January 12, 2016

The dawn of a new Premier League season brings new challenges for every club, but forSouthampton it seems some old difficulties pop up every year.

The Saints once again enter the campaign with some glaring questions that need to be answered, namely, how will a new manager on the south coast fare? And how will the club cope with losing more high-profile players to bigger clubs?

These questions will begin to be answered on Saturday when the Saints welcome Watford to the St. Mary's Stadium.

Southampton finished in sixth place last season with 63 points, good for a spot in the Europa League group stage this term, however, for a club that has had their best seasons over the past few years, it will be interesting to see how the extra midweek fixtures affect their domestic performance.

Former manager Ronald Koeman was outstanding for the Saints during his tenure, but his shock departure for the greener pastures of Everton left a sizable void along the touch line which was ultimately filled by Frenchman Claude Puel, who guided Nice to a Champions League berth in Ligue 1.

"Claude has a track record of improving the situations he has been presented with," Southampton executive director of football Les Reed said, "and we are confident he can repeat this at Southampton."

Puel will have another rebuilding job on his hands at St. Mary's as the club has lost goal-scoring leader Sadio Mane to Liverpool, midfielder Victor Wanyama to Tottenham and Graziano Pelle to China.

On the arrivals side, the club signed Norwich winger Nathan Redmond for 11 million pounds, Bayern Munich midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg for 12.8 million and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy from Crystal Palace for 4 million.

The tactical shift from a 4-3-3 under Koeman to a more non-traditional 4-1-3-2 under Puel will also be an adjustment that will take time to be ironed out.

"I hope that it's a possibility in the future for Southampton to play in the Champions League, but it's important to improve with these players," Puel said. "They know the high level with the Europa League and I hope with the Champions League for the future."

"It's going to be a tough season, obviously," defender Virgil van Dijk told the club's officialYouTube channel. "Every team I think gets stronger every season and it's going to be tough, but we know what we're capable of and, personally, I look forward to every competition we're inand hopefully we can achieve some special things."

After a successful Premier League campaign which saw Watford survive the drop and finish mid-table in 13th with 45 points, the Hornets look to build on their relative success this term, but they will also have to do it with a new manager on the touch line.

Walter Mazzarri takes charge following the departure of Quique Sanchez Flores, who did quite well to keep his club in the top flight with the help of forward tandem Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo.

Deeney, the subject of a 25 million pound bid from champions Leicester City earlier in the summer, returned to Watford by signing a new five-year deal, while Ighalo will also return to lead the line at Vicarage Road.

"It's very important because when you go to a club you ask for some information and then they tell you here that Troy Deeney is the leader of Watford," Mazzarri said of his captain signing a new deal. "He loves the Watford shirt and that for us is very important. He's the captain and the leader of the team."

The club also brought in Isaac Success from Granada and wing backs Juan Zuniga and Brice Dja Djedje as the club transitions to a 3-5-2. Christian Kabasele has also arrived from Genk in a 6 million pound deal and is expected to take up a slot in the back-three.

"I know we have a very difficult start, but it also means that I am very curious to see how my players will be able to cope and fight against these teams," Mazzarri said at his first press conference. "I have always been a very positive person so we'll see how it goes on the pitch and then we will accept whatever comes out of it."

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