Southampton new boys Paul Onuachu and Kamaldeen Sulemana could make their full debuts in Saturday’s crunch Premier League clash with Wolves.
Nigerian forward Onuachu joined from Genk at the end of the January transfer window while Ghanaian winger Sulemana moved from Rennes on the same day, and both came on as substitutes for the second half of last weekend’s 3-0 loss to Brentford.
Saints boss Nathan Jones has been under intense fire this week from supporters, with some questioning why neither of the new signings started.
“I understand there’s a lot of things (been said) over the past week but, without going into too much detail, we didn’t start them because they’d spent more time in a passport office and an immigration office than they did on the training pitch,” said Jones.
“So it wasn’t a bad tactical decision, that was a logical decision to protect them rather than to put them into a game and then lose them for six weeks with a torn hamstring or calf.
“Maybe that was to my own detriment but that was the logical and right decision to make. I will make the decisions this weekend in terms of making sure we put out a team that’s potent and can back up the work we’ve done.”
Saints desperately need more goals having netted only 17 times in 21 Premier League games this season and Jones is optimistic the duo can help in that regard.
“We’ve brought them in to add more potency and we saw that on day one,” he said.
“Sulemana has played less than Paul, but he is potent, he is aggressive, everything we want. He has had a really good week this week. We have had to look after him and we can’t just flog him, because we would lose him, but he is far, far closer now to being the potent player that we really want.”
Jones could welcome back Kyle Walker-Peters and Stuart Armstrong from injury, while Mislav Orsic is also in contention, but Juan Larios will have to wait at least another week.
Jones has only overseen one league win since succeeding Ralph Hasenhuttl in November and the pressure could reach a tipping point if they draw another blank against 15th-placed Wolves on Saturday.
The Saints boss vowed to get back to basics after the defeat by Brentford, saying he had compromised his principles since taking on the role.
“We’ve got to defend better, we’ve got to be aggressive, we’ve got to be front-footed in terms of stuff and then we’ve got to implement our strengths on the game, because that’s one of the things I want to do,” said Jones.
“I don’t want to negate teams, I want to be bold and positive. That’s what I’ve always done.”
Jones denied there have been any fallings out among his players on the training ground, saying: “Nothing like that.
“I’ve been in very successful groups where there are fights but here it’s a good group, a group that gets on, that’s honest, works hard, and that’s one of the positives. We just haven’t been good enough in games and I take full responsibility for that.”
Jones mounted a passionate defence of his record in the face of criticism, and insisted he is happy to meet the challenge head on.
The 49-year-old told a press conference: “I could have stayed in a mining community and be a PE teacher and have a nice life, married a nice Welsh girl and all of those things. Beautiful. But I want to test myself.
“And that’s nothing against Welsh women by the way. I’ve always wanted to test myself. I knew I wasn’t brilliant as a player but I was the fittest human being in history. And I thought, ‘I’m going to cling onto this career and get as high as I can’.
“While I was doing that I took coaching badges, I learned off people and I wanted to be the best coach in the world. Now I’m hurting, like anyone else. My life depends on this. But I love the pressure, I love the challenge, because what else am I going to do?”