(Reuters) – Restoring stability to Southampton’s shaky defence is the immediate priority for the Premier League side’s newest manager, Ralph Hasenhuettl, as he looks to guide them out of the relegation zone.
The former RB Leipzig coach has taken over at St Mary’s following Mark Hughes’ dismissal and watched his side fall to a 3-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur under caretaker manager Kelvin Davis on Wednesday.
Southampton’s eighth defeat of the season left them 18th in the table with nine points, but Austrian Hasenhuettl said he did not fear the challenge ahead of Saturday’s trip to 16th-placed Cardiff City.
“It is tough but I am not frightened,” Hasenhuettl told a news conference on Thursday, ahead of his first match in charge.
“My goal is to develop the players as quickly as possible. It is about getting the defence stabilised quickly… The first target is to get out of the relegation zone. The focus for the near future has to be move as quickly as you can up the table.
“I want to put my footsteps in the snow here… It’s a bit back to the roots for me… The step is not the easiest one but I never want it easy in my life.”
Southampton also face Arsenal, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Manchester City later this month before taking on Chelsea in their first match of the new year.
Hasenhuettl was confident he could instil his philosophy at Southampton and get them to adapt to his high-intensity style with time but was keen to stress that results were important.
“It is a results business and we have to get them as soon as possible,” the 51-year-old added.
“We’ve a lot of games coming up and if you know my football it’s about training sessions and habits, so when you don’t have the chance to train it can be difficult to change things.
“I feel it’s a very physical division. The speed is high and I don’t want to compare it to Germany, but it is a way of playing I like. I think my kind of football fits well with this league, and I want my players to show it.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)