Claude Puel insists Southampton’s target for next season should be to secure European football – even though the Frenchman appeared unsure as to whether he will still be in charge of the club.
Puel’s future is the subject of intense speculation amid reports he will be told to leave after completing just one year of the three-season contract he signed last summer.
The former Monaco midfielder is said to be at odds with his playing staff while the club’s supporters have also grown frustrated with his negative tactics.
Indeed he was subjected to boos by some sections of the home support during Southampton’s goalless draw against Manchester United at St Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday night.
Southampton, who will finish eighth if they beat Stoke in their final Premier League match of the season, failed to progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League in what has been a largely disappointing campaign.
But Puel believes the Saints should be looking to get back into Europe despite admitting the problems that come with playing two matches inside a week.
“Before the game against Manchester United I spoke with Jose Mourinho, and it was very hard for them to play every three days in every competition, and playing European games is difficult,” Puel said.
“You play on Thursday and two days after Sunday in the Premier League, which is more difficult than playing in the Champions League, for example, because you have more time to recover.
“It was strong and interesting for all the squad to feel the difficulty of this and it is just a shame, of course, without the possibility to continue without the qualification for next season in European games.
“We learned a lot and it was very interesting, and it will be I think the objective for the next season because all the players now and all the squad are ready to give a good answer in important games.”
Whether Puel will still be at Southampton to achieve his objective remains to be seen.
Indeed his future will lead the agenda when the club conduct their end-of-season review next week, which was confirmed by Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger and will be led by executive director Les Reed.
Asked if he was confident he would still be in charge next term, Puel said: “I don’t answer that question because it is not my worry at the minute.
“My worry is just to work and my job. Other things, other speculation, I don’t say anything. I have no time to lose about this.”