BOSS Ralph Hasenhuttl is pleased with his side’s defensive progress this season, and believes goalkeeper Alex McCarthy has shown clear improvement on last season. Having started 2020-21 as clear first choice, McCarthy lost his spot during the campaign, eventually sharing goalkeeping duties with Fraser Forster during the closing weeks, with Saints safe from relegation. Speaking last week, McCarthy admitted that period towards the end of the season was “frustrating”, adding how he felt he had come back in pre-season “in good shape” having gone away and analysed his performances over the summer. The 31-year-old has subsequently been between the sticks for every Premier League match so far this term, keeping his third clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Leeds United last time out. Asked how happy he had been with McCarthy this season,
Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “I think he had some very good games. Like all the players, not without any mistakes in some games, but I think the whole package was so far a better one than last season in the end. I think our whole defence is much better now. He had some outstanding games, like against Man City, also against Chelsea away he was fantastic and kept us in the game for a long time. I think we are trying to develop him in every part of his game and when you go this road with us, I think all three goalkeepers (McCarthy, Fraser Forster and Harry Lewis) have made good progress. You can see it and feel it in every session. We need this.”
Last season, Saints finished 15th in the Premier League table, but only relegated West Brom (76) conceded more than the 68 shipped by Saints, culminating in a 3-0 loss at West Ham on the final day. And while Saints are finding things tougher at times at the other end of the pitch so far this term, their defensive record has improved. After eight games, just seven sides have conceded fewer than Saints, who have let in 10 so far, three of which came on the opening day at Everton.
Ralph Hasenhuttl added: “Especially our defensive work last season was definitely not good enough for the Premier League. This season it looks that it is a little bit more solid. We were working very hard on this part. We had now three clean sheets in eight games. That’s a good average so far and when you keep on going like this, it’s easier for us to win games.”
Saints will be seeking back-to-back victories when they welcome Burnley to St Mary’s on Saturday (3pm).
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