Ronald Koeman believes wholesale changes to his defensive unit are to blame for his Southampton side’s slow start to the season.
Despite progressing into the play-off round of the Europa League, Saints drew at Newcastle on the opening day of the Premier League campaign before losing 3-0 at home to Everton on Saturday.
Southampton welcome FC Midtjylland to St Mary’s on Thursday night looking to take the final step towards the Europa League group stage – but manager Koeman is still striving for defensive cohesion after a second summer of upheaval.
The Dutchman is without injured goalkeeper Fraser Forster and full-back Ryan Bertrand, while Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne have been sold and Toby Alderweireld opted for a move to Spurs over making his loan to Southampton permanent. That has left the South Coast club with a lack of defensive stability.
“Expectation was different last season than for this season,” he said. “I knew already maybe there was a problem because, if you talk about the defensive strengths of the Southampton team we had last season and a big part of keeping cleans [sheets], you are talking about certain positions – goalkeeper, four defenders and two controlling midfield players.
“Some asked me about Schneiderlin – he was just one of five different players [missing] in those positions last Saturday. It’s normal that you will lose something – the new players need time in that position, the team needs time to develop and have the same strengths as last season.
“If you’re missing five of the seven, that is one of the reasons we have already got five goals against us in two Premier League games.”