Saints alive – just. A look back at Southampton’s season


Southampton’s 2018/2019 Premier League campaign sees the team finish, again, just outside the relegation places. In many ways the season is a lot like last year, with an unimpressive final finish, a managerial change, a squad showing its lack of depth and many fans hoping the future is brighter than previous year. However, there are some major differences between this season and last season, and almost any fan of the club will react with positivity with how the season has gone since Saints appointed Ralph Hasenhuttl manager in December.

Coming into the season many Saints fans were cautiously optimistic.

We still had questions over Mark Hughes and the recent transfer decisions. We knew we needed additional help all over the pitch and we were somewhat hamstrung with recent contracts, resulting in a large number of outgoing loans (not Chelsea numbers, but still) and leaving many of the same first team players around for the coming season. However, with a few additions to the squad, many thought a mid-table finish was in the cards.

The opening to the season proved otherwise, though.

With Mark Hughes in charge, Saints picked up just one (1) win and nine points through 14 matches. If you listen to almost any media from the fans, read any tweets or look at any articles, it was clear by November that many thought the team were going down and that Hughes had to be sacked.

Hughes and the team parted ways after a 2-2 home draw with Manchester United in early December, paving the way for Austrian Ralph Hasenhuttl to join the club as first team manager. It was a pivotal moment for the club and the team.


Under Mark Hughes, much like Mauricio Pellegrino before him, the team lacked any sort of dynamism.

The football was slow, and few players seemed to be thriving under his tutelage. The defence especially lacked solidity, with Hughes insisting on playing Wesley Hoedt despite him making costly mistakes seemingly every week, leaving Jan Bednarek out in the cold. Few players really showed any improvement, one clear exception being Nathan Redmond who came back from a summer in Los Angeles with a point to prove and who has won over all but the a few fans this season.

Mark Hughes’ sacking was preceded by the departure of Vice Chairman of Football Les Reed, who had served the club for eight years but whose recent transfer policy and decisions led many to question his ability to continue to steer the footballing side of things at the club.

Saints had missed on major transfers in each of the past few windows and had tied mediocre players to high wage, long term contracts, further restricting themselves when it came to selling players on.

As mentioned before, the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl was a turning point for the club.

The arrival of the new manager just ahead of the holiday fixture list proved crucial as the team put together wins over Arsenal and Huddersfield before holding Chelsea to a scoreless draw at home. Still, despite the team taking 28 points from 22 matches under Ralph so far and playing much more attractive football, they’ve never been able to move higher than 15th in the table.

Despite the lack of upward movement in the table, there is no denying the changes Hasenhuttl has brought to the club. He has managed to change not only the on-pitch performance, turning Saints into a high pressing, quick striking team that forced mistakes out of teams on many occasions, but also the mood around St. Mary’s.

The ground had been stale for several seasons, with fans unhappy with everything from the board selling players to the lack of home wins and overall team performance. But Hasenhuttl managed to revive the crowd not by promising results, but delivering an entertaining brand of football and being very forthcoming with his intentions and goals, bringing through youth players and squeezing seemingly every last drop out of the available talent in the side.

Hasenhuttl didn’t get any players in the January window, though he did clear out some senior players, sending them on loan to make room for youth team and other senior players in the side.


That said, he has transformed the play of James Ward-Prowse, re-invigorated Oriol Romeu, given the captaincy to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, brought in Angus Gunn, continued to improve Nathan Redmond and made the best of Yan Valery. There’s no denying the impact given Redmond and Valery each picked up two awards at the team’s annual end of season awards night on Tuesday evening.

As things stand, though, they are far from perfect.

The team is stretched thin and lacks quality depth at several key positions. The team continue to drop points from winning positions (28 so far this season), leaving them dangerously close to relegation despite it never really feeling like a possibility the past few weeks. The team will look to continue its policy of sell to buy, but it may be difficult given the wages and contract lengths many of the first team players possess. The idea of bringing in a defender, some right back cover, a striker, and another wide attacker is not out of the question. But, as mentioned, it will be predicated on moving players out to free up cash to spend in the market.

Hasenhuttl has eked the absolute best out of several key players in the team, but the lack of quality beyond the 11 or 12 first choice players means that one injury, suspension, or dip in form brings an end to the cohesion and solidity in the side.

The football under Hasenhuttl has been, for the most part, eye catching. Saints have been fun to watch again for the majority of his time in charge, and with a little help in the transfer market, the team could be poised to move up the table next year.

However, for this season, most fans will remember Redmond’s resurgence, and Hasenhuttl’s influence, along with some boardroom shuffling, in what we are all hoping is just the beginning of something truly special on the south coast.


You can stay up to date with all things Saints, including Matt’s podcast and newsletter, at and follow the show at @sfcdell_ivery on Twitter and Instagram


About Author

Comments are closed.