Arsenal’s French coach Arsene Wenger / AFP / PAU BARRENA
Arsene Wenger says Arsenal travel to a confident Southampton in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday determined to avenge their League Cup exit.
Claude Puel’s underdogs won 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium in November in the League Cup and on Wednesday clinched their place in that competition’s final by beating Liverpool.
Arsenal lifted the FA Cup in 2014 and 2015 and Wenger is keen for a Wembley return, meaning he will resist the temptation to make wholesale changes.
Theo Walcott returns to the Arsenal squad following injury, as do Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy, but Granit Xhaka is suspended.
“Southampton produced a fantastic performance at Liverpool so overall that makes the game even more interesting and more difficult as well,” Wenger said.
“They are not short of confidence at the moment and will certainly have a big support, but it’s an FA Cup game and we want to qualify.
“We’ll put out a team with first-team experience. Maybe there will be one or two younger players, but no more.”
Wenger praised Southampton for their ability to bring through talented youngsters in the past 10 years, with Arsenal duo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting out at St Mary’s, as did Real Madrid star Gareth Bale.
Southampton keep selling their best players, with Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane joining Liverpool and Tottenham buying Victor Wanyama, yet somehow always manage to remain competitive.
“They are certainly a football club in England who have done one of the best jobs on producing young players and on keeping the quality high despite losing big players,” Wenger said.
“Overall, I think they’ve done a remarkable job because they were punished quite harshly because they went down to League One, but came up and since they’ve produced consistent results and quality games.
“I think it is a club where you can say ‘really well done’ because what they’ve done is remarkable.”
– Competitive –
Southampton received good news off the pitch with Chinese company Lander Sports Development set to become a significant investor in the club.
The Shenzhen stock exchange has been informed that a deal to buy a stake in Southampton’s parent company has been struck.
Current owner Katharina Liebherr, who inherited the club from her father Markus after his death in 2010, said: “The Premier League is increasingly competitive, we need to keep moving forward and look to new markets for commercial growth, innovation and to share our journey.
“Together we have had many years of progression and success and ensuring this continues is the main focus of any possible partnership.”
Puel gave game time to youngsters and fringe players in the FA Cup third round, which saw Championship side Norwich City beaten in a replay.
Goalkeeper Harry Lewis was given a first taste of first-team action and defender Jack Stephens also played in both games.
Stephens, 22, impressed in the League Cup win at Liverpool and was delighted to help his side to another clean sheet.
“That’s massive credit to everyone that’s played in all the rounds,” said Stephens.
“That’s not just the back four and goalkeepers that have played, it’s the whole team.
“We work very hard, especially the attacking and midfield players, they work very hard.”