Southampton boss Claude Puel has faith in ill-firing strikers

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Claude Puel, Manager of Southampton looks on prior to the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton at White Hart Lane on March 19, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Claude Puel, Manager of Southampton looks on prior to the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton at White Hart Lane on March 19, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) /
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With Manolo Gabbiadini once again missing for tomorrow’s trip to Crystal Palace, manager Claude Puel has issued his full support to Saints’ strikers Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long.

With Gabbiadini out of the Saints’s Premier League squad for the first time since joining in the winter transfer window, Southampton stuttered to a goalless draw against AFC Bournemouth.

The Italian’s four goals in as many games means only Nathan Redmond and the injured Charlie Austin better his total in the league, leaving the Saints with a big gap in his absence.

Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez are the side’s only fit out-and-out strikers, but neither have hit their previous heights and have had fairly underwhelming seasons.

Despite this, the side’s boss Claude Puel insists that everyone is rooting for the duo to succeed, whoever it is that leads the line.

He said: “I haven’t decided who will start yet, but I have confidence in all my players, like Shane (Long) and Jay (Rodriguez), to make a good game and to bring a good level for the team.”

Irishman Shane Long has scored just three goals from 24 appearances in the Premier League this season, albeit making 17 of those off the bench.

However the 30-year-old, who scored 13 goals in all competitions last season, is still on averaging a goal once every 293 minutes for the Saints this season, only emphasizing his lack of confidence.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – MARCH 20: Shane Long of Southampton kneels on the pitch during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool on March 20, 2016 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – MARCH 20: Shane Long of Southampton kneels on the pitch during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool on March 20, 2016 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images) /

Rodriguez meanwhile hasn’t scored since the tail end of January against Leicester, and boasts four goals for the campaign. Two of those came in the side’s victory against Bournemouth in December.

With cup competitions dominating the English soccer schedule over the past month or two, Southampton have had a limited involvement and are now on a run of three games in just eight days.

This Saturday the side face an away trip to a tricky West Bromwich Albion side, and with injuries rife across Southampton’s team at the moment, Puel is keen on keeping his eye on his players fitness.

He said: “I need to look at my players. Of course, it’s important to have good possibilities on the pitch and on the bench also.
“We know it’s important for the substitutes to give good support for their teammates. Perhaps some players are a little tired and we will see this.”

The Saints are on a run of just two wins from five across all competitions, and will hoping their strikers start can produce the goods against Crystal Palace tomorrow.

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