Back at the start of November, we outlined how the next six games for Ralph Hasenhuttl and Southampton were absolutely crucial.
Those match-ups included encounters against Everton, Watford, Norwich, West Ham and Newcastle as well as Arsenal, who were still managed by Unai Emery at the time.
Crucially, we wrote about how the former RB Leipzig boss needed to move away from such a defence-orientated mindset, as Hasenhuttl had gone with a five-at-the-back formation or three-at-the-back system with wing-backs eight times at the time of writing.
So, how did he do?
Well, the Austrian coach passed the test with flying colours, to say the least.
The 52-year-old oversaw two crucial wins against Watford and Norwich and a draw against Arsenal using a more attack-minded 4-2-2-2 shape (also known as a 4-4-2 double six). While there were disappointing defeats to Newcastle and West Ham, the intent to be more forward-thinking was certainly there from Hasenhuttl and it helped shaped the weeks to come after this six-game run.
Not once since the 2-1 defeat to Everton has Hasenhuttl used anything other than a four-man backline.
Following these six games in question, the Saints then went on a fantastic run thanks to being settled down into a familiar tactical system, swatting aside Aston Villa, Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester to rocket into 12th in the Premier League on 28 points – just six points off fifth.
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We were crying out for Hasenhuttl to move away from such a packed backline – even mentioning that his managerial credentials will be put to the test in the title of that aforementioned piece – and he well and truly passed this examination with flying colours.
In truth, he quite simply had to or Southampton may have found themselves still engulfed in the relegation dogfight.
However, as things stand, he has his side sat seven points above the drop zone and looking in fine fettle.
Fair play to Hasenhuttl – he has impressively managed to navigate an excellent turnaround.
In other news, these Southampton fans have been discussing a transfer update on a target who “would suit what Ralph is implementing”…