Southampton: Claude Puel Ponders Changes Ahead of Swansea

Southampton manager Claude Puel has not ruled out making further adjustments to the team’s starting XI ahead of tomorrow’s match vs Swansea, sources say.

Puel, whose squad took its first win of the year Thursday vs. Sparta Prague, is still without a Premier League win in his first season as the Saints’ manager.

The Frenchman’s pursuit of victory has led to much tinkering across the lineup with special attention paid to the attacking third; all of the squad’s attacking players have been given starts in League matches, with only Dusan Tadic starting in all of them.

On Thursday it was Tadic at his familar tip-of-the-diamond spot, with Charlie Austin and Shane Long sitting up top; Austin contributed a brace before being subbed off for Jay Rodriguez, who poached another in stoppage time.

With Long goalless this season and out of form, it seems unlikely the 29 year old speedster will get the call this time out. Rodriguez is also listed match-fit, but doubtful following an undisclosed back injury. Speaking to that situation, Puel indicated that it would be a matchday decision.

“We just have to see about Jay, who has felt something, but it’s nothing major,” the Southampton gaffer said. “We will see on him.”

Given recent performances, it seems likely that Puel will try to work Charlie Austin into the starting lineup for Southampton in today’s showing, though fatigue from an energetic shift Thursday may prove concerning.

In midfield, he’s likely to continue to lean on the reliable corps of Oriol Romeu at the back and Steven Davis on the wing; Højbjerg or James Ward-Prowse could round the midfield out though both played the full 90 on Thursday.

Jordy Clasie is well-rested and could potentially relieve Romeu, though the threat of Gylfi, Leroy Fer, Borja Baston and Fernando Llorente may require a bit more physical approach than the Dutchman is able to provide.

The back four provide an interesting set of choices for Southampton. Claude Puel went risky on Thursday playing a line comprised of the squad’s depth players. The result was one of the most complete defensive outings of the season. With Cédric’s recent penchant for playing himself into trouble, one might expect Cuco Martina to get the call again.

Ryan Bertrand, who’s been solid since coming back to match fitness, is likely to get called over Matt Targett, who’s gotten better but not quite there yet. Virgil van Dijk, too, has no reason to be sat down after a solid campaign. At the matter of captain Jose Fonte, Southampton come to a problem.

Fonte, as captain, pretty much has a spot in Premiership games he’s healthy for by right. Taken as a whole, on his day he’s a miles-better defender than Maya Yoshida. But recent days have been anything but his: costly penalties, poor choices in defending, and playing unlike the Euro-winner he was this summer.

It’s enough to drive a manager mad and may be enough to make the 31 year old ride the bench. Ultimately, it may be Yoshida’s energy after Thursday that tips Claude Puel toward starting his captain.

Preston’s Predicted Lineup

Keeper: Fraser Forster

Defence: Ryan Bertrand, Jose Fonte, Virgil van Dijk, Cuco Martina

Midfield: Jordy Clasie, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Steven Davis

Attacking: Dusan Tadic, Charlie Austin, Jay Rodriguez

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