Ralph Hasenhuttl wants Southampton to start looking up
Wins over Arsenal and Huddersfield have lifted Saints out of relegation zone
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is confident his team can beat West Ham on Thursday night. Photograph: PA
Ralph Hasenhuttl has warned his Southampton side the hard work has only just started.
Hasenhuttl replaced Mark Hughes earlier this month and has had a transformative effect, with Saints heading into Christmas on the back of consecutive wins over Arsenal and Huddersfield.
Those two results have lifted the side out of the relegation zone and three points clear of the bottom three, allowing Saints fans to look up rather than down.
Hasenhuttl said: “They showed they learned now to defend. That’s the first step in the right direction. What you also saw is that we have quality when we win the ball.
“We scored three times against Arsenal and also three times against (Huddersfield), a team that is really good at defending normally with a good reverse gear.
“When we work like we did until now, then we have a chance to stay (up). But if you stop now, we have 15 points now, and that wouldn’t be enough.”
Southampton now face a double bill at home, with West Ham the visitors on Thursday, when they will be without suspended midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, followed by Manchester City three days later.
“It is the next difficult challenge for us,” said Hasenhuttl. “To play two times at home helps us a lot. The opponents are really strong, West Ham and then Man City.
“I like to see this stadium again with a team that is now coming with two wins. What we know is we should be as passionate and concentrated, as uncompromising as the last two games. When we do so I think we have a big chance to take the win against West Ham, or Man City. Why not?”
Nathan Redmond has been a standout figure in the last two games, particularly against Huddersfield, where he scored his first goal of the season before setting up teenager Michael Obafemi for the third.
Hasenhuttl said of the winger: “I think before I came here he had one assist and no goal, and now in the last two games he has two assists and one goal. That’s what I expect from such a player because he has real quality.
“When he works like he did last two games then it’s not so surprising that he will score more because he deserves to. That’s what I talk to him always. First work for the team and then you will see that you get more chances.”
It is no surprise Southampton defender Jannik Vestergaard has fully embraced Hasenhuttl’s arrival given he was in and out of the side under Hughes.
“It’s had a really positive effect on all of us,” said the Dane. “We’ve had two very good games and now it’s a challenge of keeping up that level. We’ve shown each other what we are capable of and we can’t accept any less than that.”
Vestergaard is expecting a difficult match against West Ham, whose four-game winning run came to an end with a home defeat by Watford last Saturday.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge because West Ham have a lot of quality and they have shown that, after getting off to a bad start, they’ve played some quality games,” said Vestergaard.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us, but we are in a process right now of becoming a better team and the last two games have shown we are going in the right direction. We want to stay on that path and to do that we need to win back-to-back home games.”
Meanwhile West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini intends to rotate his squad to cope with a growing injury list and get back to winning ways.
Pellegrini’s side claimed four straight league victories before a 2-0 defeat by Watford put them back in the bottom half of the table.
The east London side are set to be without eight first-team players as they look to round out their first half of the league season against a rejuvenated Southampton, who have won their last two matches under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.
“We need to play seven games during December and after that six more in January,” Pellegrini told reporters.
“Unfortunately for us we have eight players who are not an option to return. Maybe Marko Arnautovic can return soon, I don’t know about Southampton.
“We need to see now about the injuries to Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) and Fabian (Balbuena). That’s a big problem but we need to trust the squad and make a good rotation of the players.”