A Southampton Summer From A Far
Even though our new manager is largely an unknown on this side of the English Channel, his credentials and track record suggest Les Reed and Co have unearthed another gem. He has gone under the radar by other clubs seeking a new man at the top and if he can maintain our too six position, and a cup run, then he will have been successful.
Time will obviously tell, but if Claude Puel can mold a team that starts the season as well as Koeman's first season in charge, then we will all be satisfied.
Puel is being wise by not rushing into the transfer market before he has assessed the talent already available to him and pinpointed deficiencies in the squad. I personally believe a replacement for Jose Fonte should be groomed for the near future. Florin Gardos hasn't been given a real crack if the whip yet, but yet may prove an able replacement, and Maya Yoshida rarely inspires confidence. Also at the back, the jury is still out on Cedric Soares, especially as he wasn't able to nail down a starting spot under Koeman.
Up front is our strongest part of the squad and needs little improvement, even with the possible departure of Graziano Pelle.
In midfield, I feel James Ward-Prowse has yet to step up to the Premier League plate, despite being given ample playing time to prove his worth. Steven Davis is ever dependable and should always be one of the first names on the team sheet. A tough tackling midfield player, a la Wanyama or Morgan Schneiderlin, is much needed to provide some steel in the holding role. A skillful playmaker would be a very welcome addition as Saints often struggle to break down teams who choose to park the bus.
With Puel's experience of the French leagues and up and coming young talent, it won't be a surprise to see Saints ranks being bolstered by some Gallic players. These are often quite flamboyant and full of trickery as they don't seem to have had their natural talents drummed out of them, unlike many British youngsters. Cantina and Fabrice Fernandez are two that spring to mind.
The first team sheet that Puel submits for the Watford opener will most likely inform us of the flavour for the rest of the season. Which formation will he prefer and which old and new talents will become regulars?
We shall all find out soon.