Southampton began the 2019/20 season in mixed fashion as manager Ralph Hasenhuttl looked to mould the squad into his own team.
When the fixtures were released, Saints learned that they would face Burnley, Liverpool, Brighton, Manchester United and Sheffield United in their opening five games.
It looked a tricky start on paper, but in all honesty, all games have their challenges. Saints will have been feeling that they could pick up points to give them a strong foothold in the league though.
When they left Turf Moor after playing their first game of the campaign though, things really needed to be sorted quickly.
A 3-0 loss to Sean Dyche’s workmanlike side had seen easy goals scored by the Clarets and the three-man Saints defence exposed badly having worked very successfully to save the team from relegation in 2018/19.
Ralph Hasenhuttl remained with this system for a tough test against Liverpool next up, and his side put in a much better display overall despite losing again.
However, it wasn’t going to be long before he went back to the 4-2-2-2 tactics that he will want to become a key part of Saints’ play in his time at St Mary’s.
More from Saints Marching
- Southampton: Ralph Hasenhuttl reportedly agrees to a 4-year extension
- Southampton’s defining moments 2019/20: Ward-Prowse’s match-winner
- Southampton: Saints keen on promising Japan international defender
- Southampton: Summer transfer window could be extended for Saints
- Southampton: Club reportedly in talks for defender Deyovaisio Zeefuik
A mixture of this and the 3-4-2-1 then saw Saints move into September by going on a four match unbeaten run.
Wins and clean sheets against Brighton, Fulham (Carabao Cup) and Sheffield United were accompanied by a 1-1 draw with Manchester United as Saints began to show signs of being a very good team.
Two spectacular goals from Moussa Djenepo gave Saints fans a sign of what may come from the Malian in the future whilst decent defensive play saw an ability to grind out results appear.
A pleasing 4-0 win over local rivals Portsmouth in the Carabao Cup second-round also added to the growing confidence within the squad, and also boosted Danny Ings into the starting line-up as he began his red hot run of form.
Either side of this result though were two losses in the League to Bournemouth and Spurs – the first of which was perhaps the most notable early result for Saints.
Hasenhuttl’s 4-2-2-2 system was ripped apart by the Cherries at St Mary’s and they scored easily, leading to more signs that the Saints boss was unsure how to best set his team up.
He reverted to the 3-4-2-1 against Spurs and saw a better performance, but missed chances and poor defending at crucial moments proved costly in the 2-1 defeat.
Hasenhuttl and his players weren’t to know, but these latest losses were to be the beginning of a dreadful set of results that saw Saints plunged deep into trouble.