Bad Habits: How Southampton can start hanging on to leads

Southampton are currently mired in a Premier League relegation scrap. The south coast club have improved hugely since the appointment of Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, but still they sit in the bottom three, a point behind newly-promoted Cardiff City and Newcastle United.

However, the Saints would be in a far healthier position now if they were better at clinging on to leading positions.

Identifying the problem

According to Transfermarkt’s stats, Southampton have led in games on 12 occasions times this season, however they’ve only gone on to take all three points on five of those. They’ve ended up drawing four of those games and losing three. In short, that’s 17 points dropped in total so far during the current campaign from winning positions. 

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Hasenhuttl must find a way to address this flaw in the south coast outfit’s game, or else his side’s inability to hold on to leads could result in them playing Championship football next term.

Finding the solution

Central to the Saints’ struggles in this department is their inability to absorb sustained pressure being exerted on their defence. This is generally because the midfield and attacking contingents don’t do enough to alleviate the strain being put on their team’s rearguard.

Midfielders such as Stuart Armstrong, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and James Ward-Prowse, and more attack-minded players like Nathan Redmond and Mohamed Elyounoussi must track back and perform their defensive duties with greater diligence, commitment and conviction when they are on the pitch.

When the opposition are chasing the game, and Southampton are concerned with protecting their lead, the onus must be on defending from the front. It is Hasenhuttl’s responsibility to instil this aggressive, resilient mindset in the squad. Rather than dropping off and inviting pressure onto the defence in this scenario, Southampton must push forward and press and close down the opposition themselves.

A failure to introduce this approach at St Mary’s will see the club lose yet more points from winning positions this season, which could ultimately cost them their top-flight status.

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