Ralph Hasenhuttl will return to the scene of Southampton’s watershed moment when he sends his team into Premier League battle at Arsenal on Wednesday evening.
On November 23 last year, the Saints fought out a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium – indeed, they were only denied victory by Alexandre Lacazette’s last-gasp equaliser – four weeks after a 9-0 humiliation by Leicester at St Mary’s had left their manager under intense pressure.
Hasenhuttl’s response was to adopt a bold new approach, one which has paid handsome dividends since, with his team currently sitting fourth in the Premier League table having collected 23 of the last 30 points ahead of fixtures against the Gunners and Manchester City.
Asked if that game was the start, the Austrian replied: “Yes, you can say that, definitely. It was an interesting game for us and the first time we played in the shape we are still playing now, the moment where we threw all the other things overboard.
“It was the first game after an international break and we changed everything. They were really expecting us to be playing a back five and then we came with 4-2-2-2 and played a fantastic game and yes, it was the start.
“Since then, we have taken a lot of points in the Premier League and as you see, sometimes such games can give you a complete turnaround.”
The respective fortunes of the two sides could hardly be in starker focus as they prepare to go head-to-head once again, with Hasenhuttl’s opposite number Mikel Arteta firmly in the firing line amid rumours or dressing room unrest following a winless five-game league run which has left Arsenal languishing in 15th place.
However, the Southampton boss is acutely aware that one game can change everything.
He said: “That is the reason why you also must be careful of any opponent who is struggling, because they can also take such a game for a good turnaround, so be careful, be focused, do the best you can do to win the game.
“We have played this season three times against the top-six teams and only took a point against Chelsea. In the other two games against Tottenham and Manchester United we were winning and then a little bit too naïve to take all the points we could have taken, maybe, so we must learn from these games.
“These next games are a good challenge for us against Arsenal and City to show ourselves that we can now also be winning until the last minute.”
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