On the eve of the new season, Saints boss Claude Puel has emphasised the importance of more possession football if the club are to thrive in a hectic campaign.

Puel has made a clear shift in pre-season after taking over from Ronald Koeman, dispensing with a 4-2-3-1 formation in favour of two up front with a diamond midfield.

He has also changed the style, with Saints less keen to get the ball forward quickly and instead building very patiently from the back.

It is a real change from the past few seasons, but Puel believes it is necessary if Saints are to cope with the fixture pile-up they will have with the Premier League, Europa League and two domestic cup competitions on the horizon.

He said: “We work all this pre-season with possibilities to have perhaps more control of the game, with more possession.

“In October or November we must play many games, and to play every three days is very difficult, and it’s the first time for Southampton and these players to play a lot of games.

“To have good possibilities to keep the qualities and results it’s important for me to have good possession and good performance between the counter attack and the set attack.

“It’s important to keep control of the game.”

Puel is certainly not setting any targets for the coming campaign, and is instead more focussed on the progression of the squad.

“The last seasons at Southampton the results were interesting – eighth, seventh, sixth. I don’t know if we are going to finish five,” he smiled.

“More important is to develop, to make progress in the game and to stay concentrated on every game.

“For me the more important is to make a good play and to take pleasure and to give a good acquaintance between the players.

“If our football is interesting and good you can take pleasure and give pleasure also to our fans. This is more important and after we can have good results.

“It’s important to start with a good spirit and to work with the possibilities of our team and we will see the last position at the final of the season.”

First up for Saints is the visit of Watford, themselves adapting to a new formation under a new manager.

“I don’t like my team to play about the system of the opponents, more important for me is to keep our play and good concentration,” insisted Puel.

“I think Watford are with a new manager and new players and they can play in a different system 3-5-2 or the same game change to four defenders.

“They have different possibilities with very good players like Ighalo. The more important for us is to stay with good concentration on our play and to think with the details we work with is more important.

“I don’t like to think about their system, but our play and keep good concentration.”