By SFC Media time Fri 05 Aug Men's First team

Saints boss discusses a new energy following a summer of change

When Southampton take to the pitch at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the opening game of the new Premier League season, only 76 days will have passed since they played their final match of the previous campaign.

Yet, in what has been the shortest summer break in recent memory, there has still been time for plenty of change at Saints.

Ralph Hasenhüttl has seen six additions made to his playing squad, appointed a refreshed coaching team around him and also implemented a new tactical shape, all in a matter of weeks.

So, new season, new energy?

"I think it was clear this was the goal to do this and that means for the people who have been here it is something new, and for the newcomers it's a chance for giving us some energy and some new input," he said. "This was the goal and it is hopefully working."

For Hasenhüttl, pre-season is always a productive time, and with an intensive training camp in Austria, as well as friendlies against high-quality opposition, including the likes of RB Leipzig, Monaco and Villarreal, the preparation has been good.

"I think we touched on a lot of new topics for our game and the guys were really doing a good job there," he said. "The effort has been there.

"We have some new players, so a lot of work to do with them to bring them on a good level. Especially the young ones need a lot of input, and they got a lot of input from my coaches, and then we will have to look at who is ready for the first game and who is starting."

In terms of new topics, perhaps the biggest has been the consistent switch to three at the back during pre-season – a shape that is not unfamiliar to Saints, but one that previously was used more sparingly.

For now, though, it appears to be the primary option, and it is one Hasenhüttl opted to move towards in a bid to make the team more solid defensively.

KLAGENFURT, AUSTRIA - JULY 13: Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl participates during Day 1 of the Southampton FC pre season training camp, at Velden am Wörthersee on July 13, 2022 in Velden, Austria, . (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Ralph Hasenhüttl works with his players during a training session in Austria

Although Saints were solid at the back while playing at home last season – conceding 24 times, which was better than nine other teams – they let in 43 on the road, which was the highest mark in the league.

"It's a shape to be compact, not so vulnerable for counter attacks, a better defending shape hopefully," said the Southampton boss.

"We have shown some good patterns I must say in the defence [during pre-season], but there are still things to learn, and we know the Premier League is still tough to defend in."

Hasenhüttl is also keen to stress that, while improving defensively has been a major focus, he still intends to field a team that tries to press and play dynamically.

"We should also show our DNA, which is an active way of playing football," he said. "This is always what we want to do.

"In possession, also we want to see some good patterns and show that we are a team that wants to play good football and find solutions with the ball also, and basing everything on a better defensive work, and that was the main part of the pre-season to work on these patterns."

we want to create stars by ourselves.

ralph hasenhüttl
on working with the young players in his squad

As well as how the new shape works, one other thing people will no doubt be watching for this weekend is how many of the summer signings Hasenhüttl plays at Spurs.

Goalkeepers Gavin Bazunu and Mateusz Lis, centre-back Armel Bella-Kotchap, midfielder Roméo Lavia and attacking options Joe Aribo and Sékou Mara all arrived at St Mary's over the break, as the club again put a heavy emphasis on acquiring talented young players whose potential they can help fulfil.

Aribo and Lis, at 26 and 25 respectively, are the most senior of the signings, while the other additions are all 20 or below.

That does not mean Hasenhüttl doesn't have an eye on potentially bringing in a little more experience over the final weeks of the transfer window, but he is also hopeful of being able to continue the club's rich tradition of developing good young players into stars.

"It doesn't mean I don't want to work with experienced players, the opposite is true, because it's also interesting when you get players with high quality who have proven themselves to be top class, but, as in the past, it is still for us not really doable to make signings of some stars for 40 or 50 million, it doesn't make sense for us, and that's the reason why we want to create those stars by ourselves and this is what we try with the young players we have brought in," he said.

"We have done it with Tino [Livramento] last season, and this season we have a few new young players.

"That doesn't mean we only want to have young players, we have also in our mind maybe to get in one or another experienced ones too, but we will see. But it's not about young or old, it's about being good and having quality, and if the quality is there that's always good for our team."

Saints will certainly need every bit of that quality on Saturday, when they visit a Tottenham side that finished fourth last season, ensuring qualification for the Champions League.

But they have fond memories of that particular trip to north London last season, when, in February, they won a thrilling encounter 3-2, twice coming back from a goal down to seal all three points.

"It's a tough, tough game," said Hasenhüttl. "But last season we had a good one there and we go in there with a lot of self confidence and we want to show again that we are able to take something there.

"Like every year, we are looking forward to it and we know that everybody is excited about the Premier League getting started. We are again part of it and we want to prep immediately for the first game for a chance to take a win."


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