Sport Soccer

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Virgil van Dijk accepts Southampton need to find Premier League form quickly

Defender Virgil Van Dijk has admitted Southampton face an uphill struggle to match last season's Premier League placing
Defender Virgil Van Dijk has admitted Southampton face an uphill struggle to match last season's Premier League placing

Virgil Van Dijk has admitted Southampton already face an uphill struggle to match last season's record sixth-place finish in the Premier League.

The Dutch defender slammed Saints for failing to see off Sunderland at St Mary's on Saturday, refusing to praise the 1-1 draw.

Southampton's board set new manager Claude Puel the ambitious target of improving on last term's record Premier League finish but the south coast outfit now have just two points from three matches.

Saints expect to sign Lille forward Sofiane Boufal before the close of the transfer window, but have lost yet more top stars this summer with Victor Wanyama joining Spurs and Sadio Mane sold to Liverpool.

"We had an amazing season last year and we need to try to reach that level again," said Van Dijk.

"Obviously it's going to be hard with all the changes but we need to adapt soon.

"It's not easy. Everything's a bit new so we need to adapt as well but that's no excuse.

"The manager wants us to play a different style of football and it takes a bit of time and we need to adapt on everything."

Jermain Defoe's penalty wrestled Sunderland a 1-0 lead late in the second half on Saturday, before Jay Rodriguez levelled thanks to goalkeeper Jordan Pickford's error.

Now former Celtic centre-back Van Dijk has admitted Saints must endure "the worst feeling" of entering the international without a Premier League win this term.

"It's not good enough," Van Dijk told Southampton's official club website.

"As a team we can't be happy with a draw against Sunderland at home, with all due respect.

"We can't be happy with the performance and the result and we need to do much better.

"I'm disappointed and that's the worst feeling to go into the international break. It wasn't good enough."

Sunderland boss David Moyes leapt to 22-year-old Pickford's defence in the wake of his mistake that cost the Black Cats victory.

And team-mate Lynden Gooch then followed suit, insisting the promising Sunderland keeper, given his chance because of an injury to regular Vito Mannone, had shown all his top-flight capabilities across the rest of the contest.

"He kept us in it at nil-nil," Gooch told Sunderland's official club website of goalkeeper Pickford. "He was brilliant. Unlucky on the goal but great otherwise.

"It was a tough game but we're just happy to get our first point on the board.

"It's very important to get off the mark, the longer that would have gone on, the pressure would have built.

"But now we've done it we can go on and build on it."

PA Media

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