This season is the perfect opportunity for Southampton to add the missing piece to their superb rise to the upper reaches of the Premier League. The promotions and plaudits are a credit to everyone at the club but they are yet to garnish this success with silverware. The EFL Cup would put to bed the fears that The Saints’ progress is stalling.
Victory in the 2010 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was the catalyst to Southampton’s rise through the leagues. Nigel Adkins got the team playing with swagger and confidence as well as working hard and taking their chances. Off the pitch, Southampton are meticulous in their recruitment, coaching and youth system. Despite losing all their big name players seemingly every season, they always manage to find the perfect replacement. But to improve, Southampton must go all out for the EFL Cup, which the fans would love as their last major trophy win was the FA Cup in 1976.
This season, Claude Puel’s side have been rather inconsistent. They just lack that poise around the box despite, at times, playing expansive attacking football. Puel has made his stamp on the team, it’s a mixture of possession and sitting off letting the opponents have the ball. However, it is clear that they need to start finding the back of the net because only Middlesbrough and Hull have scored fewer goals.
They have had to deal with extra commitments, notably in the Europa League, but it’s particularly in the Premier League where this inconsistency is noticeable. In recent seasons they have finished 8th, 7th and 6th. Recent defeats at the hands of West Bromwich Albion and Everton have halted their upward momentum and with absolutely no danger of going down, Puel must go for cup success.
However, during their EFL cup run, they have played some great football, most notably when they played and beat Arsenal at the Emirates. Having reached the semi-final, Southampton played the first leg of their tie against Liverpool and take a one-goal advantage up to Anfield, a game that they arguably should have got more from. And with an advantage in the tie, Puel should play his strongest possible 11 and try to hold Liverpool to a draw and create a bit of Southampton history. If they were to get to the EFL Cup final it would be their first appearance in the competition’s final since 1979 when they lost to Nottingham Forest.
With such a strong off the field set-up, a fantastic youth system and a successful team going toe to toe with teams in the Premier League, silverware would cap it all for Southampton and give them a platform to build even further. If they were to win the cup the next step would be consistent European qualification be it in the Europa or Champions League and with one of the best set-ups in the league, Southampton certainly have the potential to break into that top six and challenge the big teams.