Belfast Telegraph

Claude Puel happy with Southampton's defensive options

Claude Puel has insisted he is satisfied with Southampton's central defensive options and feels no urgency to sign a replacement for Jose Fonte before the end of the January transfer window.

The manager has also revealed that Fonte's £8million transfer to West Ham could lead to Florin Gardos finally being given a run in the first team.

Southampton on Sunday host Leicester in the Premier League, in which they hope to end a run of four consecutive defeats.

The departure of the 33-year-old Fonte, despite his status as captain, could yet prove a positive given Puel said his squad had found the uncertainty surrounding his future difficult.

Virgil van Dijk and Maya Yoshida are again expected to become the Frenchman's first-choice central defence. Puel, however, also explained the £4million Gardos will also be given the chance to add to the 11 appearances he has made in the injury-disrupted two-and-a-half-years since his arrival.

"It's a long time with a lot injuries for Gardos," said Puel of the Romanian. "But he came back for the Under-23s before (Wednesday's 1-0 defeat of Norwich) with a good level and we will see if we just have Jack (Stephens) and Florin (Gardos) or you might see another player (now Fonte has left).

"Florin comes back in at an interesting level. We know he's had different injuries and we will see in the reflection to see if Florin can participate with the squad at a good level. We will see this.

"It's a strong defence: a strong central defence, with technical (quality) and with good quality in the duels. Sometimes (because of) injury or a player with a red card it's important to consider if it's enough with Jack and Florin to give a solution.

"It's other quality than Jose, but I'm happy with the situation and with Yoshida and Van Dijk."

The highly-rated Van Dijk, in addition to Ryan Bertrand, is expected to be recalled for Sunday's fixture after both recovered their fitness, but Sofiane Boufal, Steven Davis, Alex McCarthy, Matt Targett and Charlie Austin are among those who remain injured.

Southampton's winless run in the league has led to criticism of Puel's tactics, but the 55-year-old has regardless insisted he has no desire to change their shape or the rotation system that has caused frustration.

"It's always the same system, always the same tactic, every time. Every play. All the players have rehearsed the system, and the play," he said.

"It's an obligation (to rotate): we play every three days, it's not possible to play with the same 11 players.

"I repeat, it's a good system because we can develop different players; young players can play with good opportunities, and qualities, and we improve always different players, young players of the academy.

"This is important for us, because it's our work, and we develop the squad. We have two players for every position of the team, and this is very important."

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