Premier League Relegation Betting: What Ralph needs to do at Southampton
Ralph Hassenhuttl will have his own ideas about what's wrong at Southampton. But so does Jamie Pacheco and here are five things he thinks the Austrian needs to consider.
"But I’m damned if I know what Southampton’s gameplan was or what sort of team they wanted to be under Hughes. Hassenhuttl needs to decide on that early doors and stick with it because up to now they’ve lacked a personality."
Southampton have appointed former Leipzig boss Ralph Hassenhuttl to help them avoid relegation, a genuine possibility given they're the 17th placed team and 4.7 fourth favourites for the drop.
Here are five things Hassenhuttl should be thinking about when he steps into the hot-seat.
Keep faith in the kid
You wouldn't have thought it, by looking at their 'goals for' column - they have 12, only Huddersfield (nine) have fewer - but Southampton actually have four pretty capable strikers, plus a raw but talented youngster in Michael Obafemi.
Danny Ings (currently injured) has looked up for it, and his return of four goals from 11 starts isn't bad, all things considered. He should start when available. After years of not getting a look in at Liverpool due to injuries and competition from better players, he looks like he's desperate to make up for lost time.
The temptation when you're up against it, in a relegation dogfight, might be to go with all the old heads who have seen it all before. But I'm not sure that Charlie Austin and Shane Long still have that hunger in them. Manolo Gabbiadini, meanwhile, doesn't seem suited to this league, let alone to a club in these circumstances.
Eighteen-year old Obafemi has been lively so far, scoring against Manchester Unitedat the weekend, and has youthful hunger, energy and fearlessness. He could compliment Ings when the latter returns from injury and that should be the first-choice partnership, with the others being decent options off the bench.
Create an identity
In addition to shortcomings regarding tactics, team selection and motivation, Mark Hughes' greatest issue was not really creating an identity for this team.
Were they meant to be hard-to-beat like Burnley or Brighton and mostly looking to set-pieces for goals? Well-drilled like Newcastle with a gameplan based on trying to play it to the lone striker to flick on or hold it up? Even Fulham, for better or worse under Slavisa Jokanovic, decided to be cavalier and hope they'd occasionally outscore opponents, even if it meant keeping no clean sheets at all.
But I'm damned if I know what Southampton's gameplan was or what sort of team they wanted to be under Hughes. Hassenhuttl needs to decide on that early doors and stick with it because up to now they've lacked a personality.
Give Forster a go
Alex McCarthy played the full 38 matches last season and kept just four clean sheets. To be fair to him, he's kept four clean sheets already this season. But he's also conceded 26 goals and his save percentage of 64.3% for the season puts him 16th among Premier League goalkeepers.
Giving the highly experienced Fraser Forster a run of games could only be a good move. If he keeps the goals out better than McCarthy has then great. He keeps on playing. If he doesn't, McCarthy would surely come back a more determined and motivated player after a spell on the bench.
Swap Redmond for Ward-Prowse
I can see why managers like Nathan Redmond. Versatile in terms of where he can play, quick and eager to take on players, he's a bit of a wildcard.
But the numbers don't add up. He's started every match this season. In fact, he's only not been on the pitch for 14 minutes of Southampton's whole campaign. And in those 14 matches he's produced 0 goals and 0 assists. He wasn't much better last season with just one goal and three assists despite starting just about every game.
If they're going to play two upfront (see my first point) then maybe they need a less attacking wide player and one man who fits the bill is James Ward-Prowse, who was frozen out by Hughes. Now into his seventh season at the club, he's just the sort of homegrown player with the passion to gee up the troops. For good measure he's also the team's best set-piece attacker, which could make a huge difference with goals at such a premium.
Plan for when they go ahead
Since last season, Southampton have dropped more points than anyone else from a winning position (33), a good stat from Opta. Now, there's obviously no quick fix solution for that and all games are different. Fine.
But the next time they go ahead, Hassenhuttl should have an idea of what he wants to do. Sit back and play on the break, shut-up shop entirely or go for the jugular. Whatever they tried in the past hasn't worked, so it's a case of learning from mistakes and having a plan in action for next time. It would be surprising if they take a lead against Spurs on Wednesday night , but it's a trip to Cardiff after that and it's very possible they could strike first in that one.