Southampton hope fixing defence will help them shatter glass ceiling

Even before last season had ended, Ralph Hasenhuttl knew it wasn’t sustainable for his Southampton side to concede goals at the rate they were. If they wanted to finish in the top half of the Premier League table, drastic action was needed.

Throughout the summer, the club’s manager made it his mission to ensure his team stopped leaking goals. Not known to be overly pragmatic, the 54-year-old decided changes needed to be made.

Only West Brom (76) conceded more Premier League goals than Southampton (68) in 2020-21, and the Baggies were relegated largely due to their defensive woes.

There was an acceptance behind the scenes at St Mary’s that their inability to keep clean sheets was always going to see them hit a glass ceiling. In their eyes, this was finishing in the top half.

Southampton are targeting at least 12 clean sheets during 2021-22, with data suggesting this will give them the required platform to make a sustained challenge to end up at least 10th.

So far, Alex McCarthy has kept five clean sheets — including one away to Manchester City. Last year, Southampton managed to shut teams out on nine occasions.

If you compare how they fared after their first 12 games in 2020-21, which included a run of results that saw them top the table in November 2020, they are defensively better off this time around. They’ve conceded 14 goals as opposed to 17, despite the inferior points haul.

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