Ralph Hasenhuttl wants Southampton to keep pushing for top-half finish

The Austrian has aspirations of guiding Saints to their first top-half finish in five seasons

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is targeting a top-10 finish (Joe Giddens/PA)
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is targeting a top-10 finish (Joe Giddens/PA)

Ralph Hasenhuttl has no intention of using Southampton’s remaining games to blood youngsters as he is no longer satisfied with merely avoiding Premier League relegation.

Saints banished any lingering fears of the drop by moving on to 39 points with six games to go following Saturday’s 1-0 win over Arsenal.

Manager Hasenhuttl has aspirations of guiding the club to their first top-half finish in five years.

And, with loftier ambitions than previous seasons, the Austrian plans to field his strongest available XI during the run-in, beginning with Thursday’s visit to struggling Burnley.

“I think it is visible that this season we are not speaking about ‘now we are safe’,” said Hasenhuttl.

“I think that is the first time since I am here, we are not saying ‘OK, now we are safe, so that’s it’.

“This season we try to focus on higher targets and this is what we said.

“We are in this middle part of the table. It is very tight, every club now has the chance in the last six games to climb positions or to lose positions.

“This is the goal now. There is no time for looking for who can get the chance now.

“I think there should be a very clear message for everybody that the best XI should play and the players that deserve the most to play should get the chance to play.”

Third-bottom Burnley are 14 points adrift of Southampton, albeit with a game in hand.

Saints’ trip to Turf Moor comes just six days after the Clarets’ shock decision to sack Sean Dyche and place Under-23s coach Mike Jackson in caretaker charge.

Hasenhuttl was surprised by Dyche’s departure but concedes the rewards of remaining in the top flight can prompt clubs to make unexpected changes.

“You can only be surprised because you don’t know the background information,” he said.

“If you would know this, maybe you wouldn’t be surprised. They should know the situation and what they should do, I am sure they do.

“It can be a strange moment, but it can be a good moment.

“In the end, you have to stay in the league and, as a club, you have a responsibility to do this and you have to take the decisions.

“If you think it is the right decision, you have to do it.”

Dyche’s exit promoted Hasenhuttl to fourth in the list of the Premier League’s longest-serving managers, behind Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Brentford boss Thomas Frank.

Asked how he felt about that, the former RB Leipzig boss – who replaced Mark Hughes at St Mary’s in December 2018 – replied: “Old!

“It’s something obviously new for me also, I was never that long in charge.

“It shows that I have obviously found a spot where I want to work, where I want to be, where I feel my work is getting the right attention for everything we do here.

“I think there are some advantages if you are a manager working for a long time at a club. But there can also be some advantages when you come new to the club – it gives everything a new push.

“There is not one way but you must say Sean Dyche did eight and half years, it’s an unbelievably long time in this short-lasting business.

“When you are that long at a club there is definitely something outrageous done otherwise it wouldn’t happen.”

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