Ralph Hasenhuttl has no intention of using Southampton’s remaining games for young blood as he is no longer content to simply avoid relegation from the Premier League.
The Saints banished any lingering fears of falling by moving to 39 points with six games remaining after Saturday’s 1-0 win over Arsenal.
Manager Hasenhuttl aspires to guide the club to their first first half in five years.
And, with ambitions higher than in previous seasons, the Austrian plans to field his strongest available XI in the run-in, starting with Thursday’s visit to struggling Burnley.
“I think it’s obvious that this season we’re not talking about ‘now we’re safe,'” Hasenhuttl said.
“I think it’s the first time since I’ve been here we’re not saying ‘OK, now we’re safe, so that’s it.’
“This season we are trying to focus on higher goals and that’s what we said.
“We are in this middle part of the table. It’s very tight, each club now has the possibility over the last six matches to move up or lose positions.
“That’s the goal now. There’s no time to look for who can get the chance now.
“I think there should be a very clear message to everyone that the best XI should play and the players who most deserve to play should be given the chance to play.”
Third-bottom Burnley are 14 points behind Southampton, but with one game less.
The Saints’ trip to Turf Moor comes just six days after the Clarets’ shock decision to sack Sean Dyche and place Under-23 coach Mike Jackson in charge of the interim.
Hasenhuttl was surprised by Dyche’s departure but admits the benefits of staying in the top flight can prompt clubs to make unexpected changes.
“You can only be surprised because you don’t know the basic information,” he said.
“If you knew, you might not be surprised. They have to know the situation and what they have to do, I’m sure they know that.
“It can be a strange time, but it can be a good time.
“At the end of the day you have to stay in the league and as a club you have the responsibility to do that and you have to make the decisions.
“If you think it’s the right decision, you have to do it.”
Dyche’s exit promoted Hasenhuttl to fourth in the Premier League’s list of longest-serving managers, behind Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and Brentford boss Thomas Frank.
Asked what he thought, the former RB Leipzig boss – who replaced Mark Hughes at St Mary’s in December 2018 – replied: “Old!
“It’s obviously something new for me too, I’ve never been in charge for long.
“It shows that I’ve obviously found a place where I want to work, where I want to be, where I feel my work gets the right attention for everything we do here.
“I think there are advantages if you’re a long-time manager at a club. But there can also be advantages when you’ve just joined the club – it gives everything a new boost.
“There’s no one way but you have to say Sean Dyche has done eight and a half years, that’s an incredibly long time in this short-lived affair.
“When you’re that long at a club, there’s definitely something outrageous done otherwise it wouldn’t happen.”