," Crook added.

"Hasenhuttl changed his tactics, changed his system. He decided one or two players weren't going to be along for the ride and tried a different approach.

"They went back to doing what they're doing when he first came in, which was a high press. Hasenhuttl calls it the red zone.

"The change of the back line helped. After the Leicester game they brought in Jack Stephens and got rid of Jannik Vestergaard, who's a bit of a liability."

After the lengthy stoppage, Southampton raced out the blocks to claim a dominant 3-0 victory over Norwich, the result effectively pulling Hasenhuttl's side away from the relegation battle.

And their most recent outing was perhaps their most impressive victory of the lot as Southampton defended resolutely to get the better of Pep Guardiola's Man City 1-0 at St Mary's.

The winner was not only a brilliant goal by Che Adams but also a demonstration of how effective Hasenhuttl's high press philosophy can be with Oleksandr Zinchenko being dispossessed in midfield before Adams expertly lobbed the stranded Ederson in the City goal.

It's not clear if Saints will build on this great form into next season but right now fans can just enjoy how far they've come since that fateful Friday night.

From conceding nine, they're now on cloud nine.

At the end of October, it was looking bleak for Southampton - a humiliation on a wet and wild Friday.

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