Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Hasenhuttl masterminds Saints’ survival: Now it gets tough

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Southampton had one win on the board and nine points from their opening 15 games of the season.

They looked certain for relegation. Years of poor decisions in the transfer market had cost them dear. Fans took aim at the new owners and Director of Football Les Reed and Chairman Ralph Krueger (both of whom have left the club this season) for hiring and firing three managers in just over 12 months.

Then Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived for his first taste of English soccer and everything changed. Fans love his enthusiasm on the sidelines and his honesty in interviews created a Jurgen Klopp-esque bond. His first press conference set the tone perfectly. 

The talented but previously unenthused players have ran themselves into the ground and beat the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Wolves and Everton at home, results which were unthinkable earlier in the campaign.

Hasenhuttl’s clear vision led to gritty displays which saw Saints secure their status as a Premier League side on Saturday after their 3-3 draw with Bournemouth.

Now the really, really hard work starts if Saints are to return to being contenders for a top 10 finish rather than what they’ve now become, perennial relegation strugglers.

The former RB Leipzig head coach knows it.

“We will have a few players leaving. In every position we will try to get better next year,” Hasenhuttl said. “We had a very interesting last transfer period – no signings, just giving players away. This summer we will rebuild. We can start planning for next year tomorrow. A bit less stress would be nice [next season], sitting relaxed outside and taking the points we need. The target is to get 40 points earlier than this year.”

That planning for next season should start right now at Southampton.

The Austrian coach didn’t spend any money in the January transfer window, his only window since arriving at the club, and it is unlikely he will be able to spend that much this summer.

Saints are hamstrung by having expensive signings on long-term contracts who they can’t get rid of.

Similar to the likes of Aston Villa and Sunderland before them, who kept their heads just above water season after season before finally being relegated, Saints are stuck with a bloated squad who haven’t proved their worth.

Wesley Hoedt, Sofiane Boufal, Cedric and Guido Carrillo are all out on loan right now and are unlikely to return. Manolo Gabbiadini was sold to Sampdoria in January. Fraser Forster is one of their highest earners but hasn’t played since December 2017. Mohamed Elyounoussi has barely featured. The list goes on and on.

Quite simply, Hasenhuttl will have to live with the legacy of Saints getting it wrong in several transfer windows since Ronald Koeman left in the summer of 2016. Since that summer they’ve spent over $200 million in transfer fees alone, and although the sale of Virgil Van Dijk and others negate those fees, players are on very large wages for a club of Southampton’s size which is run to be sustainable. They should be in that group of teams just outside the top six, not battling against the drop.

Something drastic has to change, and Hasenhuttl is now the right man to lead these decisions as he’s rejuvenated many members of the current squad in just five months.

The best thing Saints can now do is let Hasenhuttl have the huge clear out they need. Deadwood needs to be chopped.

Whatever it costs, they need to take the financial hit and let players leave on loan or for good, and let Hasenhuttl start the 2019-20 campaign with a fresh, hungry squad. The way he has brought out the best in Nathan Redmond, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and James Ward-Prowse among others proves his skill in inspiring players he inherited.

Imagine if he could actually add a handful of players he wants…

This season has to be the wake-up call that Saints should have had last season when they survived relegation with one game to go. And that was largely down to Swansea’s slump rather than a good run of their own.

Saints’ academy is one of the best in the league and that is where a lot of their fresh talent can come from. Hasenhuttl has put faith in youth his entire managerial career and that hasn’t changed since he arrived in the Premier League, with Yan Valery, Michael Obafemi, Josh Sims and Ward-Prowse all becoming regulars under him. There are others waiting to break through too.

Hasenhuttl has been brave by cutting out more experienced players and he and Southampton have been rewarded for that.

Now Southampton, who don’t have a chairman or anyone in charge of the football side of the club long-term since Krueger left, must back Hasenhuttl. Krueger brought Hasenhuttl in, but the Austrian is happy to remain at the club and continue to push on, with a new leader or sporting director needed to get things right behind-the-scenes.

Saints can now start to focus on next season and they have Hasenhuttl to thank for that.

“We had to take a lot of points [after taking over in December]. If you told me after our first game against Cardiff, when we were five points behind them [that Southampton would stay up], it’s amazing,” Hasenhuttl said. “We deserve this. We invested a lot in this time and learned a lot. We showed how beautiful we can play. The next step must be to get more clinical in some situations. Two games before the end to be clear is fantastic for us.”

Ayoze Perez hat trick leads Newcastle past Southampton (video)

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  • Newcastle now 10 points clear of 18th
  • Perez scores both Magpies goals
  • Southampton five points ahead of drop zone

Ayoze Perez a hat trick as Newcastle United held off Southampton’s second half charge in a 3-1 win at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Mario Lemina scored a beauty for Saints in a game of high quality goals.

Newcastle goes 12th with 41 points, while Saints remain 16th with 36.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Newcastle wanted a penalty when an early shot from Ayoze Perez was blocked by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s arm.

Miguel Almiron took a Salomon Rondon flick and hit a wayward cross that Angus Gunn slapped wide of the goal.

The dam burst near the half-hour mark, when Perez scored both of his goals.

The first came with a fine, physical dribble right which the Spaniard punctuated with a hard shot across his body and inside the far post.

