Coming towards the halfway mark in the Premier League, the managerial casualties are being to build up. Having already seen Fulham’s Jokanovic removed from his post, the latest to face the axe was ex-Southampton boss Mark Hughes. The Saints wasted no time in the search for his successor having already appointed Austrian Ralph Hasenhuttl.
If you follow Bundesliga football you may well have heard this name before but if not, don’t worry. Hasenhuttl has had stints managing in his home nation with clubs such as Austria Wien and Salzburg, but is perhaps most well known for his spells with German sides Ingolstadt and RB Leipzig. On paper, this appointment will be one that has Southampton fans buzzing with excitement. In 2013, he was appointed manager of Ingolstadt who were sat bottom of the 2. Bundesliga. Having secured their safety that year, Hasenhuttl and his side made a huge leap the following season earning promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time as champions of the second division. In his first season in the top tier he comfortably avoided relegation with his side finishing in 11th place but chose not to renew his contract moving to newly promoted Leipzig. Moving to a side which had just been promoted after already being at a Bundesliga club may have seemed like a step back, but it certainly didn’t turn out that way. Hasenhuttl guided his new team to a second place finish in his first season and a 6th place finish in the second. Leipzig are now a fully established Bundesliga side greatly thanks to their previous manager who only left after he and the club were unable to agree on a contract extension.
Although we haven’t actually seen the Austrian in action with Southampton, everything he has done or rather, said so far, hints towards good things to come. He speaks excellent English which is always a huge bonus for a foreign manager starting life in the Premier League. Hasenhuttl appears to be a very energetic and hands-on character who will most probably want to really get involved and be conducting his own training sessions, something which might be difficult if he is unable to speak the native language. This energetic persona has led to the Austrian being compared to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Whilst a comparison to a highly thought after manager would be flattering for many, Hasenhuttl has decided to dismiss these links. Whilst he as admitted to being “a little crazy”, he has denied being the ‘alpine Klopp’. The former Leipzig manager wants to install his own philosophy and be known as himself suggesting he has both high and long term ambitions with his new club.
However, employing a manager with no experience of managing in the what is thought to be the most competitive league in the world, is always going to be something of a risk. This risk is only ever going to be greater given the position Southampton are currently in. The club were loosely linked with a few more obvious choices such as Sam Allardyce and David Moyes, who have both managed in the Premier League on multiple occasions and are both currently without a job. Allardyce, in particular, is renowned for joining a club midway through a season and rescuing them from relegation. The main aim of the Saints’ season has to be to avoid the drop and there will always be some possibility that someone like big Sam may have been a better choice to achieve this.
Overall, Hasenhuttl is a fairly unknown manager to English fans which is greatly unfair on the Austrian given what he has achieved in German football. Yes, there will always be some risk with a manager lacking in Premier League experience but Southampton have to be admired for not taking the easy option. Hasenhuttl is a manager with his own philosophy and ideas which he can make work with Southampton in the long term just as long as he successfully gets past the early stages of his time in England. Southampton are a side who have always played attractive football but the success this brought has somewhat been lost in recent times. Hasenhuttl seems like the perfect choice to regain this and turn the Saints into a side capable of bigger things than just remaining in the Premier League.