December 7, 2018 / 12:06 PM / 9 days ago

Soccer: Saints put on alert as new boss considers clear out

SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) - Southampton’s floundering footballers have been put on alert by new manager Ralph Hasenhuettl, who has hinted a number of the squad will likely be shown the door in January.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League Quarter Final Second Leg - Olympique de Marseille v RB Leipzig - Orange Velodrome, Marseille, France - April 12, 2018 RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl before the match REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/Files

The former Red Bull Leipzig coach, appointed this week to save the Saints from relegation, indicated he would use the transfer window to offload some players who do not suit his high-energy style.

“I think the squad is very big,” the former Austrian international striker told reporters. “So we have a lot of positions where we have too many players and maybe one or the other is leaving us and we bring something new.

“I have spoken with the chairman about that and they do everything to help my wishes.”

Hasenhuettl is already building up a rapport with club chairman Ralph Krueger, who not only shares a first name with the coach but also can speak to him in his mother tongue German.

Something that will have pleased Krueger in any language is that Hasenhuettl will not necessarily insist on plundering the transfer market for replacements, but will be happy to delve into Southampton’s academy for talent.

“We have a very good youth academy in this club and it’s a goal for us to bring them forward again,” the coach told Southampton newspaper the Daily Echo.

“In history there were a lot coming ... out of the youth academy and that’s the goal for the future. We want these guys to perform, to develop.”

Southampton’s academy has for some years been the envy of the Premier League, producing internationals including Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw, though the production line has slowed a little in the last 18 months.

Southampton languish in 18th place in the league, having narrowly avoided the drop last season thanks to the late-season efforts of managerial firefighter Mark Hughes, released by Saints after the weekend’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United.

Hasenhuettl watched his new side’s 3-1 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night before taking the reins, and his first match is at Cardiff on Saturday.

“The first target is to get out of this relegation zone,” he said. “It is tough with our schedule over Christmas. I am not frightened about it, but the problem is we have a lot of games in the coming days.”

Southampton’s next home game will be against Arsenal on Dec. 16, before scraps with Huddersfield and West Ham, then league leaders Manchester City on Dec. 30. The club starts the new year at Chelsea.

With just nine points from their opening 15 matches, Southampton are above bottom side Fulham and 19th-placed Burnley only on goal difference. A win on Saturday would see them leapfrog Cardiff, two places above them with two points more.

Reporting by Ossian Shine; Editing by David Holmes

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