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First team

Media View: Expert insight on Southampton

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth’s class of 2021 will be hoping to pen a new chapter in the club’s record books when they host Southampton in the FA Cup on Saturday (12.15pm kick-off).

The Cherries will be bidding to book a place in the semi-final of the competition for the first time in their history having reached the last eight only once, some 64 years ago.

Southampton, FA Cup winners in 1976, have lost ten of their past 12 games in the Premier League but have won three times in the cup and have yet to concede a goal.

Efforts from Daniel N’Lundulu and James Ward-Prowse saw them triumph 2-0 against Shrewsbury in the third round before an own goal from Gabriel helped them overcome Arsenal four days later.

Former Cherries striker Danny Ings, who is set to miss Saturday’s tie due to injury, and Stuart Armstrong were on target in a 2-0 win against Wolves at Molineux in the fifth round.

The first competitive fixture between the clubs came in the FA Cup in 1953/54 when goals from Frank Fidler, Arnold Stephens and Denis Cheney earned the Cherries a 3-1 win in a first-round replay.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Dan Sheldon who covers the fortunes of the Saints for The Athletic.

SOUTHAMPTON IN PROFILE

Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl (appointed December 2018)

Captain: James Ward-Prowse (pictured below)

Last game: Southampton 1-2 Brighton (Premier League)

Leading goalscorer 2020/21: Danny Ings (nine in all competitions)

League position: 14th

Past six league results: DLLWLL

afcb.co.uk: Can you put your finger on why it seems to have been a season of two halves for Saints? 

DS: They had a fully-fit squad in the first half of the season and had the momentum of winning games.

They had all their first-team players playing regularly and had strength on the bench as well. Everything just clicked.

In the second half of the season, all of a sudden, injuries started taking their toll on the squad. They were losing first-team players and the back-ups.

As a consequence, they had to play players out of position and that killed the momentum.

They got themselves into a malaise and are still in it but a lot of that has been down to how the squad has been blown apart by injuries to some of their most important players.

afcb.co.uk: How has Ralph Hasenhuttl (pictured above) been approaching FA Cup games?

DS: He’s taking the cup seriously which has taken me by surprise. His record in cup competitions isn’t great and I think this is the furthest he’s been in his managerial career.

He’s played as strong a team as he can in each of the rounds which shows his intent to really have a go at this competition.

Now they are in the quarter-finals, they are two wins from an FA Cup final so it’s certainly at the front of his mind. 

afcb.co.uk: Tell us a little about Nathan Tella (pictured above)?

DS: He’s a really exciting young player. He was released by Arsenal after coming through their academy and ended up at Saints. He’s been really impressive.

He had a serious knee injury in 2019 which kept him out for quite a while. He was playing for the under-23s at the time and was on the verge of breaking into the first team when it happened.

He came back this season and has been a breath of fresh air in recent weeks. The fans have really taken to him. He’s direct and isn’t afraid to attack space.

He needs to brush up on his end product in the final third but he’s still young and that should come with experience.

afcb.co.uk: What’s the feeling among supporters about winning the FA Cup over staying in the Premier League? 

DS: There’s always a fine balance with that one. Supporters always like silverware and a large section of the fan-base will want to win the FA Cup.

They haven’t won a trophy since 1976 and this would be their second major trophy.

I think they would take an FA Cup win over staying in the Premier League, although I’m not sure what that would mean for their finances going forward!

afcb.co.uk: What’s the latest on the goalkeeper situation?

DS: Fraser Forster (pictured above) has been the FA Cup goalkeeper this season and has now become first-choice in the Premier League.

Alex McCarthy went through a stage where he shipped a lot of goals including nine against Manchester United and that’s going to dent your confidence.

Forster took his chance and has kept five clean sheets in seven games and has been really impressive.

He’s shown he can adapt to how Hasenhuttl likes to play with a sweeper-keeper. He’s not the best with the ball at his feet but he’s learning and is getting better.

Hasenhuttl went with McCarthy at Manchester City but I think that was more to do with saving Fraser’s confidence ahead of the Brighton game as opposed to changing them every week.

I think Fraser will be the goalkeeper going forward.

afcb.co.uk: Who is Southampton’s one to watch?

DS: Kyle Walker-Peters (pictured above), the right-back, has been absolutely superb. They signed him from Tottenham and he looks a bargain at £12m.

He has probably been their most important player this season. He offers so much in defence but, more importantly, in attack.

The way Hasenhuttl plays relies on his full-backs being potent up and down the wing.

Walker-Peters and Jannik Vestergaard have such a good relationship and it causes defences all sorts of problems. Keep an eye on Walker-Peters, he won’t let you down.

afcb.co.uk: Are any first-choice players either injured, suspended or cup tied against the Cherries?

DS: Danny Ings (pictured above), Theo Walcott, Oriol Romeu, Michael Obafemi and Will Smallbone are all out injured. Takumi Minamino, who’s on loan from Liverpool, is cup tied.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

DS: I’m going to go with 2-1 to Southampton. 

You can follow Dan on Twitter – @dansheldonsport

Officials: Martin Atkinson (referee), Stuart Burt (assistant), Constantine Hatzidakis (assistant), Simon Hooper (fourth official), David Coote (VAR).

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