Then it was 2-0 within four minutes, Perez sliding onto the end of a Rondon cross to slap the ball inside the goal.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Saints deserved a goal and nearly had one through Maya Yoshida before Lemina answered the bell.

Off the bench, the ex-Juve midfielder scored from 21 yards after Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond combined to set the table.

But Matt Ritchie‘s diving header was redirected by Perez for an 87th minute insurance goal and the completion of a fine hat trick.

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Salah saves Liverpool with late goal to seal comeback over Southampton (video)

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Liverpool cannot afford a slip, needing perfection down the stretch to keep pace with Manchester City and keep the title hopes alive.

The Reds were far from perfect on Friday at St. Mary’s, battered in midfield and pressed by a Jurgen Klopp clone on the opposing touchline. Ultimately, despite an imperfect performance, they earned a perfect result thanks to Mohamed Salah‘s 80th minute goal that sent Liverpool on its way to a 3-1 victory over Southampton despite falling behind inside the opening 10 minutes.

Liverpool fought back the entire match, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s press baffled the likes of Naby Keita and Fabinho. The Reds were exposed at times, but by halftime, they seemed to have sorted things out, and by the hour mark, they were in full control, having made the appropriate substitutions to expose the talent gap.

Southampton went in front just nine minutes in as Shane Long found himself wide open in front of net. A ball in from deep delivered by Ryan Bertrand found Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg who managed to get himself in front of Virgil Van Dijk and flick the ball with his head. It fell perfectly behind him to Long who was waiting, and with Andrew Robertson overplaying the ball, Long was all alone to punch in the finish.

Long nearly had a second in the 18th minute, and probably should have scored, but he somehow whiffed on a cross from the left. Had he connected, he would have been all along in front of goal with just Alisson to beat yet again.

Liverpool drew level on 36 minutes as Southampton cleared two previous attempts, but on the third Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s ball from near the corner flag found Naby Keita at the back post, and he headed Liverpool back level. There was a hint of offside early in the buildup as Mohamed Salah made a run, but it was a

After the break, the Reds maintained possessional control but Southampton continued to prove dangerous on the break. Slowly as the half wore on, the visitors build themselves into the ascendency. Liverpool had a penalty shout as Keita threw himself to ground under contact by Maya Yoshida just before the hour mark, and while the defender made slight contact, the referee let play continue.

By the 67th minute, it was all Liverpool on the attack. Roberto Firimino nearly scored a Goal of the Season candidate, flicking the ball over his defender to put himself clean through, but Yoshida was on hand to make an enormous block. It took 15 more minutes, but eventually Liverpool found the all-important moment.

On the break off a Southampton corner, Salah found himself one-on-one across midfield with the lone Southampton defender back in Bertrand. Redmond also managed to get back, but the Egyptian split the two and unleashed a right-footed effort from the top of the box, putting it past Angus Gunn who appeared somewhat surprised to see Salah shoot rather than pass Firmino to his left.

The goal sent Liverpool through, and they secured the three points on yet another break as a long ball from van Dijk deep in Liverpool’s half found a breaking Firmino down the right, and the Brazilian sensed a teammate streaking down the middle. His cross found Jordan Henderson flying down the center unmarked for an easy finish to put Liverpool 3-1 up.

The win sent Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League table by two points, and while Manchester City still holds the advantage thanks to its game in hand, the pressure is back on Pep Guardiola to take care of business. Had Liverpool dropped points, the title race would have swung heavily in City’s favor owning a lead plus the game in hand.

Southampton carves Liverpool to shreds on early opening goal (video)

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Trailing Manchester City by a point in the title race, Liverpool has to be nearly perfect down the stretch to earn its first Premier League title.

The start to Liverpool’s visit to St. Mary’s was anything but perfect.

Southampton carved Liverpool’s defense to shreds and a wide-open Shane Long finished off the game’s opening goal to put Southampton 1-0 up after just nine minutes.

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In the build-up, the ball was spread out wide left to Ryan Bertrand who delivered a curling ball into the box from a good distance out. It came to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg who boxed out Virgil Van Dijk and got his head to the delivery, and flicked it behind him. Andrew Robertson made the fatal error of overplaying the ball, and Hojbjerg’s header fell right at the feet of a now wide-open Long who poked it past Alisson.

With Champions League play returning midweek before a meeting with Chelsea next weekend, Liverpool desperately needs a result today at St. Mary’s. However, Southampton is on a run of three wins in its last four and has clearly come to play in front of the home fans. Long got free again and nearly managed to put the home side 2-0 up in the 19th minute, but whiffed on a cross with just the goalkeeper to beat.

Southampton gets big win at sputtering Brighton

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  • Saints five points clear of drop zone with 33 points
  • Hojbjerg scores lone goal
  • Brighton remains on 33 points

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s goal was enough for Southampton to gain an invaluable three points and move five points clear of the drop zone with a 1-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium to Saturday.

Saints and Brighton both have 33 points, five points ahead of 18th place Cardiff City. Brighton has played one fewer match than Saints, while Burnley’s 33 points come with one more match played than Southampton.

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Saints will be feeling much better thanks to the second half goal, and Hojbjerg was fantastic at both ends of the play. The Danish star started the play and finished it with a flick via Nathan Redmond‘s assist.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]