It was the 83rd minute at the Brentford Community Stadium when any lingering patience disintegrated.

The final straw was the decision to remove Stuart Armstrong for Oriol Romeu - something of a damage limitation effort when the damage was already done.

“You don’t know what you’re doing” and “Sacked in the morning” came ringing out of the packed away section in West London.

The chants were aimed at Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl and regardless of who you feel is deserving of the blame, the anger of fans who are clearly becoming more and more disenchanted by the week is both understandable and hugely important.

Throughout the dismal last two months, the Saints supporters have done their bit - travelling home and away while making their presence felt and heard. The words aimed at Hasenhuttl were so cutting because they were so loud - the Saints corner comfortably overpowering the dull roar from the home side.

Anger has been simmering for a while and on Saturday it boiled over as Saints completely surrendered to a Brentford side that seemed to have the edge in every category: from the tangible qualities of passing and pressing to the intangibles of hunger and drive.

Daily Echo: Ajer scores Brentford's third goal. Image by: PAAjer scores Brentford's third goal. Image by: PA

This season was supposed to be different for Southampton. This was supposed to be the year they built. Instead, they’ve crumbled - perhaps even more dramatically than ever before.

The statistics of this run make for tough reading: Ten games, one win, two draws and seven defeats. Seven goals scored and a whopping 24 conceded. From European dreams to nervous glances over the shoulder, Saints’ season has thoroughly imploded and their manager has looked helpless to the demise.

READ MORE: Fraser Forster yet to hear in regards to future as time ticks - state of Southampton FC goalkeeping situation

Fans turning on the manager always feels like the critical breaking point, but this was really just a reaction to something that has been breaking for a while.

You know things are bad when changes are made…and nothing actually changes. As Saints’ malaise deepens by the week, alterations of any kind from Ralph Hasenhuttl seem to be having no effect whatsoever.

On Saturday, the Austrian boss reacted to the Crystal Palace defeat by shaking things up considerably. Oriol Romeu, Nathan Tella, Shane Long and Che Adams all dropped to the bench with Ibrahima Diallo, Stuart Armstrong, Adam Armstrong and Armando Broja coming into the starting XI. But these changes failed to stop the rot as Saints were brushed aside once again.

In possession, Hasenhuttl’s side tried to swarm Brentford in an ultra-attacking 2-2-6 system with Kyle Walker-Peters and Romain Perraud pressed high and Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond tucked inside creating a front six with Broja and Armstrong.

It failed. Spectacularly.

Daily Echo: Adam Armstrong tries his luck against Brentford. Image by: PAAdam Armstrong tries his luck against Brentford. Image by: PA

Brentford were 2-0 up after 14 minutes and really it could have been more as they caught Saints on the break time and time again. The second half was slightly quieter but Southampton still conceded a third to lose 3-0 - a semi-generous scoreline on the balance of their play.

Hasenhuttl had to react to the turgid performance against Crystal Palace and he did just that with both personnel and tactical tweaks. Often criticised for his stubbornness, Hasenhuttl is trying things - but nothing is working.

In some ways, that’s even more alarming. It’s his job to find the right solutions and at the moment, all of his answers are proving the wrong ones. 

Sticking with Hasenhuttl's trademark 4-2-2-2 against Chelsea, Southampton tried to play their game and go toe-to-toe with the Blues. They lost 6-0 and Hasenhuttl was widely blamed for the decision not to revert to the 5-3-2 system that had served them so well in the Carabao Cup clash with Thomas Tuchel’s side. 

Hasenhuttl then switched to that back five with the return of Lyanco and packed the box the following week against Arsenal. Thanks in part to some outrageous goalkeeping from Fraser Forster - it worked.

Five days later, Saints stuck with the same team and were dominated at Burnley. Their manager was admonished for sticking with such an un-ambitious approach against the relegation battlers so when Saints were next in action - for the trip to Brighton - he pivoted once again.

Back to a flat four at the Amex, Hasenhuttl also switched up his attack with Nathan Tella, Nathan Redmond and Shane Long all getting rare starts. An awful first half was bailed out by a James Ward-Prowse free-kick before the captain scored again in a much better second period that saved the afternoon and just about justified Hasenhuttl’s decisions.

The point was enough to see Hasenhuttl retain the same starting XI for the visit of Crystal Palace but it clearly didn’t work as Saints took an early lead before heading back down the tunnel and not bothering to play the final 80 minutes. Wilfried Zaha’s last minute winner gave them what they deserved: nothing. 

