Southampton’s slump continued on Sunday as they were beaten 2-1 by Brighton at St Mary’s, in another game that highlighted Ralph Hasenhuttl’s need for a Plan B with the Saints.
The Austrian rested key players in the midweek defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad and whilst his side played some decent football, they were beaten 5-2, and the hosts could and should have scored more.
He clearly recognised the importance of the game against the Seagulls on Sunday and was able to welcome back key players such as Kyle Walker-Peters, Ibrahima Diallo and Takumi Minamino against Graham Potter’s side.
However, his side were outplayed by a team who have struggled to score goals all season and the defeat now drags Southampton back into the relegation mix-up as we approach the denouement of the season.
It had seemed as if the 2-0 win against Sheffield United recently would not only ease relegation fears but also give Southampton a platform to seriously improve their form, but they have now lost 10 of their last 12 fixtures in the Premier League.
The Austrian has stuck with his 4-2-2-2 or 4-4-2 approach for the majority of the season, with his wingers playing more like ‘wide 10s’, but, perhaps with the exception of Stuart Armstrong, none of the players he has selected in his position regularly this season have been able to contribute effectively in the attacking third.
This highlights that the players in this position are not contributing nearly enough, which puts the pressure on the likes of Che Adams and Danny Ings to score the goals, and with the 28-year-old currently sidelined, Hasenhuttl is nearly completely reliant on Adams for goals in his side.
Whilst the 24-year-old has scored three in his last three, he is very inconsistent in front of goal, whilst James Ward-Prowse adds the obvious threat from set-pieces.
Southampton have been in the Premier League for nine seasons now but Hasenhuttl has to try something different, whether that be with the tactics, formation or personnel, otherwise it is difficult to see where the wins are going to come from at the moment.
Even at Man City, where they played four centre-backs, he stuck with the 4-2-2-2 formation, with Mohammed Salisu at left-back and Jack Stephens in midfield, which is a worrying microcosm of the Austrian being seemingly unwilling to try something different this season.
Too often we have seen the Saints start games well and drop off in the second half when opposition managers figure out how to get the better of Southampton, and it is for that exact reason that Hasenhuttl needs to develop a Plan B, or he could potentially see his side dropping back into the Championship.