Southampton have had a rather mixed start to the 2019/20 campaign, but fans will be relatively pleased with where the team is at ahead of their return to Premier League action this weekend.
Saints currently sit in 13th place on the table after two defeats, one draw and one victory. They’ve also got the small matter of a South Coast Derby to consider this month after progressing to the third round of the Carabao Cup…
The season started horrendously. Southampton travelled to Burnley, full of optimism, only to be trounced 3-0. A better showing at home to Liverpool followed, but a 2-1 defeat was all the hosts had to show for their efforts.
Southampton got their first win of the season away at Brighton and Hove Albion, though, before beating Fulham in the second round of the Carabao Cup at Craven Cottage.
Most recently, they drew 1-1 with Manchester United despite going down to 10 men for the final 20 minutes of the match.
So, what can be taken from the start to the season? Who has impressed? What needs to be done differently?
Here are four positives and four negatives from the opening exchanges of the campaign.
Positive: Romeu's resurgence
Oriol Romeu has been my Player of the Season so far. He’s had a great start to the campaign and is looking much like the player he once was, screening the defence intelligently and starting attacks from deep.
Negative: Flat first halves
Southampton haven’t scored a single goal in the first half of their matches yet this season. They’ve looked a little slow out of the blocks, but thankfully, the second-half showings have been rather more impressive…
Positive: Djenepo's introduction
Moussa Djenepo has had a great start to life at Southampton. He scored a stunning strike at Brighton and has looked dangerous whenever he’s played. Hopefully, his injury isn’t too serious, and he can play a big part in a crucial month for us.
Negative: Unfortunate injuries
The one thing you don’t really want in cup matches are injuries to important players. Unfortunately, Saints picked up three in the win over Fulham. The extent of the damage sustained by Nathan Redmond, Moussa Djenepo and Michael Obafemi respectively is not yet known, but they are all hindrances for Hasenhuttl.
Positive: Boufal's return
Sofiane Boufal’s return has been a welcome surprise. He has adapted to Hasenhuttl’s demands well and looks like he could feature in the manager’s plans. If he can marry his technically impressive showings with goals and assists, he’ll be a real asset.
Negative: Right-backs fail to convince
Yan Valery hasn’t had a particularly great start to the season, and I don’t think Cedric Soares looked much more comfortable when he came in against Manchester United. Both players are talented, and the former boasts plenty of potential. However, improvement will be necessary for the coming weeks.
Positive: Renewed mental strength?
The Southampton of last season would have probably lost the match against Manchester United 2-1. But as the game wore on, the 10 men at St Mary’s held firm and claimed a hard-fought point. Perhaps Hasenhuttl has well and truly got the squad believing in themselves again, and the foundations are laid for a positive season.
Negative: Lack of ruthlessness
Southampton have been reasonably good going forward this season, and four points from their first four games is a solid return. Although, it could have been far better but for some profligate finishing in front of goal; Che Adams has missed a couple of sitters, and Danny Ings hasn’t exactly covered himself in any glory. We’ll need to be a bit more ruthless as the season goes on.