Ralph Hasenhüttl & Jan Bednarek

'It's Difficult To Predict Which Southampton Will Turn Up'

BBC Radio Solent's Adam Blackmore has provided a detailed analysis of Southampton as Sunday's FA Cup Semi-Final against Leicester City at Wembley Stadium looms for the Saints (6:30pm BST kick-off).
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- Leicester City face Southampton in the semi-finals of the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday
- The Foxes and the Saints will be hoping to reach a fifth final in their respective histories 
- Adam Blackmore, from BBC Radio Solent, spoke to LCFC TV about the tie this week
- He says anything could happen as the South Coast club are so difficult to predict

One-time FA Cup winners Southampton have defeated Shrewsbury Town, Arsenal, Wolverhampton Wanderers and AFC Bournemouth, while the Foxes have overcome Stoke City, Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United in the prestigious competition.

Speaking ahead of the tie in the capital, Blackmore, who follows the Saints closely, provided a lowdown of Ralph Hasenhüttl's side and underlined why reaching a fifth final in their history would mean so much to the South Coast club's supporters.

"I don’t think people should forget – and I don’t think fans do – how similar this game is in importance to both because the clubs’ histories are fairly similar," he told LCFC TV's Matchday Live show this week.

"They’ve both have limited domestic success over a long a time. Both clubs have been in four FA Cup Finals, they’ve only won one between them, which was Southampton’s 1976 win.

"They’re both big, regional clubs, one city clubs with big support. Leicester are ahead of Southampton, we know that. They’re a bigger club at the moment.

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In their last home game, the Saints came back from two goals down to win 3-2 against Burnley at St. Mary's Stadium.

"But, for the fans, they crave success and both cities are identified by their football clubs as much as anything else. Southampton got to that final in the League Cup in 2017.

"They lost it 3-2 to Manchester United, which is as close as they’ve come to a trophy in a long time. Obviously, they were in the FA Cup Final in 2003 in Cardiff, where they lost to Arsenal.

"They were in the FA Cup Semi-Final just in 2018 and nobody cared. It was the worst possible time to be in a semi-final. They were third from bottom in the league.

"It was a complete distraction. Leicester fans have had to wait since 1982 for a semi-final. This one counts now for Saints. You have to think the will of Leicester and Southampton to actually make some history this time around is big for both clubs, it’s massive.

"This doesn’t come around very often and, as the years go on, as the big clubs get bigger and bigger, it gets harder and harder."

Southampton have endured a tough run of form in the Premier League in 2021 and Hasenhüttl's side currently sit 14th in the standings following a 3-0 reverse at West Bromwich Albion last time out. However, Blackmore says Saints certainly have the ability to put that right on Sunday.

I don’t know which Southampton will turn up. This is the biggest thing I’ve said to people. Is it the team who can beat anyone on their day when they’re up for it and they get everything right, or is it the team that can lose to anybody? They are every inconsistent.

Adam Blackmore BBC Radio Solent

"They’ve been pretty poor," he explained. "Ironically, they started the year by beating Liverpool 1-0 and I thought everything was going fine, but they’ve had a lot of injuries. I know Leicester have had some too.

"Now, they’ve got the team back together and he’s got his first-choice players, I thought they would improve.

"They came back to beat Burnley brilliantly a few weeks ago, but they stunk the place out at the Hawthorns last Monday and it wasn’t lost on me that both clubs gave away three goals ahead of the semi-final. Maybe, whatever they say, they’re slightly distracted by the semi-final.

"I don’t know which Southampton will turn up. This is the biggest thing I’ve said to people. Is it the team who can beat anyone on their day when they’re up for it and they get everything right, or is it the team that can lose to anybody? They are very inconsistent.

"It’s either very good or very bad too often."

Leicester know many of Southampton's key threats well from previous meetings over the years and Blackmore listed some of the players who could cause the Foxes considerable problems in London over the weekend.

"Jannik Vestergaard has emerged as a ball-playing centre-back," he continued. "When he wasn’t there with injury for a couple of months, they missed that, probably more than they missed his defending because he distributes the ball very well.

"He’s an influence in that area and they transition from the back through him more often than not. He’s a big influence on how they play and the system they play.

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Stuart Armstrong
Stuart Armstrong

Stuart Armstrong is one player to be picked out as one to watch for the Foxes.

"Of course, you’ve got Danny Ings, who is the top scorer. He is the difference sometimes between them winning games and not. Stuart Armstrong’s had a terrific season too.

"He very quietly goes about his business, sometimes he doesn’t even get into the Scotland team, which amazes me. He’s a terrific player and he plays the no.10/winger role which Hasenhüttl wants. He calls it a 4-2-2-2 with no.10s and wingers.

"Armstrong plays that role brilliantly. He gets the ball in areas. Nathan Redmond’s resurgence in the last few weeks has been good to see for Southampton.

"Hasenhüttl’s preferred to play him alongside Ings than Che Adams, for example. Again, it’s a slightly different style of play as you’re not going to hit the ball high up to Redmond.

"You’re going to play into pockets and spaces, so I think the likes of [Wilfred] Ndidi, [Youri] Tielemans, the back three, that’s their challenge, to deal with Southampton in between the lines.

"That’s how they’re most effective normally. And then, of course, James Ward-Prowse, who’s had a terrific season. He’s played over 100 games in a row. His emergence as captain and an England player in the last 12 months has been terrific and you don’t want to give free-kicks away.

"That’s a fairly obviously one for Brendan to say to his team."




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