Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl knows his side aren’t far away from finding that winning feeling ahead of their trip to AFC Bournemouth on Wednesday night.
A run of three wins in their last 21 Premier League matches has seen pressure mount on Hasenhuttl’s position, with the weekend’s draw against West Ham United putting exit talks on hold – at least for the moment.
And with the Saints slipping into the bottom three, Hasenhuttl knows that the match at Vitality Stadium is a must win.
Hasenhuttl praised a positive first half as his side drew 1-1 with West Ham on Sunday, though he admitted more was needed in a difficult second period at St. Mary’s.
Romain Perraud gave Saints the lead after 19 minutes, but Declan Rice’s second half effort was enough to share the points.
“It was good. It was one of the better halves in the past that we have shown here with the team, we were very brave and tried to play forward quick and we created some good moments," Hasenhuttl reflected.
“It was difficult because we could feel that we really struggled holding them away from our goal, a lot of set-pieces against us and then it was only a question of time.
“The second half I think we were a little bit under pressure, especially after the equaliser and couldn’t really lift ourselves to more counter attacks or more dangerous actions on the ball.”
‘We lose good players and can’t replace them’
A problem for Saints remains their lack of goals – an issue that Hasenhuttl’s side haven’t really resolved since the sale of Danny Ings to Aston Villa in the summer of 2021.
And whilst Cody Gakpo almost made the move to St. Mary’s in August, the move broke down and Hasenhuttl’s wish for a number 10 and a striker never came to fruition.
Consequently, when asked whether his methods were ‘damaged’ or have failed to materialise, the Austrian defended his ways.
He explained: “I think we have always a lot of players that can score goals at the club, and when you look at the chances we have had over the last games, there is a chance definitely that we can score more goals from everybody.
“We have had a lot of shots on goal, but we haven’t upgraded on what we had in the summer and in the past we have lost a few important players up front who have scored a lot of goals for us.
“This is just a fact that in the Premier League that we lose good players and can’t replace them one to one immediately."
Trust in his team
Despite their lack of success of late, Hasenhuttl trusts his team to turn their current form around.
Since beating Chelsea at the end of August, Saints have scored just twice with four defeats in a row prior to the draw with West Ham on Sunday.
“I see we are able to compete, and be on the same level like West Ham last weekend. What’s missing is the final result but we are not far away from this.
“This is one of the biggest games and they are good for us and derbies are good for the fans.”
One element the Saints boss could be looking for is a bit of luck. Injury to Armel Bella-Kotchap adds to an already extensive list of issues for Hasenhuttl to deal with, in what could be a decisive few weeks of his almost four-year-long tenure.
But the Austrian denies the suggestion he has been on the wrong end of a bit of misfortune since their impressive form over the winter which ended in March.
“I had one time a manager who said ‘always lucky is quality and always unlucky is not good enough’. I don’t take this as a parameter, you try to work your best and to find answers for all the issues. We don’t have an easy job sometimes,” he said.
“When you are flying you don’t need a manager and we had this sometimes here, but when it is harder they need you even more. This is the job and if you want to do this here, you have to know what you get.”
Bella-Kotchap will be out for two or three weeks – and this if he does not require surgery for his dislocated shoulder. He joins teenage duo Tino Livramento and Romeo Lavia on the sidelines.
Duje Caleta-Car is set to come in for only his second Premier League appearance after the 26-year-old signed from Marseille in the summer.
“When you step into a new league and you see the intensity that is there, it is something impressive,” Hasenhuttl said.
“Not for every player maybe, but it is impressive when you see the intensity because it is different. The referees let the game run more, more duels are allowed and it is a different, wonderful league I must say.
“When you watch the games on the weekend you are like ‘wow, this is massive’. This is something some players need longer to adapt to. It’s on us to help him to do it quick.”
Hasenhuttl was full of praise for Gary O’Neill after the Bournemouth boss remains unbeaten after six games – winning two and drawing four in the process.
The Cherries raised a few eyebrows after parting ways with Scott Parker in August, but that decision has been one which ultimately has proved to be the right one.
“Absolutely an incredible job. I know how tough it is to stay unbeaten in the Premier League,” said Hasenhuttl talking about interim boss O’Neill.
“He took everything from the bottom if you want. I know how it feels when you lose high and then have to turn things around.
“He didn’t lose that high – he was immediately following and had the chance to build up a team.
“I think you could see that he found immediately a very successful way of playing football with a very clear, demanding shape – clear automatism, what is for me always a sign of a manager who knows what he does and brings in immediately what is necessary.
“This is very impressive to watch. They have a good balance now of taking risks or building up. A team that likes to play football but in certain places.”