(Reuters) - Southampton are still searching for their identity and have not yet adapted to manager Mauricio Pellegrino’s playing style, the Argentine said ahead of the team’s visit to promoted Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Sunday.
Pellegrino’s team are 10th in the table with three wins, three draws and three defeats after nine games and could register back-to-back victories for the first time this season if they beat Chris Hughton’s 12th-placed side.
“We are looking for an identity,” Pellegrino told a news conference on Friday. “We have played nine league games together which is not enough for the evolution of the team.
“We are changing systems and players in different situations. We are getting better in term of performances and are more clinical in front of goal but we can still improve.”
Southampton will be without midfielder Mario Lemina, who is out with an ankle injury, but Sofiane Boufal could start after coming off the bench to score the only goal in last weekend’s win over West Bromwich Albion.
“Sofiane is one possibility from the start, in the last two or three games he is playing well, even from the bench,” Pellegrino added.
“I want to improve the competition in the squad. Sofiane is a young lad and this action can give him more confidence to be better.”
Brighton have evolved into a well-drilled, counter-attacking unit under Hughton and Pellegrino has been impressed with how well they have settled in the top-flight along with fellow newcomers Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United.
All three promoted teams have got off to decent starts, with Town a place above Brighton, and Newcastle in seventh.
“The three teams that have come from the Championship... are doing really very well and being really competitive from the beginning,” Pellegrino added, while warning his team that Brighton were arguably a more settled side than the Saints.
“It will be a difficult game because (Brighton) have been working for a long time with the same manager. They have clear ideas and are clinical on the counter-attack.
“Brighton have good players on the wings who can cross and switch the play. We need to control that aspect of the game.”
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar