Who is the Austrian Jurgen Klopp? Southampton’s new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl’s tactics explained. The former RB Leipzig trainer is an advocate of counter-pressing football similar to Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing. Hasenhuttl’s style as manager of Die Roten Bullen was more similar to Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund side than his Liverpool side, so will be a very exciting addition to the Premier League.
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Hailing from Graz in the Austrian Alps, Hasenhuttl began his football journey playing as a centre forward in the Austrian Bundesliga and was capped at international level, scoring 3 goals in just 8 appearances. He retired from professional football in 2004. The man dubbed the “Alpine Klopp” began his managerial career in the German third tier with Unterhaching in 2007, then moved to Aalen in 2011. Hasenhuttl took over the team one place above the relegation zone. After keeping Aalen in the third tier and rebuilding his side, he gained promotion to the Bundesliga 2 in his first full season in charge. His next challenge was with Bavarian side Ingolstadt, he again turned a relegation threatened club into a Champions in a season, winning the Bundesliga 2. with Ingolstadt in his 2nd season at the club. Hasenhuttl had finally made it to the Bundesliga. He finished 11th in his first season at the pinnacle of German football, but opted against renewing his contract and took charge of newly promoted RB Leipzig.
In the club’s first season in the top tier, Hasenhuttle led Leipzig to 2nd in the Bundesliga, behind only Bayern Munich. Hasenhuttl failed to replicate the same form the following year, finishing 6th. He entered contract negotiations with the Red Bull back organisation for a long-term deal, Die Bullen couldn’t commit long-term, so Hasenhuttl left the club after leading RB Leipzig to highest finish ever.
Mark Hughes was sacked following Southampton losing a 2-0 lead at St. Mary’s against Jose Mourinho’s out-of-form Manchester United. Southampton have had a wretched few seasons under the control of Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino & Mark Hughes. With the latter saving them from Relegation last season, but failing to improve the side over the offseason and was sacked leaving them in the relegation zone battling the drop. Southampton famous for recruiting progressive managers to the Premier League such as Mauricio Pochettino have another diamond in Ralph Hasenhuttl.
The Alpine Klopp mainly implemented a flexible 4-4-2 that transitioned to a 4-2-2-2 at RB Leipzig. In possession, his Leipzig side used direct balls to the channels to gain possession high or initiate counter-pressing or alternatively build with a back three before firing direct passes into the attacking midfielders or strikers. The shape would evolve with the ball as the strikers would move wide, the wide players would move inside to become playmakers, the full backs would add width in the final third. A modern attacking scheme. Without the ball, Hasenhuttl instructs his team to press high in a compact, aggressive shape with a high line. Using a combination of man and lane orientated pressing on long balls as well as pressing traps.
At Southampton, it is expected that Hasenhuttl to employ the fast paced, attacking 4-4-2. Emile Forsberg and Timo Werner were his key men. Forsberg started on the left wing but was frequently found in attacking midfield where the Swede could use his fine technique to create at number 10. Werner was Hasenhuttl’s hitman scoring 34 Bundesliga goals under the Austrian coach. If Ralph is set to impose his attacking style on the South Coast club, he could look to Danny Ings to play Werner’s role and James Ward-Prowse to imitate Forsberg coming in from the left wing and utilising his ability from set pieces.
Southampton’s squad has been pulled apart by Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool over the last few seasons with Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk moving north. They have failed to replace their stars. Hasenhuttl could enter the market and sign wonderkid Hannes Wolf who has been linked to the club in recent weeks. The RB Salzburg attacking midfielder has been likened to Premier League star Christian Eriksen and could provide much needed creativity into Southampton’s midfield.