Ralph Hasenhuttl accepts Southampton must improve in defence to be a top-10 side

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(Image credit: Peter Byrne)

Ralph Hasenhuttl accepts Southampton’s rebuilding for next season will have to start from the back.

The Saints head to West Ham on Sunday for the final game of a Premier League campaign which had promised so much, but again will end with a sense of what might have been.

After opening the season with successive league defeats, Hasenhuttl’s well-drilled side found form and briefly topped the table in November.

However, as injuries began to bite which stretched the depth of the squad, Southampton lost their way, despite making it to the FA Cup semi-finals, where they were beaten by Leicester.

Hasenhuttl knows the club face a key summer recruitment to bring in genuine quality to help them breakthrough into the top 10 again, rather than just continue to tread water.

“Overall in such a long season like the Premier League is with 38 games, you see that some teams win games although they don’t play perfect, they don’t have a good game, but still win it,” the Austrian said.

“When we want to win games, we have to have a perfect game, a very good game, everybody on the highest level.

“It is not happening all the time in 38 games that we are playing on the highest level and this is the reason why we end up then in a position like we are at the moment.

“Maybe we end up in 12th like last season, where we had ups and downs and then the lockdown break helped us massively because we could recover and organise again, then go back and have fantastic nine games to finish in 11th position.

“A long season is going to end and where you end up, this is what you deserved for the performances you put in.” Hasenhuttl added:

“Something I really think we have to change, it is very obvious, is the amount of goals we conceded.

“Also (what must change) is the part of (where we are losing games) 9-0 (against Manchester United) – goals are definitely affecting the stats.

“They are simply too high if you want to end up higher in the table.

“This is a way of defending and a way of playing football that we have to change for the future.

“We have shown in possession some good developments definitely.

“We have also good name of our pressing style, but the way we defend in and around our box is far away from a top Premier League club.

“If you don’t change this in the future we will always struggle when we want to speak about the top 10 position – you will always end up like we are this season and this is not what we want for the future.”

While Hasenhuttl accepts Southampton may have a financial disadvantage when trying to punch above their weight, it is not a challenge he is about to give up on.

“We know that with the limits we have as a club, that it is the normal position we should be in from the amount we are investing from the wages we pay for players, the way we go with the young players,” Hasenhuttl said.

“It is a tough league, we know this, but we are still dreaming about more.

“It’s okay when you dream and it’s okay when we have some targets that say are a little bit higher than what we have achieved in last two years.”

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