Reporters on Saints' cup hopes
Having assessed Southampton's season so far in the first part of our latest Press Box feature, attention now turns specifically to the EFL Cup and Europa League.
How important is this month's EFL Cup quarter-final against Arsenal for you?
Paul Belverstone: “We’ve spoken in every one of these about how a cup run would be nice, and it doesn’t get much more frustrating than losing in the quarter-finals. It would also be nice to get revenge for what happened at the Emirates earlier in the season as well.
“It’s only two years since they did go there and win in this competition, and that would be quite a statement.
“But I think he will have to pick a stronger side than he did against Sunderland in the last round."
it might be saints' easiest route for getting european football again next season.joe preince-wright
Joe Prince-Wright: “I think it’s massively important. It would help the momentum. For Saints fans and people who’ve followed the club closely, getting to the quarter-finals of this competition the last two years, it’s kind of left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth that they haven’t got a big semi-final draw or got to the final.
“It’s a tough task to get past Arsenal, but it depends which team they put out. For most people, to get to a domestic cup final would almost be equal to qualifying for Europe, in terms of the importance. A big day out for the club, and let’s not forget if you win it then that’s another European campaign.
“Seeing how competitive the top six or seven teams are in the Premier League this season, that might actually be Saints’ easiest route for getting European football again next season.
“Most fans would love to see a really strong team at Arsenal away to really go for it, and it may work out well that Arsène Wenger has historically played younger players in the competition.”
What have you made of the Europa League experience so far and how the team has done?
Joe Prince-Wright: “It’s been a brilliant experience. I was in Milan, and to see nearly 8,000 Saints fans there, I've never seen anything quite like that to be honest. I think the whole city and everyone has got behind it.
“You could feel that with the atmosphere against Inter at home, especially in the second half. I thought St Mary’s was rocking, and that was a big win.
“The game against Sparta Prague is fast approaching and they can reach the knockout stages there. I’ll be out there and I think that really will be a huge moment if they can get to the knockout stages.
“No one takes anything for granted, but it would be wonderful for Saints fans to be celebrating on the streets of Prague in late November, with perhaps snow on the ground. It would be a beautiful way of celebrating getting to the knockout stages.
“I think, as well, the rotation system has worked very well in it. I think Puel has proved himself right in his decision to do that and it has really benefited the whole squad.
“I think the experience has been everything Saints fans could have hoped for and more.”
to beat inter at home was just outstanding.paul belverstone
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Paul Belverstone: “They’ve done brilliantly. After four games, to be second, having beaten their next opponents, Sparta Prague, who’ve then won every other game, that’s tremendous.
“The glamour tie, of course, was Inter. To beat them at home was just outstanding. I’d like to think they can beat Hapoel at home. While it would be nice to secure a place in the knockout stages with a win at St Mary’s it would also be rather pleasant to get it wrapped up with a game to spare, which would take the pressure off with other things.
“They’ve got a great shout of getting through, and I’d be interested to know if Saints fans then want a game against an equal sort of opponent, with a great chance of getting through, or whether they’d want a real big name and big experience. Either way, it would be fantastic for the club, but let’s get through to the next stage first."
What would you like to see between now and the end of 2016 for Southampton?
Paul Belverstone: “There are some big home games coming up, with Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham. After the Chelsea game, it would be good to see St Mary’s becoming a fortress again.
“Goals from midfield is something I’ve mentioned before, and that does seem to be an issue again.
“If Charlie Austin or Nathan Redmond don’t score then Saints do seem to struggle a bit. So let’s see a little bit more from some of the other players in front of goal and take the burden off the likes of Charlie a bit."
it could be one of the best calendar years in club history.joe prince-wright
Joe Prince-Wright: “If they can get it all done and dusted in Prague, then the focus should really switch to the Premier League.
“After the defeat at Hull, the table is very congested. It’s only a few points to the relegation zone, and I’m not saying that would be a concern, but there are some tough games coming up.
“If they can get near to the 25-point mark or maybe even 30 by now and the end of the calendar year that would be phenomenal.
“Whatever way you look at it, it’s been a phenomenal 2016. Not many teams have got more points that they have in the calendar year. If they can finish strong and get a few big home wins then I think it will be a phenomenal year and perhaps one of the best years in club history overall, when you look at it as a 12-month period."