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Watt View - Hasenhuttl Will Relish Challenge Of Outwitting Guardiola Again
Saturday, 19th Dec 2020 08:44

There is no question today's visit of Manchester City will pose a very difficult test for Saints but Saints fans should take confidence in how much boss Ralph Hasenhuttl will be relishing it., Matt Watts takes a look at how Hasenhuttl's star has risen.

The Austrian will be pitting his wits against decorated Spaniard Pep Guardiola, a manager who has won eight league titles in three countries and the Champions League twice.

Saints put up stiff resistance the last time City visited St Mary's in July and claimed a 1-0 victory through a wonder strike from Che Adams en route to a mid-table finish.

That was a sweet win for Hasenhuttl against a Guardiola team and showed signs of the work ethic – as well as the quality – he has honed to great effect so far this term.

This season sees his Saints side go into the fixture in third place and disappointed not to have sealed a victory against Arsenal in mid-week which would have seen them sat second. An almost unthinkable proposition just a season or so ago.

City go into the fixture four points behind in eighth place, albeit with a game in hand, and have stuttered on more than one occasion, including a 2-5 home defeat to Leicester City and draws with Leeds United and, most recently, West Bromwich Albion.

Yet the ability to dish out a hiding is never far away, as they demonstrated with a 5-0 demolition of Burnley and the light work made of their Champions League group – one which included Porto, Olympiacos and Marseille.

But there is something about Saints this season that gives you the belief that any game is truly winnable no matter the opposition – and Hasenhuttl will surely be revelling in the chance to take another three points off his illustrious counterpart.

If he does, it will again be nothing less than his skills and dedication deserve. It is no secret he spent a vast amount of time during lockdown earlier this year fine tuning his “Southampton playbook”, developing a multitude of text, animation and video materials to embed his methods of play throughout the entirety of the club.

The desire Hasenhuttl has instilled within the squad is immense and means his team will pose a challenge to any opposition on any day – though even in defeat he is able to focus on the minutiae and ensure his players learn from the small mistakes that cost a goal or a result.

And while BBC Sport's Mark Lawrenson continues to struggle to see Saints as a threat to almost anyone in the league this campaign – predicting a comfortable 0-2 win for City today – fellow BBC pundit Martin Keown couldn't be more vociferous in his praise.

The Gunners legend, writing in today's Daily Mail, said he believed Hasenhuttl had drilled his team better than any other in the Premier League, with his hard work and diligence on the training ground now bearing fruit.

He also credits the Saints boss with making Theo Walcott “the complete player” at the age of 31, despite spending 12 years under the guidance of one of the Premier League's greatest managers in Arsene Wenger at his former club.

“Theo Walcott scored against Arsenal on Wednesday and I've never seen him so defensively responsible,” Keown said. “He is now much more of a complete player, both with the ball and without.”

It seems there is no end to Hasenhuttl's talents. Victory today will put Saints in second place in the Premier League and seven points clear of City, leaving everyone to wonder where this season will take us.

Photo: Action Images

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underweststand added 09:41 - Dec 19
Aside from Liverpool, City are the one side that clubs can measure themselves against.
The fact that we can talk about a side that is valued at £1 BILLION speaks for itself.

On several occasions in the past, a superlative City side has lost key games in Europe and in the Prem. that have cost them trophies, but they still have a very impressive squad.
In truth, they could probably match the majority of the Prem. sides if they only fielded their " bench regulars " without the likes of De Bruyne and especially Aguero (who many clubs will be glad to see the back of on the day he retires).

Our performance last season was highlighted by Che Adams debut " wonder goal ", and the fantastic defensive performance we put up against all odds. Pep. will have learned from that game too, and it remains to see if Ralph can try to pull... " a rabbit out of his hutch " with some fresh ideas and win the points again.

This is one game where I would be glad to come away with a point, but a good win would really get a lot of attention from the media, and secure our place in the top 4.

underweststand added 09:46 - Dec 19
A postscript to the above ;
If Ralph decides to use this game to introduce Diallo or, Salisu it will be a good test to see how they can perform against what is sure to be a very good City line-up.

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