Since November International break, Southampton’s form has been good enough for a place in the Premier League’s top four. It seems their lowest is past them as only two months ago, Saints’ 2-1 defeat at home to Everton left them languishing in the relegation zone. Now Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side is in its best shape of the season as it prepares to take on Leicester City for the first time since the 0-9 humiliation at St Mary’s on October 25.
With five wins, two draws and two defeats from the last seven games, Saints have a superior record to every side bar Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester. Hasenhuttl’s decision to ‘reset’ his team on return from the two-week break that followed that defeat has reaped dividends. The return to a flat back four – with Alex McCarthy, Cedric, Jack Stephens, Jan Bednarek and Ryan Bertrand protected by James Ward-Prowse and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (all of whom have been ever-presents) – has seen Saints concede only nine goals in those nine games. Hasenhuttl’s preferred 4-2-2-2 formation has also brought the best out of Danny Ings, who has scored eight of Saints’ 14 goals in the last nine, as opposed to five in 12 before the 2-2 draw at Arsenal on November 23. Nathan Redmond’s return to form as another ever-present has also been significant .
Ralph Hasenhuttl said ” The team news so far is very good. We have nearly everybody on the pitch apart from Yan Valery. He is still separate from the team. He has done a few jogs and runs. We are in the market and we are looking for full-backs because we know that we don’t have that many options at the moment. I was happy that Jake Vokins played there in the FA Cup but he still a young player who has to learn a lot. We have Ryan, but we don’t really have an alternative for him. This is the position that we are also missing Yan Valery on the right side, so we don’t have many alternatives. This will definitely be a position that we do something in.”
What has been most impressive about Southampton during Christmas period is the way the high-energy counter-pressing approach has been sustained.
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