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Young Saints can handle Arsenal: Puel

Press Association logoPress Association 27/01/2017

Southampton boss Claude Puel insists he will keep faith in his youngsters after injuries left him short of players ahead of their FA Cup fourth-round tie against Arsenal.

Puel is fresh from leading the Saints to Wembley after their EFL Cup semi-final victory over Liverpool midweek to cap off an impressive cup run as they reached their first League Cup final in 38 years.

The former Lyon boss has adopted a rotational policy despite their early Europa League exit and with injuries to key first-team players such as Virgil van Dijk, James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez, Puel will look to his younger players to prove critics wrong as they look to embark on another cup run.

Having already knocked Arsenal out en route to the EFL Cup final, Puel dismissed the idea of labelling the players who may be selected against Arsenal as a weakened side and pointed out their recent success to suggest otherwise.

"For me, we always field a good team," Puel said.

"For example, against Arsenal away (in the EFL Cup), we played a young team and we won 2-0. No, I don't accept to say that when we play with a young players it is not a good team.

"I'm sorry but since the beginning of the season, every time we can do a strong balance between young players and experienced players with quality on the pitch, it will be the same tomorrow.

"I don't think it is possible for Southampton to rival with all of the great teams, like Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal with the finances.

"It's not possible, I think its important to continue this work with the possibilities. To improve young players with talent and to try to have a good result against all of these great teams."

The Saints' first and only triumph in the competition was at the famous old Wembley in 1976 but their best run since then was in 2003 when they lost in the final against the Gunners.

Despite their current Premier League position of 11th, Puel hopes Wednesday's win can be a catalyst for the rest of their campaign, starting at St Mary's this weekend.

"It was a great performance, a semi-final with two leg, the second leg away, its fantastic against Liverpool but now it's finished," Puel added.

"It was a great performance (against Liverpool) but it's important to keep a good focus for the next game.

"We have no time to take pleasure but just to keep a good concentration about the next game because it is a competition."

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