How Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton tactics has inspired their super start this season – and his St Mary’s rebuild is only just the beginning
After a truly impressive start to the season, much focus has been placed on Ralph Hasenhüttl and Southampton. Since arriving from RB Leipzig, Ralph Hasenüttl has introduced parts of the RB philosophy and has implemented a high intensity pressing system at Southampton.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton Defensive System
I have had a look at some of the underlying numbers behind the Saints defensive system and how this may effect their performance when out of possession. Much of their defensive setup is based on high intensity presses combined with an emphasis on collectivism.
Through 17 matches this season, Southampton have conceded 19 goals, which is actually the 3rd best in the league. However, looking at their xGA of 9.17 indicates that they can perhaps expect improvement in regards to conceding goals as the season progresses.
Southampton’s out of possession shape typically resembles a 4-4-2, and while they have made a name for themselves as a high pressing team, I would contend they don´t necessarily apply pressure high up the pitch, as opposed to pressing with intensity and collectively based on their signals.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton Pressure System
With 31.9 pressures applied per 90 minutes in the attacking third, they only rank 10th in the league in that department. What makes them difficult to play against is the intensity and unified matter in which they apply pressure in ALL areas of the pitch. By pressing as a unit they are able to be more successful when they do apply pressure.
They rank 9th in the league in total pressure applied per 90 minutes, but what makes them stand out is their success rate when pressing. With 46.1 Successful Pressures per 90 minutes, they rank 4th in the league, as well as a 32.38 Successful Pressure %, which is also 4th in the league.
I had like to point out that Southampton also average 54.4 % possession, 5th in the league, which will have an effect on their total number of pressures. This is why it is important to focus on their Pressure Success as opposed to total pressures.
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Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton Challenge Intensity: 7.3 (second in Premier League)
Similarly, their Challenge Intensity (duels, tackles and interceptions per min. of opponent possession) of 7.3 ranks second in the league, only behind Leeds. A very telling sign of intensity when applying pressure as a team.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton Ball retention System
General, willingness and desire to regain the ball when out of possession is a mentality key to Southampton´s success. Leading the league in recoveries per 90 minutes is indicative of this mindset. To maintain such a high number of recoveries it must be done by applying pressure all over the pitch, parallel with team shape and unit pressing.
The 1-0 win against Liverpool is an example of Southampton when defending in their high block, illustrating their relative lack of pressures in the attacking 3rd. While they start their initial shape high, the strikers often choose to maintain shape as opposed to pressuring the opposition centre-backs.
Pressure often doesn´t arrive until the pass is played out to the fullback. In this case, Southampton press with their winger. The ball-near fullback of Southampton pressures the closest winger. Timing and intensity of the pressure is critical to successfully regaining possession.
Other key principles in their high block phase include the role of the strikers in closing the central passing of opposition centre-backs, as well as the narrowness of the wingers to bait the passes to the fullbacks. Team shape – narrow and compact.
Southampton’s Tackling system
Another statistic I would like to highlight, this time is regarding their tackling data. Southampton have won the most tackles p90 at 11.6. However, they have also attempt the most tackles per 90 minutes in the middle 3rd of the pitch. This is a great indicator of where they apply their pressing traps, as well as the quality & timing of the attempts.
This was mainly just a thread to highlight a few key bits of data and tactics from Southampton, as Hasenhuttl has really improved the team’s mentality and out of possession tactics since arriving.