Ruben Selles insists he is not overlooking Southampton’s January signings due to a lack of quality after his side slid closer to Premier League relegation.
Paul Onuachu and Mislav Orsic were left out of Saints’ squad for Thursday evening’s damaging 1-0 loss to Bournemouth, while £22million club record signing Kamaldeen Sulemana was restricted to 14 minutes from the bench.
Defeat to the Cherries at St Mary’s left bottom club Southampton six points from safety with only five games to go.
Manager Selles, who replaced the sacked Nathan Jones in February, pointed to the size of his squad as he refuted suggestions he does not rate the recent arrivals.
“Mislav was in the squad last week and Onuachu was also in the squad last week, I don’t think it is the same ones (being left out),” said the Spaniard.
“I don’t think it is a lack of quality, it is about decisions.
“I need to make decisions and then I have to give to you some comment on that. It is not about the quality of the boys.”
Ghana winger Sulemana has struggled to nail down a regular starting role following his move from Rennes, while £15.8m former Genk striker Onuachu has not started in the league since February.
Croatia winger Orsic, who cost a reported £6m from Dinamo Zagreb, has played only six minutes for Saints in the top flight and not featured at all under Selles.
“I will not evaluate the board,” replied the coach, when asked if the club had bought players who are not good enough.
“I have a big squad with 30 or 31 players in the first team. And then of course we talk always about the players who are not there.
“I just know that I have to manage a big squad.
“We can defend any decision with some different parameters but the reality is that because we have that big a squad we will always talk about the ones that are not in the squad.”
Southampton’s uphill survival mission continues on Sunday with a daunting trip to Champions League-chasing Newcastle.
Selles is hopeful captain James Ward-Prowse will be fit to lead the team at St James’ Park after being forced off by illness at half-time on a soggy south-coast evening.
“He wanted to play but with the weather conditions that we had during the first half it was too much for him, so he ran out of energy,” Selles said of the England midfielder, who had a sore throat.
“I need to speak with the doctor. I think he will be OK but with those things the doctor needs to let me know.”
Marcus Tavernier’s deflected strike moved Bournemouth seven points clear of the drop zone, while VAR denied Southampton substitute Che Adams a late equaliser due to offside.
Adams’ 89th-minute finish initially looked set to compound Gary O’Neil’s frustration after the visitors were denied a second-half penalty when Jan Bednarek handled Ryan Christie’s cross.
“I don’t see any difference between that and some of the ones we’ve had given against us this year,” said the Cherries boss.
“His arm’s a long way from his body, the ball’s going into a dangerous area, I can’t see why.
“To have it dismissed so quickly…I remember sitting in our dugout when they go against us for ages waiting, they’re watching eight different camera angles being played in slow motion.
“This one, maybe an eight-second check and then we’re told it’s clear. And then I see the replay and I cannot believe that’s not been given as a penalty.”