Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui has defended Southampton’s Nathan Jones ahead of the pair’s Premier League clash, suggesting results have not been a fair reflection for the Saints man under his tenure to date.
The south coast outfit are rooted to the bottom of the table as it stands, with ex-Luton boss Jones unable to stop the rot and turn matters around at St Mary’s Stadium since he arrived in November.
Lopetegui was appointed within a week of his opposite number, and has dragged Wolves marginally further up the table since, steering them clear of the relegation zone, but he is under no illusion that his side face a challenge with their trip on the road.
“They are a very good team, with good players and a very good coach,” he said. “In a lot of matches they have been unlucky and deserved more. It will be a very demanding game for us.”
“I have seen their last matches and they have played in a very good way. He can change his system and play with a line of four, a line of three or a line of five.
“They are a good aggressive team with a clear idea. We are sure what kind of environment we have to fight in tomorrow, so we need to be ready to compete.”
Jones meanwhile reiterated that he believes he can keep Saints from dropping down to the Championship, and underlined his commitment to the club despite their difficulties this term in a direct address to supporters.
With just one win in their last five, the team remain mired at the foot of the table and face a serious fight to secure their safety heading towards the conclusion of the 2022-23 season.
But Jones feels he is still the right man for the task at hand to keep them up, stating: “All I can reassure them is that we work hard, we do good work on the training ground. I can’t back that up at the minute with results. Normally I can back that up with results.
“We do really good work here and I know that and I believe in the work we do. I want that to continue and then I want results to turn because then you can see the work.
“What we have to do is make sure we get results quickly. We have been very close on a number of occasions but we have to be really focused this weekend and make sure we get a result.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Southampton – Che Adams
The Scotland striker has scored more goals in five League Cup games this season (5) than he has in 20 Premier League appearances (4). All four of his league goals have also come away from home this season.
Wolves – Diego Costa
The veteran forward is tied for the most shots on target without scoring so far in the Premier League this season, with eight. The other man who has failed to register with as many attempts is Southampton’s Mohamed Elyounoussi.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– After winning five consecutive top-flight home games against Wolves between 1980 and 2019, Southampton have lost their last three against them at St Mary’s.
– Wolves have won their last four Premier League games against Southampton – they’ve never won five in a row against an opponent in the competition.
– Southampton have lost eight of their last nine Premier League games, with the exception being a 2-1 win at Everton. Saints have also kept just one clean sheet in their last 27 league matches, conceding in each of their last 12 at St Mary’s.
– Wolves have won three of their six Premier League games under Julen Lopetegui (D1 L2), one more than they had in 15 games under Bruno Lage/Steve Davis this term (W2 D4 L9). They’ve scored seven goals in their six games under the Spaniard, just one fewer than in their first 15.
– Southampton have won fewer home points than any other side in England’s top four tiers this season (6 – W1 D3 L6). However, Wolves have won just one of their 10 Premier League away games this term, with no side winning fewer on the road.