The meek defeat clearly convinced Hassenhuttl to make more changes - four of them for the trip to West London. Once again - it didn’t work. 

Throughout this dismal run Hasenhuttl has made changes. In the nine games following the 4-0 defeat to Aston Villa, he’s made an average of 2.6 changes to his starting XI per game, significantly more than the 2.1 average for the season. But they’ve had no effect.

Certainly one could argue that he's too slow in-game to alter things when it's going off the rails. In the 6-0 drubbing to Chelsea, he was far too slow to react before eventually switching to a back five after the game was lost.

At Burnley he stuck with five at the back for the full 90 minutes despite Saints' toiling from the moment the Clarets took the lead. On Saturday, far too much of the first half was spent with Brentford crushing Saints on the counter without any real plan or changes to quell the tide.

When asked after Saturday’s defeat if he feels his messages are getting through to his players, Hasenhuttl told the Daily Echo: "Sometimes we have shown some good things, but if you want to paint everything black now, you can do this, this is a good moment to do this.

"We have 40 points, we can say we are not safe, absolutely right. You can also say we are a top ten team because we have fantastic quality in our team, do it. You can write whatever you want, because it is not interesting to me. I try to work on the things I need to do, this is my job and I will do this."

It’s not really an answer, at least not to the question that was asked. Are his messages getting through to the players? Surely not judging by the performances. 

Saints haven't been unlucky, they've been bad. In each of their last six Premier League matches they've been beaten in terms of expected goals. In five of their last ten games they've conceded two or more expected goals while hitting that mark just once themselves.

The graph below shows just how much Saints have struggled to assert themselves throughout this run.

Daily Echo: xG data: infogolxG data: infogol

All this has culminated in the situation Saints find themselves in: holding on for their Premier League life and praying for the end of the season to come as quickly as possible.

For even the ultimate optimist, this feels like a breaking point. It’s incredibly tough to come back once the manager’s decisions start to prove ineffectual. And it’s even harder to come back once the fans turn. 

Hasenhuttl’s saving grace may be the end of the season. They don't look like claiming another point and were there still six weeks remaining, fears of relegation could push the decision-makers at the club into a decision.

Assuming Saints do get over the line and confirm their Premier League status for next season there’s every reason to believe the manager will remain in charge.

Not only will the end of the campaign give Hasenhuttl a chance to regroup and rebuild but it will also yield a period of isolation from the supporters - a period where they don’t have to come into contact with the fans each week, fans who are making their voices heard.

Regardless, big decisions are required this summer - the first under Sport Republic’s ownership. There is no point in Hasenhuttl staying at the helm with this group of players. His methods and tactics are clearly not working with them and it would be disastrous for the signs to go ignored. 

The ambition for the club is a place in the top ten yet they seem further from that goal than they were a year ago. Progress leads to faith but steps back should lead to difficult questions. If Hasenhuttl stays - as seems likely - then he needs to be backed with a full squad revamp.

How many of these players can be trusted at this point? Defensively they’ve fallen apart and clearly need major surgery in that department while going forward goals have totally dried up.

A back three with Lyanco was ripped to shreds by Burnley while the four with Mohammed Salisu and Jan Bednarek fared no better at Brentford. All four strikers have had opportunities to start - none have found the back of the net.

The five points collected from their last ten games is Saints’ second-worst run of form under Hasenhuttl - behind only the January-March period of last season. There’s absolutely nothing to suggest the downturn in form will stop until summer arrives to rescue them.

Whatever Hasenhuttl has tried to alter the momentum has failed and that’s where the major concern lies. At the moment, Hasenhuttl seems lost with the squad at his disposal and that means big changes must come.

Either the manager has to go and a fresh face can try and get more out of this squad or a major rebuild must take shape this summer. Some fans will believe both needs to happen but wherever you stand, this combination - Hasenhuttl and the current group of players - isn’t working. They’ve gone out of their way to prove that. So something must change.

Otherwise fears of relegation could become much more critical next season.

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this article - we appreciate your support in reading the Daily Echo.

Subscribing to the Echo means you have unrestricted access to the latest news, features and Saints coverage - all with an advertising-light website.

You will also have full access to Saintsplus, your new home for Southampton FC tactical analysis, features and much, much more.

Don't take my word for it - subscribe here to see for yourself.

Follow the latest breaking news in the Southampton area by joining our Facebook group - Southampton News - Breaking News and Incidents

Follow the latest court and crime news on our dedicated Facebook group - Hampshire Court and Crime News