Patience is somewhat of a rarity in the modern age. Our packages are next (or even same) day delivery, our food is fast, and I’m royally pissed off if I have to wait a week to watch the next episode of Peaky Blinders. Our insatiable hunger for immediacy is catered for in contemporary society; our needs are usually satisfied shortly after downloading some sort of app and pressing an artificially intelligent button.
The same can be said of football. There is no denying that the sport is all too often a result-driven business – any singular result will have at least one set of fans, and social media in particular, in uproar. We are greeted with calls for #(INSERTNAMEOFSTRUGGLINGMANAGERHERE)OUT on an uncomfortably familiar basis and coaches dismissed as frauds before a ball has even been kicked.
All of this makes it all the more surprising that Ralph Hasenhüttl still sits in the dugout at Southampton. Whether it’s a sincere show of trust or the board simply didn’t have any better ideas, remains to be seen. Either way, after losing 9-nil at home to Leicester, if the club did have an app to solve the issue then they would have certainly been hovering over the ‘YOU’RE FIRED’ button.
I was (un)fortunately at the Emirates to see Hasenhüttl’s side draw against Arsenal and witnessed two very different teams – a ropey, nervous outfit in relegation form…and Southampton.
Around the time of this difficult result, it seemed inevitable that the first Austrian manager to grace the Premier League would lose his job. His name was floated around the blogs and the pubs of Britain along with Pochettino, Emery, Flores, Silva and Pellegrini. Yet, he was the only one to survive this ridiculously long list of apparent failures and, as a result, has gone from strength to strength.
The defeat (or mauling) to Leicester left Southampton sat inside the bottom three with a goal difference of –16. Immediately after, the Saints had two fixtures away at Man City (in the League and League Cup); their future looking like a crazy world leader had just called Southampton out on twitter as his new target of destruction. Although they lost both of these games, they showed spirit and resilience. I doubt the patience I am referring to would have lasted a couple of poundings at the Etihad. Since then, they have taken points from Chelsea, Leicester, and Spurs as well as beating fellow strugglers Watford, Norwich, and Villa. Understandably, their biggest defeat since that dreary October evening has come against Klopp’s unrelenting Liverpool. Despite losing by four goals, Southampton managed to have more shots than the current Champions of Europe and Premier League leaders. In November, I was (un)fortunately at the Emirates to see Hasenhüttl’s side draw against Arsenal and witnessed two very different teams – a ropey, nervous outfit in relegation form…and Southampton.
Coincidently, that was Emery’s last league game as Arsenal manager. Two months later and the table sees Southampton in eleventh place, one point above Arsenal. If ever there was a lesson in patience, Southampton have taught it to us all.