Claude Puel’s slim hopes of keeping his job have been hit by rising discontent in the Southampton squad.
A number of Saints players are unhappy with some of his methods, increasing the heat on the under-fire Frenchman, who is expected to be axed next week.
Mirror Sport understands certain stars have complained about the quality of his training sessions. Boss Puel ’s preference for delaying the naming of his team until shortly before kick-off has also raised eyebrows and left some feeling it prevents them preparing properly for games.
Puel is known for being a man who sticks to his beliefs and choices and refuses to compromise them. That too has also caused issues when it comes to team selection, and led to suggestions that certain players are receiving favourable treatment.
The unrest is an unwelcome headache for Puel, who is already battling to keep his job less than a year after succeeding Ronald Koeman when the Dutchman left to manage Everton.
Some Southampton supporters have turned against him due to some of the disappointing football his team has served up, with their Europa League group-stage exit also not helping.
Saints have scored just 17 league goals at home, and Wednesday’s goalless draw with Manchester United made it four top-flight home games without scoring for the first time in club history.
Puel is understood to be surprised and shocked that his work is being questioned after leading the club to a narrow EFL Cup final loss , and a potential eighth-place finish.
He has done that having lost two of his best players, defender Virgil Van Dijk and striker Charlie Austin, to injury for significant periods, while captain Jose Fonte was sold in January.
And Puel, who steered French side Nice to European qualification last season, has also achieved one of the big targets he was set when appointed by making better use of Southampton’s famed academy.
That was a big issue for the top brass during Koeman’s time in charge, when the club’s youngsters were largely ignored and deemed not up to scratch.
But Puel has put his faith in Jack Stephens after losing Van Dijk, picking the England Under-21 defender ahead of vastly-experienced Uruguay international Martin Caceres in the absence of Fonte and Van Dijk.
Stephens, 23, has made 22 appearances for Puel who has also blooded the likes of 22-year-old left-back Sam McQueen, winger Josh Sims, 20, and 19-year-old goalkeeper Harry Lewis this season.
The good and bad of Puel’s reign will all be weighed up when Southampton chiefs perform a season review after their final game at home to Stoke on Sunday.
Chairman Ralph Krueger revealed this week that will take place, and Puel said: “Any teams have a debrief at the end of the season and this is normal but the end of the season is after the last game and the last game is very important.
“We have the possibility to finish up the table and this is most important. Afterwards we have time to discuss different things like any team.”