Total Saints Opinion - "Start-istics"

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

Saints continued their fine start to 2020/21 with victory at Villa Park

After 4 wins in the last five Premier League games, there has been a lot of excitement around the Saints fanbase about such a positive start to 2020/21.

Ralph Hasenhüttls men have now secured 13 points from their opening seven games, made even more impressive after initially losing to both Crystal Palace (MW1) and Tottenham Hotspur (MW2).

But how does this campaign compare (after 7 games) to other Premier League years?

Ben Stanfield has been taking a look at some of the numbers.....

The High Points:

This is Saints 22nd season in the Premier League (since 1992-93) and, despite being renowned as perennial 'slow starters', a few of them have actually begun in similarly optimistic fashion.

Only once, however, have the Club managed to surpass the number of points Hasenhüttl's side currently hold.

Yes, 2013/14 saw Mauricio Pochettino's team officially 'buck the trend' by securing 14 points from their opening seven games.

The Argentinian guided Saints to four wins (vs West Brom (A), Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H) and Swansea (H)) and two draws (Sunderland (H) and West Ham (H)).

Ironically, the only game Saints lost during that run was at Norwich (0-1) when, you've guessed it, current Saint, Nathan Redmond, scored the winner.

Arguably even more impressive was the fact Saints also kept five clean sheets in that period - including one at Anfield (for completeness, Artur Boruc was Goalkeeper).

Believe it or not, Saints HAVE actually made positive Premier League starts before!

Saints would go on to end that campaign in 8th place (56 points), before Pochettino left in the summer to join Tottenham.

That saw the arrival of Ronald Koeman to St. Mary's. After losing the likes of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers during the summer, Koeman's early focus was rebuilding a competitive squad.

But rebuild it he did - and swiftly!

Koeman's 2014/15 season is the only other time that Saints have managed to equal the 13 points they have so far this term.

Sandwiched by defeats at Liverpool (1-2) on the opening day and Pochettino's Tottenham in MW7 (0-1), the Dutchman led Saints to four wins (West Ham (A), Newcastle United (H), Swansea (A) and QPR (H)) in those early weeks.

The other point came courtesy of a fairly drab 0-0 draw versus West Bromwich Albion (H).

With the likes of Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic combining so well, it was no surprise that Saints eventually ended the season in 7th place (60 points).

The Club's best ever Premier League placing (also under Koeman) occurred in 2015/16, finishing 6th (63 points).

That achievement is made even more commendable by the fact Saints had four less points after MW7 (9) than they did the previous season.

The only other time Saints had hit double figures by now was in 2003/04, when Gordon Strachan was the man in charge.

Wins over Manchester United (H), Wolves (H) and Tottenham (A) were supported by draws against Leicester City (A), Birmingham City (H) and Leeds United (A).

Middlesbrough inflicted the one defeat (0-1) of that phase, with Malcolm Christie scoring at St. Mary's.

Due to reasons that may never be fully known, Strachan exited in March 2004 and was replaced by another Scotsman, Paul Sturrock. The ex-Dundee United and Plymouth Argyle man saw Saints to a final placing of 12th (47 points).

The Low Points:

Remember 1998-99 Saints fans?

There's a good reason it will always be remembered as 'The Great Escape' - because a truly dreadful beginning left Saints with just 1 point (!!!!) after seven matches!

The solitary draw came against Tottenham (H) in mid-September, thanks to a Matthew Le Tissier equaliser.

Having led the Club to a comfortable mid-table finish the previous season, Dave Jones side took until late October to get their first win of '98/99 (2-1 vs Coventry (H)) .

Eventually, after what was an emotional rollercoaster throughout, Saints won their final three games of the season to finish in 17th place (41 points).

It remains the worst start the Club have ever had in the Premier League. Hopefully that continues to be the case!

Its all uphill from here!

In truth, the 90s certainly didn't provide much comfort for the nerves.

Five of the opening seven Premier League seasons account for the Club's worst mathematical starts (since 1992/93).

Thankfully, due almost entirely to Le Tissier, Saints somehow managed to stave off relegation during all of them.

Summarising how bad that period was, the Club averaged just 2.8 points from the initial seven fixtures of 93/94, 95/96, 96/97, 97/98 and 98/99 combined!

The most recent 'low point', as many will remember, was 2018-19 when, having been presented with a shiny 3-year contract by Ralph Krueger et al., Mark Hughes owned the St. Mary's hot seat.

Unfortunately, despite keeping Saints up (by the skin of their teeth!) the previous season, positive momentum couldn't be maintained.

Only 5 points were secured from the first seven matches (including a single win - at Crystal Palace (2-0)) - and it didn't get much better after that.

With a change desperately needed, the Welshman was eventually sacked in December 2018.

His replacement?

Ralph Hasenhüttl, of course - and that leads us nicely to the Austrian's own record....

Ralph Hasenhüttl's start-istics

Unlike Saints, Ralph Hasenhüttl has always enjoyed decent starts during his managerial career.

Focusing on seasons where he has been in charge throughout (i.e. not joined a Club mid-way through their fixture list), Hasenhüttl has only once failed to achieve 10+ points from his first seven games, dating all the way back to 2008/09.

In 10 full seasons (the current being his 14th in management overall), Hasenhüttl has now achieved 13 (or more) points on six occasions.

Ralph has always been a fast starter (well, except for last season!)

The highlight was with his 2016/17 RB Leipzig side, securing 15 points from the opening 21 available.

In a season that saw the Austrian achieve his highest career finish as manager (2nd in the German Bundesliga - 15 points behind Bayern Munich), Leipzig's initial seven matches included wins against Borussia Dortmund (H), Hamburg (A), Augsburg (H) and Wolfsburg (A), as well as draws with Hoffenheim (A), Borussia Mönchengladbach (H) and FC Köln (A).

Previous stints with SpVgg Unterhacing (3.Liga), VfR Aalen (3. Liga and 2.Bundesliga) and FC Inglostadt 04 (2.Bundesliga and Bundesliga) all included 10+ point beginnings.

As is often the way when Saints are involved, Hasenhüttl's record of achieving double figure starts has only ever been scuppered once - yes, on the South Coast!

Despite plenty of positivity in and around the City, Ralph secured just 7 points from his opening seven games with Saints last season (2019/20). Its the lowest '[opening] seven game tally' of his career.

However, after a strong second half to the campaign, he still guided Saints to a more than respectable 11th place finish (52 points).

So what does it all mean?

Ultimately, while there are still over 30 matches to play this season, Saints fans appear fully justified in enjoying the current 2020/21 'points to games' ratio. In terms of modern era statistics, its definitely one of the Club's better starts.

Hasenhüttl, meanwhile, will very much deem this 'business as usual'!

Article by Ben Stanfield


(Graphics owned by Total Saints; Photo of Villa Park by Alex Livesey (Getty Images))

MW = Match Week

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