Sport Soccer

Friday 23 February 2018

Koeman had no doubts over duo

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman is fielding speculation
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman is fielding speculation

Ronald Koeman insists he never had any doubts about playing Sadio Mane or Victor Wanyama against Watford despite the transfer speculation surrounding the Southampton duo.

Mane and Wanyama both started as Saints were held to a goalless draw at Vicarage Road, although Mane had to be substituted after just 25 minutes with a hip injury.

The Senegalese has been the subject of interest from Manchester United this summer while Wanyama is reportedly attracting interest from Tottenham ahead of the transfer deadline.

Koeman remains hopeful Mane will be fit in time for the club's Europa League second leg against FC Midtjylland on Thursday and said he had no hesitation about starting either the forward, or Wanyama, against the Hornets.

"No (I had no doubts), speculation doesn't make me change my team," Koeman said.

"It is the feeling I have and the strategy we have as a club. Again, I say nobody is for sale.

"They are Southampton players. That goes for everyone. Not just Mane and Victor, everybody."

Mane's fitness will be a concern to Koeman, particularly given the absence of fellow attacking midfielder Dusan Tadic, who remained on the bench against Watford due to a lack of fitness.

Southampton missed the sort of guile against Watford which the Serbian can provide, with Saints now having taken just two points from their opening three league games.

They were arguably fortunate to come away with a draw too as Odion Ighalo and then Etienne Capoue both squandered excellent chances to snatch victory for the home side.

"You like to win but after five goals conceded a clean sheet was something to chase," Koeman said.

"We have had to make a lot of changes defensively since the start of the season so that was a positive.

"I don't think Watford created a lot. We were too strong today for both attackers - that's a starting point because winning games are started by a good defensive organisation."

Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores admits he thought his side had taken the lead when the ball reached Capoue two yards out, only for the Frenchman to head over.

"Yes of course (I thought it was in)," Flores said.

"Every time we got close to the goal, we tried to breathe deeply because it is very difficult to create.

"We had a very good chance in the first half with Ighalo and we had a good chance in the second half with Capoue. But it's football."

Scrutiny will also be placed on the Spaniard's decision not to hand Matej Vydra even a place on the substitutes bench during the stalemate.

Vydra scored 16 goals for Watford last season but the striker is yet to play a single minute in the league under Flores in the current campaign.

"It is very difficult because we have a lot of players. It is not easy for me as coach, they all want to play," Flores said.

"Vydra's future could be at Watford, it could be at another team. It is impossible to know because of the club and because of the player."

Press Association

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