FIVE-POINT PLAN

Australian Four Four Two - - PREMIER LEAGUE -

1 IM­PROVE SQUAD UNITY

Saints hit a low in March with the 3-0 loss at New­cas­tle. “I ob­served play­ers who gave up,” grum­bled man­ager Mauri­cio Pel­le­grino, about a dress­ing-room dis­cord vis­i­ble on the pitch. His re­place­ment perked them up, as did sur­vival, but some bond­ing ex­er­cises wouldn’t go amiss. Any­one for pony-trekking in the New For­est?

2 GET GRIND­ING AGAIN

A re­turn to the buc­ca­neer­ing eras of Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino and Ron­ald Koe­man would put sup­port­ers in dream­land, but a dose of Sparky so­lid­ity (Stoke used to fin­ish ninth ev­ery year, re­mem­ber) is also es­sen­tial to steady the ship. Southamp­ton leaked 56 goals last term – as many as West Bromwich Albion and Swansea – so they must re­dis­cover how to de­fend as a unit.

3 DOM­I­NATE IN THE AIR

Southamp­ton were sub-par in sev­eral ar­eas last sea­son: they were poor de­fend­ing long shots, couldn’t hold onto a lead, and made a plethora of in­di­vid­ual er­rors. But they par­tic­u­larly stank at aerial du­els, and ex­po­sure in this depart­ment cost them in both boxes. It’s some­thing Hughes is sure to tar­get for im­prove­ment.

4 CON­VERT MORE CHANCES

Saints cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties last term but strug­gled to fin­ish them. Manolo Gab­bia­dini looked noth­ing like the striker who made an in­stant im­pact in the sec­ond half of 2016-17, while Shane Long scored just twice in 30 matches and Char­lie Austin en­dured dry spells and in­jury. Guido Car­rillo has now left on loan, hav­ing failed to score after join­ing in Jan­uary for a club-record fee of £19m. Nor­way’s Mo­hamed Ely­ounoussi, signed from Basel, has his work cut out – es­pe­cially with Du­san Tadic, cre­ator-in-chief, leav­ing for Ajax.

5 FIND SOME CON­TI­NU­ITY

It’s a prob­lem that’s af­flict­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of clubs, but a con­stant turnover of bosses and play­ers has bit­ten Southamp­ton hard. While it’s eas­ier said than done to hang onto your stars when big­ger clubs come call­ing, a spell of sta­bil­ity would al­low Saints to re­dis­cover the traits that have made them spe­cial in the past decade.

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