Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has said that it is important for his team to “find a rhythm as soon as possible” if they are to push for a top half finish this season.
Hasenhuttl’s first season in charge was a bit of a mixed bag, with the team fighting for their lives in a relegation battle at one stage, only to recover to finish in their highest league position since the 2016/17 season.
Poor starts have hampered their progress the last couple of seasons and Hasenhuttl knows that they can’t afford to do that this season:
“We know it is a new season and hopefully have a better start than last season, but the Premier League season is difficult.
“Hopefully we can play as good as the end of the last season and get better results at the beginning.”
New season, new hope
Southampton kick off their Premier League season away to Crystal Palace this Saturday at Selhurst Park.
Despite a nerve-ridden first half of the campaign last year, Hassenhuttl is keen to maintain the momentum from the end of season.
The Saints had the third best return to Premier League football from the restart, only sitting behind the two Manchester clubs.
Both teams will be keen to get their campaign off to a winning start.
The previous season ended just seven weeks ago and a quick turnaround will see the 20/21 campaign get underway in the second week of September.
Ahead of the new season’s opener, manager Ralph Hassenhuttl spoke to the media.
Here are the key quotes from the press conference as quoted by the official Southampton website.
On the transfer window
“More needs to be done. We know we have lost a number six in Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg so we want an alternative.
“We still have the next few weeks as there is time to go. Anyway, we have a good 11 but we have a lot of games following up so we need alternatives so we need to do something.”
It is clear that Hassenhuttl wants to reinforce his squad before the transfer window shuts.
An alternative for Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg is the main objective, and alternatives also need to be looked at.
The squad has been strengthened already this season with Mohammed Salisu and Kyle Walker-Peters both being brought in for a combined £22.9 million.
The international break meant that many of the first team players were unavailable throughout half of the pre-season.
This has meant limited preparation for the Saints, although the majority of Premier League teams are all missing at least a few players.
Southampton came out on top in their only pre-season friendly against Swansea.
The behind closed doors friendly ended 7-1 in favour of the top flight side with Adams, Redmond, Ings, Ward-Prowse and Bertrand all getting on the scoresheet.“It hasn’t been easy to prepare them. After lockdown it was quite easy as we had all the players, all the time.
Speaking about lack of preparation, Hasenhuttl said:
“We could work very concentrated together whereas we have only had two weeks with them then they were gone to Internationals.
“We have to go to Palace with the best that we have managed the last few weeks and then it’s quick with many games so it’s important to find a rhythm as soon as possible.”
“He can finish”
One key factor to Southampton’s season will be whether or not striker Danny Ings can recreate his form from last season.
The 28-year old English striker bagged 22 goals for the Saints last season, but his manager insists not to feel the pressure ahead of the new season.
“It’s important that he stays hard working for the team. I think he shouldn’t go into the season thinking I have to score goals otherwise there is pressure, no, that’s not the key.
“He has to work hard for the team, he has to handle the situations where he was in last season and when he gets the chance to score, he can finish.”
- On Moussa Djenepo
Heading into the 2020/21 season, there is real hope that Saints fans will get to see more of 22-year-old winger Moussa Djenepo.
The Malian international cost Southampton £14 million last summer but struggled with a calf injury which meant he didn’t feature much.
Djenepo will be looking to force himself into Ralph Hasenhuttl’s plans this coming season.
“Moussa had a lot of problems last season with injuries, the red card and then had to go home to Mali and come back so it wasn’t perfect.
“He needs a consistent time period of working with us learning about our behaviours. Our game is changing all the time so you have to be open minded and if he learns quick he has the tactical awareness to help us.”