Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl admitted that pre-season had been a difficult one for his side after their 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace.
Saints looked rusty at Selhurst Park after shortened preparations that were also interrupted by international football and fell to defeat after Wilfried Zaha’s first-half goal.
Being a high intensity team, Saints will need to get some valuable game time under their belts soon to improve their chances of picking up early points this campaign – something that Hasenhuttl knows all too well after seeing the levels his team reached in 2019/20.
Speaking to southamptonfc.com, he said:
“We changed (in the second half) a little but it’s not so easy to come back and just bring a top performance. We had a difficult pre-season with players not with us and we couldn’t work for two weeks on what we wanted to do. The opponent had the advantage so for us it was a little more difficult with our positioning. You can see it will be a tough season and we must step up immediately.”
With only a couple of friendlies in their pre-season schedule, it is understandable that Saints need another week or two to get fully back up to speed.
They need every single starting player to put in performances that contribute to a very good collective display and that just did not happen on Saturday with players seemingly not up to speed in the positions that they needed to take up in attack and defence.
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A few good chances fell to Saints in the second-half that would usually be snapped up by the likes of Nathan Redmond, Che Adams and Danny Ings but a mixture of good goalkeeping and a lack of precision in their finishes denied them a way back into the game.
The way that Ralph Hasenhuttl has his side playing is very demanding and requires very technical play from each and every player. Crystal Palace’s setup was much simpler and enabled them to get the three points on the first day of the season.
Roy Hodgson had his side sit back and absorb pressure from Saints but spring quick counter-attacks and this produced the match-winner – Andros Townsend breaking down the right flank and clipping a perfect cross to the unmarked Wilfried Zaha at the back post.
With so many important players out, this way of playing was perfect for the situation and may well push them onto a successful beginning to 2020/21.
The fact that Saints were caught so out of position also emphasises the point that they need more games to get back to their ruthless game plan.