Following an embarrassing 9-0 defeat at home to Leicester in October 2019, suspicions began to increase about Southampton’s chances of surviving relegation. But the humiliation acted as a major turning point for Hasenhüttl’s side.
The Saints’ finished the 2019/20 season very strongly, defeating the likes of Manchester City on their way to an 11th place finish. With the 2020/21 season just around the corner, what does the new season have in store for the Saints?
Revival under Hasenhüttl?
Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl has been gradually transforming Southampton since his arrival in December 2018. When the Austrian took over, they were placed in the relegation zone after a poor start to the season which saw his predecessor Mark Hughes sacked. However, one cannot deny the growing signs of improvement and development at St Mary’s. After overcoming relegation in his first season, the Saints finished the 2019/20 season on a seven-game unbeaten streak. The charismatic Austrian has energized not only the team but also the fans since his arrival. While there have undoubtedly been ups and downs, he is evidently on the way to turning this Saints team into the heroes that they were during the Pochettino era. It’s easy to understand why he is nicknamed ‘Klopp of the Alps’. His passion and enthusiasm for the game is similar to that of the Liverpool manager and the path that Hasenhüttl’s is going on with his Southampton team arguably mirrors what Klopp had to experience to achieve success with Liverpool in his early years. With intelligent signings and the support of fans, what Hasenhüttl’s can achieve in the long-term with his high-pressing Saints is immeasurable.
Danny Ings – The Star of the Show?
If the Saints want to reach new heights next season, then they are certainly going to require the talents of star player Danny Ings. The Southampton player of the season truly shined during this campaign, netting an incredible 22-goal tally and in the process, showcasing why he is a danger to be reckoned with in front of goal. His goals were pivotal in leading the resurgence of the Saints from the relegation zone to 11th place. Ings’ career has been injury-hampered so far, damaging his chances of breaking into the Liverpool team. However, we have seen a real display of Ings’ spectacular goalscoring ability this season, emulating his form at Burnley. With a fully-fit Danny Ings firing next season, Southampton could really be looking at a convincing top-half finish.
The recent arrival of Real Valladolid centre-back Mohammed Salisu is a promising sign that Hasenhüttl is looking to build for the long-term. The 21-year-old Ghanian made 31 appearances in La Liga last season and his strong defensive prowess could really be what the Saints need to reinforce their back line after conceding 60 goals last season. Hasenhüttl’s believes that Salisu is an ‘important signing’ who will ‘fit the Southampton profile well’. The Saints have also acquired young Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker-Peters permanently after his loan spell, another indication that Hasenhüttl’s has a keen eye for the future of the club. In addition to Salisu and Walker-Peters, the Saints could yet further strengthen their squad depth with Eintracht Frankfurt defender Martin Hinteregger believed to be on the Saints’ radar. Scoring an impressive 8 goals last season, signing the versatile Austrian would certainly be a statement to the rest of the league that Southampton should defensively be a force to be feared.
On the other hand, former captain Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has departed to Spurs. In a swap deal for Walker-Peters, the Dane leaves having made 134 appearances. His departure will mean that Saints must search for a replacement in midfield. While not exactly a like-for-like replacement, the Saints are locked in a battle with a number of Premier League teams for the signing of bright Liverpool midfielder Harry Wilson. After an impressive loan spell at Bournemouth, scoring 7 goals in 31 appearances, signing the Welshman could really be a pivotal ingredient in strengthening Southampton’s attacking third.
One to watch
Che Adams finally began to justify his £15m transfer fee towards the end of last season. Having struggled to cement a regular starting place in the team for the majority of the season, the England forward is one of the players to have benefitted the most from the June restart. All 4 of his goals last season came following the restart, including a magnificent 40-yard lob to overcome Manchester City. After 30 goalless appearances, the 24-year-old marksman will be hoping to take his encouraging form into the new season alongside Danny Ings. If the duo can build on their fantastic chemistry from the end of last season, then Southampton will undoubtedly become an even more dominant force in attack. If Southampton want that top-half finish, then it is crucial that Adams carries his goalscoring form consistently throughout next season.
2020/21 season prediction
The Saints will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last season’s poor start. Several key factors must be in place for Southampton to not only make sure they start off strong but also achieve their potential. A fully fit Danny Ings leading the line with a confidence-oozing Che Adams. Increasing the depth of the squad,a nd most importantly, belief from the fans in the Hasenhüttl’s developing side. An entertaining season could lie ahead for the Saints, and a finish in the top half undeniably can be achieved. Fighting for European football may not seem feasible for next season, though there’s no doubt that it can happen in the coming seasons if Hasenhüttl’s continues building this promising squad.