With the Saints now a relatively secure and distant 200-1 to get relegated after their impressive 3-1 win over Wolves, Ralph Hasenhuttl now has the luxury of starting his planning for next season. He would no doubt have learned a lot from this victory over a very tough Wolves outfit. In recent weeks, he has tinkered with his starting formation juggling between a 3-5-2, 4-4-2 and a 3-4-2-1 type formation with all of them showing degrees of relative success.
The turnaround inspired by the appointment of Hasenhuttl has been dramatic and thrilling. Massive wins over Arsenal and Spurs, heartening performances in defeats to Man United and Liverpool and some solid victories over Brighton, Fulham, Wolves, Everton, Leicester and Huddersfield turned the season around. Not only have the Saints virtually secured safety, but they have introduced some bravery and style to their play, something that has been lacking in recent seasons.
Here are some key takeaways from the game:
SIMS ADDS AN EDGE
Josh Sims got his first start under Hasenhuttl and didn’t waste any time making an impact, setting up the Saints first goal in the second minute of the game. Yes, he squandered a golden chance to score after being put through by Danny Ings. Earlier he had also taken the wrong option in shooting instead of passing to a wide open Ings. But he is a rough diamond and will learn from these mistakes.
He has pace to burn and as Ralph pointed out in his post-match interview, he makes quality deep runs that keep opposing defences on the back foot. Needs to get more starts.
FRONT THREE A THREAT
The new front three of Ings flanked by Redmond and Sims is a vast improvement on a line of Austin, Redmond and Armstrong. The additional pace creates significantly more options in attack than before where it seemed that our only outlets were via crosses from the flanks and the odd speculative long shot. This trio can open up defences through the middle with their pace without sacrificing the added threat from the wing-back. There are now goals in this team.
SACRIFICED SOME STEEL IN MIDFIELD
Hasenhuttl, took a calculated gamble in sacrificing Oriel Romeu in midfield for the extra attacker in Sims up front. This positive approach at home versus a very strong but mentally vulnerable Wolves (after their shattering FA Cup semifinal defeat to Watford) paid dividends.
At times, it seemed that the move may backfire as Wolves dominated the first half possession, easily playing through the Saints midfield. With 30 mins to go, the Saints were able to revert to the more solid formation, bringing on the robust Romeu, once again illustrating their flexibility.
STILL BATTLING TO CONTAIN CROSSES
The Saints defence, for the most part, looked relatively solid. One glaring issue remains though and that is their seemingly never-ending, inability to deal with crosses into the box.
Wolves got their equaliser from a corner when Boly was given a free header from a corner and Yoshida almost gifted Raul Jimenez a second-half goal prodding a soft header straight into his path inside the box. This is an area that really needs addressing in the offseason. The Saints need a more robust centre back who can take control of the big box.