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.