Arsene Wenger has praised Southampton’s youth policy ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup Fourth Round clash between the two clubs at Saint Mary’s Stadium.
The Arsenal manager believes it is a remarkable achievement for Southampton to have produced quality players regularly in the last years, one of which has been Gareth Bale who now plays for Real Madrid.
“They are certainly a football club who have done one of the best jobs in producing young players, on keeping the quality high despite losing big players.” Wenger told the media in the pre-match press conference.
“Overall, I think they’ve done a remarkable job, because they were punished quite harshly because they went down to League One, but they 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.”
Much of the success is believed to be down to Southampton Chairman Rupert Lowe’s ‘European model’ of running the academy which emphasizes a selection process based on the intelligence and athleticism of the youth prospects.
“When you look they produced Walcott, Bale, Oxlade-Chamberlain, plus all the players that have left them since.” Wenger continued.
“Last year, they lost Wanyama, they lost Mane, and people thought they would suffer this year. Again, they have really top quality–they have lost Lallana, they have lost top players. Overall, what they have managed to do is absolutely remarkable. I think it’s the club in England that has produced and developed the most players in the last 10 years and that’s absolutely remarkable.”
Southampton progressed to the EFL Cup final on Wednesday after beating Liverpool over two legs in the semifinals. They are now set to play Manchester United at Wembley in bid to emulate their biggest domestic cup success from 1976.
“They are on a high,” Wenger said, “They produced a fantastic performance at Liverpool, so overall that makes the game even more interesting and more difficult as well. 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.”
Theo Walcott and Per Mertesacker are set to return for the Gunners, but they will be without the services of Mohamed Elneny who is on duty with Egypt for the Aftica Cup of Nations.
The game kicks off at 7:45 pm.