THEY make for an obvious comparison, but Ralph Hasenhuttl has made a better start to his Saints career than Mauricio Pochettino ahead of the Spurs manager’s return to St Mary’s this weekend.

It is more than six years since ‘Poch’ arrived at St Mary’s as Nigel Adkins’ replacement midway through Saints’ first season back in the Premier League.

But there are many similarities between the Spurs boss and the current incumbent in the Saints dugout.

Not least their respective records after 14 games in charge.

When Hasenhuttl saw the 3-1 defeat to Pochettino’s Spurs from the Wembley stands at the beginning of December - the day before he was unveiled at Staplewood – the club was in the bottom three.

Morale was low and, for many, relegation seemed more likely than not.

But Hasenhuttl has overseen an impressive run of mid-table form that has seen Saints take 18 points from their 14 matches under his leadership.

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Like Pochettino’s first three months in the Premier League, Hasenhuttl’s tenure has featured the inevitable downs as well as ups during what has been another period of transition.

But he has also provided a much-needed shot in the arm and generated some of the optimism missing since the heady days of Europa League qualification under Ronald Koeman nearly three years ago.

Koeman, incidentally, has the best Premier League record of any Saints manager after 14 games (26 points), with Gordon Strachan (19 points) the only other of the previous 17 incumbents with a superior record to Hasenhuttl.

Like Pochettino, Koeman, Strachan and indeed the late Alan Ball, who had an identical record after 14 games, Hasenhuttl is excellent with the media and charismatic, with no shortage of fire in his belly and an affinity with the supporters that is growing.

Daily Echo: Mauricio PochettinoMauricio Pochettino

With Saints buoyant after their 2-0 defeat of Fulham and a brilliant performance at Manchester United, Pochettino will hopefully recognise the sort of upbeat St Mary’s atmosphere he was used to for most of his 16 months on the south coast.

As was the case with Pochettino in January 2013, Hasenhuttl had no experience of the Premier League when he took over from Mark Hughes at the beginning of December.

But he wasted no time in re-introducing the sort of high-press tactics that Pochettino used to lead Saints to eighth place in his one full season at St Mary’s.

Poch preferred the 4-2-3-1 formation to Hasenhuttl’s back five, but the intensity of the latter’s training sessions is similar to those advocated by the Spurs boss.

Pochettino took charge of his first game on January 21 2013, a goalless draw against Everton and, like Hasenhuttl this year, did not add to the squad he inherited that month.

For the rest of that season, Pochettino tended to field a back four of Nathaniel Clyne, Maya Yoshida, Jos Hooiveld and Luke Shaw in front of Artur Boruc. 

It was protected by Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin, while the Rickie Lambert/Jay Rodriguez/Adam Lallana triumvirate was coming into its own.

Hasenhuttl’s record so far is even more impressive given he does not have the the sort of cutting edge available to him that Saints had back then.

But the rest of the squad is not dissimilar in quality.

Like Pochettino, Hasenhuttl has inherited some very talented full-backs and a decent midfield.

Daily Echo: James Ward-ProwseJames Ward-Prowse

James Ward-Prowse - along with Yoshida the only Saints survivor from Pochettino’s early days at St Mary’s – was only used as an occasional substitute during the Argentine’s first few months at the helm.

But he has blossomed into one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, while Yoshida has also grown in stature.

This year’s January transfer window was Saints’ least productive since 2013, when Vegard Forren was the only arrival - and that before Pochettino took the helm. 

The only other activity that month saw the likes of Jonathan Forte, Ben Reeves, Lee Barnard and Steve De Ridder loaned out on deadline day, as Wesley Hoedt and Cedric Soares were this year.

Saints still finished five points above the drop zone having been three clear with 22 from 22 games when Pochettino arrived.

Hasenhuttl is confident of a similar finish, despite taking over with the club in a more dangerous position, ensconced in the relegation zone with nine points from 15 games.

He will also be hoping to get the sort of financial backing this summer that was given to Pochettino after his first four months in charge. 

In the lead-up to the Argentine’s one full season as Saints boss, the club spent £36m on players (Dejan Lovren, Victor Wanyama and Dani Osvaldo).

It remains to be seen how much is invested at the end of this season, but it should be borne in mind that Hasenhuttl is also very ambitious.