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Comment: Wembley edging into view
Saints club captain Kelvin Davis noted before this game that the final of the Capital One Cup remains a long way off.
While that might still be true, it is a prospect that is slowly beginning to edge into sight.
Saints are now into the last 16 of the competition, and a kind draw tomorrow night would aid their passage to the quarter-finals.
It poses an interesting question for Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff.
The two Capital One Cup fixtures so far this season have been extremely useful exercises for Saints, allowing them to offer some valuable game time to those senior players not heavily involved in the league campaign and also to some of their talented youngsters, who will have benefited greatly.
But do they continue along that path, or are they reaching the stage where some of their more established stars will start to be introduced, with the goal of winning the competition in mind?
Their approach to the League Cup so far has certainly been a sensible one, but it is clear Saints see this as a possible opportunity for tangible success.
Davis, in his programme notes, wrote: “While Wembley Stadium and the final of this competition seem like a long way in the distance at this moment, a good cup run can ignite a season and we have to look at our efforts in this Capital One Cup as being vital to what we are aiming to achieve as a club in the months ahead.”
The keeper added: “Wembley staged a Capital One Cup final between Swansea and Bradford last February, so there is no reason why we can’t follow in those footsteps and try to make our mark in the competition this season.”
His views were echoed by Pochettino, in his own column in tonight’s programme.
“Our attitude towards any tournament that we play in is always with the goal of winning,” he explained.
“If you do well in this competition then the rewards are clear to see. Last season’s winners Swansea City are now playing European football as a result of their success, and that is something we at Southampton are aiming to achieve on a regular basis.”
Saints’ encouraging start to the season, and particularly last Saturday’s magnificent win at Liverpool, has underlined the club’s status as one of the Premier League’s rising forces.
But breaking into Europe via the league will be an almighty task this season. Perhaps at this stage, the Capital One Cup would offer a more realistic route.
If Saints are to follow in the footsteps of Swansea, though, at some stage they will need to move towards an XI that more resembles their first choice.
While the talent on display in their current second string tonight was a mark of how incredibly far they have progressed as a club, it was clear from the sustained pressure that a struggling Bristol City side put them under in the second half that it will be a stretch for them to win the competition if they continue to field it.
Pochettino’s approach may well be influenced by what sort of draw Saints receive next. Whatever the case, it is a nice decision for him to have to make.
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