Southampton 2020/21 season review: Disappointing season leaves Ralph Hasenhuttl’s long term future in doubt
Photo by Robin Jones via Getty Images 

The season where Southampton topped the Premier League table for the very first time in their history was, ultimately, a disappointing one.

When they reached the summit in November following a 2-0 win against Newcastle, even the most optimistic of fans wouldn’t have suggested they’d stay there. But, it did have fans dreaming that maybe, just maybe, their team could sneak into Europe.

That was the aim at the start of the season and certainly became more of a possibility after such a good start. But it wasn’t to be. A spluttering campaign had some fans more worried about relegation than European football as they eventually stumbled to a 15th placed finish.

A trip to Wembley following a brilliant Fa Cup run which included wins against Arsenal and Wolves would have been some consolation for fans (if they were allowed to be there) but overall, it was a disappointing season for the Saints, and one which casts doubt over the long term future of Ralph Hasenhuttl as their manager.

How new signings have fared

Kyle Walker-Peters

Having previously been on-loan at Southampton from Tottenham, the Saints decided his performances were so good that they would try and buy him from Spurs last summer.

It took around £12million to bring the full-back to St Mary’s but, considering his age, it looked like a shrewd signing for the club.

Still only 24, the Englishman really kicked on in his first season as a permanent Saints player, becoming an integral part of the first team. 

He made 30 appearances in the Premier League throughout the season and spent the season as Southampton’s first choice right-back. He also notched up three assists in the league.

He is sure to grow as a Saints player and be a very important player in years to come.

Ibrahim Diallo

Like Walker-Peters, the consistency of Diallo’s selection in the first team has made him an important player for the Saints.

He signed in the summer from French club Stade Brest for an undisclosed fee and has since established himself in the Saints midfield.

Despite an injury in February that ruled him out for the whole of February and the beginning of March, Diallo still managed to make 22 league appearance for the Saints.

Still just 22 and with appearances for France at under 18, under 19, under 20 and under 21 level, Diallo is a hot prospect for Southampton and one who will likely become an integral part of any success the club may have in the future.

Mohamed Salisu 

When Salisu joined from Spanish club Real Valladolid, there was a real excitement among Southampton fans that he could be the real deal.

He had just enjoyed a standout season in La Liga, becoming a fixture in the Valladolid defence at just 21. This had prompted interest from a lot of top European clubs and when Southampton managed to snap him up for about £11 million, it was seen as a real coup for the club.

However, fans had to wait a whole 6 months before seeing their new signing in action. Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl repeated again and again how Salisu wasn’t match fit. This, mixed in with a couple of injury concerns, meant that the Ghanaian didn’t make his debut until February, when he started an Fa Cup game against Wolves.

After then, he became a fixture of the defence, starting 10 of the last 16 league games of the season. Saints fans will be hoping to see more of him next season.

Theo Walcott

Walcott returned to his first professional club on-loan from Everton on transfer deadline day, in a fairytale move.

Having left St Mary’s in 2006 to pursue a career with Arsenal, Walcott returned 14 years later to try and help his old team push for European football.

Walcott, like Southampton in general, made a fantastic start to his second spell at the club as they climbed all the way to the top of the table. 

His presence on the right-hand side of the Saints midfield was crucial to the high intensity pressing football that Hasenhuttl was trying to implement.

An injury hampered Walcott’s season, he still managed 3 goals and 3 assists in 22 league appearances. It remains to be seen whether or not Southampton will make his move permanent or not.

Takumi Minamino

Like Walcott, Minamino was just a loan signing for the Saints, but the difference he made to the team since he was signed in January was easy to see.

It was seen as a remarkable coup for the Saints when they brought him in from Liverpool in January. His figures for previous club RB Salzburg were brilliant and, although he wasn’t quite able to hit the ground running at Anfield, it was a surprise that Jurgen Klopp was willing to send him out on loan, a player that he rates so highly.

Player of the season - James Ward-Prowse

The performances of this man were anything but a disappointment. Southampton’s talismanic captain was their best player when they were playing well, and their best player when they were playing poorly, making him a shoe-in for the player of the season award.

His consistency of performance throughout the season was remarkable, and he notched up an impressive eight goals and seven assists in the Premier League.

He became the first ever player to play every single minute of two consecutive Premier League seasons, highlighting his importance to the Saints.

He also produced 657 forward passes in the league this season, more than all of his rivals for an England central midfield spot, including Declan RiceJordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Kelvin Phillips and Mason Mount.

His set-pieces were brilliant too. Ward-Prowse scored four goals from free-kicks this season, the most in the league and only one behind the all-time record of five held jointly by David Beckham and Laurent Robert.

It wasn’t just his free-kicks. His corners were consistently on the money, making the Saints’ set-pieces a real problem for opposition defences.

His performances as Saints captain were so good that he was rewarded with a couple of England appearances, where he scored his first ever international goal against San Marino in March. Unfortunately, he has missed out on selection in Gareth Southgate’s final Euro 2020 squad but he did make the provisional squad.

Most improved player of the season

Che Adams

Having struggled in his first season at St Mary’s since joining from Birmingham City in 2019, Che Adams has really kicked on this season.

He doubled both his goal and assist tally in the 2020/21 league season compared to the 4 goals and 3 assists he got in the 2019/20 season.

But it wasn’t just his goal involvements that would have impressed manager Hasenhuttl. His hard working nature is perfect for Southampton’s style of play, demonstrated by the fact he played 36 of the 38 Premier League games this season.

He provided a brilliant strike partner for main man Danny Ings, and proved more than capable of leading the line on his own whilst Ings was struggling with injury.

The importance of keeping hold of both Adams and Ings will be paramount if Southampton are to kick on next season.