Losing patience or gaining experience? Hasenhuttl’s ultimatum set with Saints loanees


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(Other contributors: Steve Clare, Sean McGinley and Dougie Critchley)

With Ralph Hasenhuttl hinting at wholesale changes to his squad this summer, players’ futures are being considered.

Victory at home to Burnley on the weekend more-or-less ensured Southampton’s status as a Premier League club next season. Perhaps pertinently, it also meant mooted plans for the upcoming transfer window can now be exercised.

It is understood one of Hasenhuttl’s primary objectives is to chew the fat of the squad, streamlining the players he believes are malleable enough to grow under his idiosyncratic demands. With a lack of bench ‘alternatives’ a common source of irritation for Hasenhuttl this season, it is key for the Saints boss to have viable options in every position of the pitch, and more significantly, options he can fully trust.

Along with the thinking tank of Martin Semmens, Martin Glover and Matt Crocker, Hasenhuttl will continue to have greater autonomy in how he wants his squad to be structured. The 53-year-old is expected to evaluate each member of the squad’s progression under his guidance. Many of those appraisals are likely to be straightforward. However, it is thought that there are a number of players whose future is unclear.

Southampton currently have eight players out on loan and once each of their respective seasons has concluded, will a decision to their long term future at their parent club be confirmed. This is likely to be either finding pastures new or handed an opportunity to impress in pre-season.

Speaking last month, Hasenhuttl’s admitted he’s been closely monitoring those on loan: “Whenever a player is out on loan we try to follow them. We try to get the latest information about their performances, their physical condition at the moment.

“We do this and, yes, we are looking at a few and everybody who does well has a chance to come back in the summer. This is how it should be.”

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Mario Lemina

One of the club’s more expensive decisions is to decide – one way or another – where Mario Lemina fits into their plans. Lemina has been on loan for the last two seasons, largely due to Hasenhuttl being unconvinced if the profusely talented yet inconsistent midfielder suits his side’s high-octane, transitional-based style of football.

“The upsurge in Harrison Reed’s form has limited his minutes,” says Steve Clare, Prost International’s Fulham correspondent. “It is hard to see Scott Parker opening the biscuit tin to make his move permanent if Fulham survive.

“Should they get relegated, Parker will be rebuilding the side to play in a different division with all its different challenges. The future of Lemina and others will depend on what shape he thinks best for that challenge.”

Sources say there can be little doubts towards Lemina’s technical ability, but, invariably, there are concerns as to whether Lemina is prepared to carry out the positional discipline or provide the energy of a typical Hasenhuttl midfielder. For example, there would be uncertainty if Lemina was tasked with replicating what James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu typically do in the number six position.

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Mohamed Elyounoussi

The situation for Mohamed Elyounoussi is very much wait-and-see. The winger quickly found himself on the periphery of Hasenhuttl’s plans and has spent last two campaigns on loan at Celtic, with varying degrees of success.

Prost International reporter Sean McGinley says Celtic supporters do harbour doubts over Elyounoussi’s ability to perform at Premier League level:

“He’s has had an up and down time at Celtic. On his day, he has provided moments of genuine quality at key times in a season which has been a largely uninspiring campaign as a whole. His pace and ability in the final third sits him above all others in the Glasgow side apart from Odsonne Edouard, but the lack of consistency has plagued him on the whole.

“16 goals in 39 appearances and most of those coming from left-wing suggests a good return given the external factors which has affected his time on loan. If he was to be available for a fee in the region of £4-6m, then many Celtic fans would be asking for his permanent signature. His qualities are there for all to see, but he does not have the consistency required to make it in the Premier League as of yet.”

Southampton are understood to be prepared for the return of Elyounoussi, due to the current volatility encompassing Celtic. It is highly unlikely the Scottish club will part with such a significant sum of cash given the precarious circumstance they find themselves in. Saints may utilise the early interest from clubs on the continent to raise funds.

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Yan Valery

Ever since Hasenhuttl’s switch to a 4-2-2-2 in November 2019, patience has begun to wore thin with Yan Valery. As outlined by Prost International in December, some figures at St Mary’s have grown exasperated by Valery’s lack of development in addressing certain physical shortcomings. Subsequently, the Frenchmen’s adept attacking qualities have been offset by the glaring fragility regularly shown in his defensive work.

This notion has been backed-up by his failings at Birmingham, where he has been limited to just seven appearances and continues to wrestle with the physicality of the Championship.

It remains to be seen if Hasenhuttl is fully convinced of the full-back ever fulfilling his potential after such an illuminating start to his professional career.

Wesley Hoedt

Wesley Hoedt’s future is expected to be less complicated, with Southampton and Hoedt both keen to end a loveless marriage which began to surface as soon as Hasenhuttl was appointed.

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Jake Vokins

As reported by multiple outlets, the club are keen on acquiring two full-backs this summer. Given the prospect of Hasenhuttl working with new players in his position next season, there are questions as to where Jake Vokins fits into all of this.

Hasenhuttl did have an individual meeting with Vokins just last week, but all discussions were understood to have centred around Vokins’ health scare, after an ECG picked-up a minor irregularity with his heart. Well-being aside, Vokins’ time on Tyneside with Sunderland has proven a learning curve, with the 20-year-old struggling for a place in the starting XI. Vokins has made just four appearances since arriving in January.

“His first few appearances were pretty poor, particularly against Shrewsbury,” says Football Daily‘s Dougie Critchley. “He’s been on the bench pretty much ever since. He’s recently lost his place to Callum McFadzean and Denver Hume. Our first choice left-back is coming back soon from injury too, so it’s not looking great for him. I know his positioning has been an issue for Lee Johnson.”

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Angus Gunn

Stoke City are understood to have the option of extending Angus Gunn’s loan for a further season, meaning the goalkeeper will remain at the club for the entirety of the 2021/22 campaign. Fraser Forster continues to forge an impressive resurgence and Alex McCarthy is waiting patiently to vie for the number one shirt. Those within the club believe if an offer Angus Gunn arrived, which was demonstrative of his potential and age, then Southampton would be willing to sell in order to re-invest in more pressing areas of the pitch.

Between now and the end of the season, Southampton are determined to be dynamic and adaptable in their approach in the transfer market, ensuring player turnover occurs under the principle aim of improving the current playing squad.

Irrespective of the reservations over the protracted contract discussions of Ryan Bertrand and Danny Ings, the club are prepared and determined for more players to leave permanently this summer. Southampton’s transfer strategy means they will have to be proactive in their recruitment and sales departments.

All of which means it is certainly set to be one of the busier windows the club have experienced in recent years.


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Football, Boxing and Cricket correspondent from Hampshire, covering southern sport. Editor and Head of Boxing at Prost International. Accreditated EFL & EPL journalist.

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