The long wait for July is finally over for Ralph Hasenhuttl with the Saints boss having been counting down the days until he got his players back for a first full pre-season in charge at the club.

Hasenhuttl only took a two-week break at the end of last season so eager was he to get back to his desk and begin the planning for what he hopes will be a campaign to remember at St Mary’s.

Daily Echo: Saints chief Ralph HasenhuttlSaints chief Ralph Hasenhuttl

The players have returned to Staplewood this week to ease back into things before the hard work really begins next week when the squad head off to Austria for a pre-season training camp and their first game of the summer against SCR Altach.

There is much to work for Hasenhuttl to do both on and off the pitch.

Here, we take a look at the five priorities he faces in the build-up to the new season.


Reshaping the squad is a major aim for this summer.

The club have acknowledged that two seasons of flirting with relegation is well below what is required and that something needs to be done about it.

Having recruited a manager who the board and the fans believe in, they have to back him to get it right, and that means giving him what he wants in the transfer market.

Daily Echo: Moussa Djenepo was Ralph Hasenhuttl's first signingMoussa Djenepo was Ralph Hasenhuttl's first signing

Hasenhuttl has targeted certain positions and certain players, but also demanded that moves are made early with Saints have gained a reputation of making even the most mundane of transfers drag on interminably.

The club have delivered for Hasenhuttl thus far, having already secured Moussa Djenepo and Che Adams for a combined £29m to bolster the attacking ranks.

Now the focus turns to the defence and securing a new centre half.

If Saints can deliver that then Hasenhuttl has the three key positions he was seeking filled.

Daily Echo: Che Adams will bolster Saints' attackChe Adams will bolster Saints' attack

Ideally, he would like to add a couple more, but it may be a case of having to get some sales over the line before that can happen with the club understandably needing to take financial caution.

Even if that is to be the case then at least Hasenhuttl will already have the key additions he wanted.


Arguably selling players is as important as bringing them in this summer.

Hasenhuttl has spoken of wanting a small squad topped up with a few youngsters to attack the new season with.

In reality what he has inherited is a bloated squad chocked full of high earners many of whom have little to no prospect of playing regularly for Saints again.

Daily Echo: Matt Targett has already left Saints for Aston VillaMatt Targett has already left Saints for Aston Villa

Having given many of these players long contracts, Saints’ hands are tired to a certain extent.

But they know to not only deliver Hasenhuttl the squad size he wants but to free up the money to sign all the quality additions he would like there have to be a whole raft of sales, then added to by some more season-long loan deals for those who nobody wants to buy.

For Saints, it is infinitely easier to buy a Djenepo or an Adams – players who were at clubs to whom Saints are clearly a step up – then it is to sell a Guido Carrillo or Wesley Hoedt.

Daily Echo: Wesley Hoedt was loaned out in January to Celta VigoWesley Hoedt was loaned out in January to Celta Vigo

Thus far the only sale has been Matt Targett to Aston Villa, and while Saints got a good fee for him and it was sensible business with the club having Ryan Bertrand in that position, he wasn’t exactly top of the list of players you would be desperate to shift, and it just goes to underline how much work there is to do.


Hasenhuttl’s game plan for Saints is going to require the players to be extremely fit.

High pressing, hunting energetically for the ball in packs, pacy counter attacking – all these things will require the players to add to their athleticism with decent levels of endurance. It is one of the reasons Hasenhuttl is so keen on assembling a young squad.

The Saints boss clearly didn’t think the players were as fit as he wanted them to be as when he arrived as he worked on trying to increase their levels which is very unusual in the middle of a season.

Daily Echo: Nathan Redmond has been working hard on his fitness during the summer breakNathan Redmond has been working hard on his fitness during the summer break

It worked to a certain extent, but with his hands tied by having to play matches, and high pressure ones at that as the club attempted to stave off the threat of relegation, there was only so much that could be achieved.

Hasenhuttl gave all of the squad an individual fitness plan to follow over the summer – so much for the holidays.

Priority number one this week is for the medical and sport science staff to assess the state of the players on their return to see who has managed to thrive and who has not.

Hasenhuttl did not want to spend the first few weeks of pre-season working solely on fitness as there are obviously plenty of other things to do, but this will still have some part to play.

Daily Echo: James Ward-Prowse has improved his fitness under Hasenhuttl's managementJames Ward-Prowse has improved his fitness under Hasenhuttl's management

What the Saints boss wants is for the players to have enough of a base level of fitness that he doesn’t have to focus solely on this.

If his plan comes to fruition then he will introduce a lot of tactical sessions with the ball early on but with a lot of intensity so it has the combined effect of building sharpness and match specific fitness while also allowing him to grow the team tactically.

Formations, tactics and style

This is probably the area that has Hasenhuttl salivating the most – the chance for a whole summer with the squad to really put his ideas into practice.

Hasenhuttl did slowly but surely change the style of the team over the course of the second half of last season, but he openly admitted there was still a lot he wanted to work on which he couldn’t given the situation he inherited.

Saints had to spend a lot of time working with video analysis rather than out on the training pitch with Hasenhuttl directing things because of the rigours of the season.

Daily Echo: Hasenhuttl and his assistant, Danny Rohl, can't wait to get started with the tactical workHasenhuttl and his assistant, Danny Rohl, can't wait to get started with the tactical work

That won’t be the case this summer as Hasenhuttl finally gets what he has long desired – time and space to work with the squad and get them to properly understand his plans.

Hasenhuttl wants the squad to be able to change seamlessly between formations, potentially multiple times in the same match. That takes a lot of time and preparation.

He wants to be able to implement a couple of different styles of play, and again for them to be interchangeable depending on the course of a game.

And he wants the squad to understand what has commonly become known as game management, and his style of this.

On top of all that there are also set-pieces to work on. Saints had a respectable record defensively last season, but only two teams scored fewer than the meagre eight they managed in 38 matches and so that is clearly an area that can be hugely improved upon.

Team bonding

Part of what Hasenhuttl managed so impressively after taking over was producing something that you could sense but couldn’t touch – a feeling of togetherness.

His decisions on what players to jettison and who to promote were clearly made with an eye on that, and it worked as he managed to gel the squad and help them to survive.

Daily Echo: A good team spirit is fundamental to what Hasenhuttl is trying to achieve at SaintsA good team spirit is fundamental to what Hasenhuttl is trying to achieve at Saints

The fans also responded to his manner and the team as after a couple of years of frustration they were enthused again and got behind the squad.

Now Hasenhuttl wants to make those bonds in the squad deeper still, to get a real do or die type attitude instilled among his players, to try and make them feel as if they are prepared to do anything it takes for each other when they cross the white line.

It might sound intangible, and the players may not really notice it is happening, but in actual fact it will be the result of carefully constructed stage management from Hasenhuttl as he knows only too well the importance of finding that perfect blend of personalities and attitude to make it happen.