After a slow start to the season, which saw them pick up just four points in seven games, the Saints have now picked up ten points in the next four. As a result, Southampton have climbed up to 13th place in the Premier League with three wins, five draws, and three losses.
Heading into the international break last month, Hasenhuttl was under huge pressure, and questions were being raised about his team’s performances. Southampton’s starting five fixtures were against strong teams including Manchester City, Manchester United, and West Ham. Despite the tough fixtures, they were able to take one point from each of these three teams. Following their loss against Chelsea at the start of October, the Saints have planted their feet back in the league, with wins over Leeds, Watford, and Aston Villa. Hasenhuttl outlined in a recent interview the importance of maintaining a balance in the energy from their results, not getting too carried away after a win or getting too disappointed after a loss. He also stated that he was assured of his side’s performance despite the poor string of results in the opening matches.
Southampton’s recent form has also been aided by brilliant performances from Armando Broja, Che Adams, Tino Livramento, and more recently, Mohammad Salisu and Adam Armstrong. After scoring in the opening week of the Premier League season against Everton, Armstrong was goalless in his next eight appearances. Although he took plenty of shots and was getting into good positions all through those eight fixtures, Armstrong had to wait for his goal drought to end till the recent game against Villa. Hasenhuttl emphasized the importance of the goal for Armstrong’s confidence after the match.
Let’s analyze some stats from recent matches and team benchmarking to understand the Saints’ recent revival in form.
In their previous match against Aston Villa, the Saints took an early lead in the 2nd minute of the match via a goal from Armstrong. His shot from the edge of the box ended up in the back of the net and proved sufficient to hand Southampton three points. They had to slog through the match in the second half. The Saints had a higher xG in the match than their opponents and better shot accuracy as well, although they took fewer shots. Elyounoussi had the second-highest xG in the match, marginally less than Buendia. Oriol Romeu made seven recoveries in the opponent’s half, while Salisu won seven aerial duels.
Southampton dominated the proceedings of the match during the first half, as indicated by the xT timeline. Although, they failed to take the game away from Villa despite creating many chances. Failure to convert their chances has been a consistent theme of Southampton’s matches this season. Hasenhuttl had to change his system to a back five in order for his side to get through to the end of the game. The xG timeline indicates a similar pattern, with the Saints creating high-quality chances in the first half.
Southampton are placed fifth in the league in terms of successful smart passes, indicating that they are creating plenty of chances and are successful in breaking the opposition line frequently with their passes. In addition, they average upward of two successful smart passes per game. Only Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester City are above them in terms of average successful smart passes per match.
The Saints have also been impressive in terms of successful defensive duels. They are placed sixth in the league both in terms of successful defensive duels and average successful defensive duels per match, indicating a high success rate in their defensive duels. The win against Villa was Southampton’s fifth clean sheet of the season. This can be attributed in part to the recent form of their centre-back pairing of Bednarek and Salisu. The latter, in particular, has been impressive in the Saints’ backline, leading his centre-back partner in terms of interceptions, tackles won, and aerial duels won. Salisu is also brilliant in recovering loose balls and aids his side in building up from the back.
After the recent string of good results, Hasenhuttl needs to find a way to carry his side’s momentum after the international break. They would be looking to win the next game away at Norwich City, before diving into another round of tough four fixtures against Liverpool, Leicester City, Brighton and Arsenal.