If you were to define Claude Puel’s start to life as Southampton manager you would have to call it average. That is in no way a criticism to the fromer Lyon and Monaco manager it’s just the fact that his side sit 10th in the table and have a goal difference of zero, in fairness you cannot really get a much more average start than that.
If The Saints are to secure a Europa League place for the third season in a row then they are going to have to work their way up the table and ultimately the only way that can be achieved is by winning games and to win games you need to find the net with regularity
After a start to the season which has seen them win three games, draw four and lose four. They are going to need to make sure that form improves as we move nearer to the halfway stage of the season and beyond. This team has looked impressive at times but the main worry is who will get the goals to fire them up the table.
As good as Charlie Austin has been he still has a habit of wasting his chances while Nathan Redmond is still adapting to a new position. Throw into the mix Shane Long who never quite gets the rewards for his endeavours and with Jay Rodriguez who is once again battling injury and the options look sparse on the South Coast.
That’s not to forget the fact that they have record signing Sofiane Boufal among their ranks, we’ve only seen glimpses of what he can do but unfortunately for Saints fan they will have to do without him for a month due to the fact that he will be representing Morocco in African Cup Of Nations duty come February.
Therefore Southampton may very well have to look to the transfer market in January to improve their chances of securing European football once again. It was always going to be a tough task for Puel this season to not only follow up on the incredible work that Ronald Koeman did during his stint there but once again do so with another player exodus in the Summer.
After a slow start to proceedings Southampton looked like they were finding their stride with a 5 game unbeaten run across September and October although that mood of optimism has been tempered slightly after being comfortably by Chelsea and upset away at Hull just before the international break.
And it was that game against Hull that was pretty much symptomatic of their season so far. After going ahead through an early Charlie Austin penalty they then failed to put Mike Phelan’s side to the sword as they missed a hatful of chances.
Missed chances that would be punished later on when Hull performed an unlikely comeback to get their first win in 7 matches and leave Southampton asking themselves how they didn’t manage to win that game. The answer to that question is simply if you don’t take your chances at this level then more often than not you will be punished.
If the league campaign has been steady if not spectacular then it’s the Europa League campaign which has arguably got them the most plaudits. After crashing out in the qualifying stages last season to Midjytlland they now look set to advance to the Round of 32 with their cause being helped hugely by their win over Inter Milan a few weeks ago.
As it stands Southampton certainly don’t have the squad to compete on two fronts, so it’s either going to take a near herculean effort from the players that Claude Puel has at his disposal or he looks for reinforcements in the January transfer window.
The transition to English football has been a relatively smooth one for the 56 year old Frenchman and with a couple of additions he could very well take this side up to the next level and away from the trappings that mid table mediocrity brings. This upcoming transfer window will be important for a lot of sides and Southampton will need to be at the front of queue when it comes to snapping up a striker with an eye for goal.