Belfast Telegraph

Claude Puel defends rotation policy after Jose Fonte misses win at Bournemouth

Southampton manager Claude Puel insists Jose Fonte understands his rotation policy despite the defender objecting to sitting out Sunday's 3-1 win at Bournemouth.

Puel had public words with Fonte before the match but claimed the 32-year-old Portugal international was "very happy" after the convincing victory, which lifted Saints to seventh in the Premier League.

Fonte, who is out of contract in 18 months, has already spoken of his frustration at missing Saints' Europa League exploits through Puel's rotation plan - but the Frenchman has no intention of adapting his methods.

Puel said of Fonte: "When I saw him after the game, he was very happy for the team, for the club and for himself, b ecause it was a strong game. And it's not just the players on the pitch that won this game - it's the whole squad."

Asked if Fonte accepts his rotation policy, Puel continued: "Yes, I think of course all the players want to play every game, especially Jose as captain.

"But it's important that at 32, he's strong physically and without injury. It's important he keeps this quality every game. But to play a match every few days, this is not possible.

"It's not possible for me that 11 players can play all the games.

"From the beginning of the season we've now played 26 official games. And now for international players like Jose it's not possible to keep a good level every few days."

Puel believes the best way to keep his players fresh is to make full use of the depth of his squad, pledging to keep handing chances to Maya Yoshida, Virgil van Dijk, Fonte and youngster Jack Stephens.

"We are lucky also to have quality in the squad, with Maya, Van Dijk, Jose and Stephens in the under-21s," Puel said.

"It's important to develop all the team and to maintain the play with quality and good spirit for the future, because we need all our players."

Jay Rodriguez's brace guided Saints to their first away win in six Premier League ties on the road.

The 27-year-old has endured a torrid two years of serious knee and foot injuries, missing out on the chance to join England at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The former Burnley hitman finally looks back to his best, however, leaving Puel to hope Rodriguez can fill the void left by Charlie Austin's three-month absence with shoulder trouble.

"Jay's first goal gave him the confidence to try for the second, which was a great strike and a fantastic goal," the Saints boss said.

"After Charlie's injury, other players can take his place.

"So I really enjoyed this performance for Jay. It's great for him and great for the team too.

"Jay can produce strong work, with his attitude, he presses well and (on Sunday) he fully deserved that performance.

"This victory gives a good Christmas with families and friends; it was important to win."

Frustrated Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe admitted his side struggled with the demands of three matches in eight days and fell below their normal levels.

"We struggled to put pressure on the ball, which is really unlike us here, and technically we were below our usual standards," he said.

Nathan Ake had headed the hosts into an early lead at the Vitality Stadium and produced another composed showing in central defence.

Chelsea can recall the 21-year-old Dutchman from his loan spell next month, but Howe hopes to convince Ake he should stay on the south coast until the end of the season.

"I thought Nathan Ake was excellent again," the 39-year-old said. "There is a clause there where Chelsea can recall him, but we would hope the fact he's playing and playing well would mean he'd stay. But we'll wait and see."


From Belfast Telegraph