Claude Puel has acknowledged that it won’t be easy for Southampton to repeat their heroics and match their highest ever Premier League finish of sixth from last season.
With Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United all struggling and being below par last season, the Saints took advantage nd charged up the table to Europa League qualification under the guidance of Ronald Koeman.
Since then, Koeman has left for Everton and Puel has come in. After a poor start, the South Coast club have strung together a five-game unbeaten run and sit eighth in the table, but the big guns have all started on form this season.
The Frenchman told L'Equipe a repeat of last season will be tough. After selling Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama the resources was lacking, but Puel believes they have had to “regenerate every year.”
During the last three seasons, Saints have finished eighth, seventh and sixth but all benefitted off one of the ‘big clubs’ struggling. Unlike this year, where Puel says all the “big clubs have started well” and “they will be in contention.”
The former Nice boss believes he “was a victim of Koeman’s success” which left him with a ship to turn around, with a more congested fixture list with Europa League which requires a strong squad of depth.
Southampton wouldn’t be able to play the same high pressing and counter attacking football that they did under Koeman, because of playing virtually every three days, so Puel changed his strategy to base his side's game “on possession and control.”
It took time for the team to get used to a new way of playing, and it was seen where they failed to win in the first five league games but after “persisting” at it, it “clicked” and the Saints boss believes his team are finally playing his way.