This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
For the most part of this season, Southampton have seemed to be plodding along, going through the motions with little urgency in regards to some unspectacular results.
The campaign started with a 3-0 defeat at Burnley, and the Saints have never really caught the eye at any point – even their first Premier League win of the season came against a Brighton side who had ten men for the last hour of the game.
Additionally, things have seemed up in the air tactically, with Ralph Hasenhuttl deploying six different systems in the first ten league games – on that particular basis, it is no wonder why the players don’t really look like they know what to do.
However, the 9-0 embarrassment at the hands of Leicester seems to have given everyone at the club a kick up the backside, with a reaction being seen in the narrow 2-1 defeat to Manchester City last time out.
Having said that, the next six games are truly a crucial period in Southampton’s season – a moment of truth, if you like.
Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Leicester and Chelsea have come and gone, and now the Saints face Everton, Watford, Norwich, West Ham and Newcastle over the next month and a half – they also come up against an out-of-sorts Arsenal side.
These games will be the real determiner of where Southampton, and Hasenhuttl, are at.
It will be a chance for supporters to see just how good their side and their manager is, up against opponents who they must be taking some points off if they want to stay in the division.
Additionally, there is no reason for the former RB Leipzig man to be so defensive in these games either.
Eight times this season we have seen the Austrian line up with either a five-man backline, or a three-man defence with wing-backs in formations that only allows for two forwards when couple with a central midfield trio of Oriol Romeu, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and James Ward-Prowse.
That’s fine, if you’re playing Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.
It is not fine, however, if you’re up against Norwich and Newcastle.
Hasenhuttl’s mindset will be laid out bare over these next six weeks – will the 52-year-old simply carrying on going into games hoping not to lose, or will he finally set the side up to ruthlessly attack and take the game to the opposition?
Of course, nothing is set in stone until May when the final whistle sounds in the 38th game.
Although, a huge part of that final outcome will rest on the next six games.