Southampton bowed out of the FA Cup on Wednesday evening after losing their third-round replay to Derby County on penalties.
From a Fantasy perspective, the result was significant in that it confirmed that Liverpool – as they did in 2017/18 – will avoid a blank or double Gameweek in the season run-in (barring any future weather-related postponements, we hasten to add).
In Gameweeks 27, 31 and 33 (the set of fixtures that clash with the EFL Cup/FA Cup), Liverpool will face Manchester United, Fulham and Southampton away from home.
Liverpool’s trip to Craven Cottage is the solitary fixture that has so far been confirmed as definitely happening in Gameweek 31, while Huddersfield Town v Leicester City and Southampton v Liverpool are the only two Gameweek 33 matches that we can say for certain, at this stage, will avoid a clash with the FA Cup semi-finals.
As if they weren’t already popular Fantasy assets before, the likes of Mohamed Salah (£13.4m), Virgil van Dijk (£6.4m) and Andrew Robertson (£6.7m) will surely only become more in-demand as we navigate the blank Gameweeks in the months ahead.
Southampton 2-2 Derby County (3-5 penalties)
- Goals: Stuart Armstrong (£5.1m), Nathan Redmond (£5.2m)
- Assists: Shane Long (£4.7m), Jack Stephens (£4.2m)
As well as having implications for the Gameweeks ahead, Southampton’s FA Cup third-round replay defeat to Derby last night may have ramifications for their very next Premier League fixture – and owners of Everton assets.
The Toffees head to the south coast to face Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side on Saturday afternoon, less than 72 hours after the Saints were taken to extra time and penalties by their Championship opposition.
Reflecting on his team’s cup exit, Hasenhuttl said:
What hurts more is that we played 120 minutes on a Wednesday evening and we have to bring a good performance two days’ later against Everton at home.
That will be a challenge to get the players fresh again and for them to recover well. We will have to find fresh players to put in.
The Austrian head coach made only five changes to his starting XI from the side that defeated Leicester City in Gameweek 22, with Alex McCarthy (£4.4m), Jan Bednarek (£3.9m), Matt Targett (£4.2m), Nathan Redmond (£5.2m) and the suspended Yan Valery (£4.0m) dropping out.
Redmond, however, was introduced at half-time and played 75 minutes as Derby forced extra time, while Shane Long (£4.7m) and Stuart Armstrong (£5.1m) were handed 73 and 90-minute run-outs respectively.
Jack Stephens (£4.2m), Jannik Vestergaard (£4.6m), Oriel Romeu (£4.3m) and James Ward-Prowse (£5.0m)were the four first-teamers who started against the Foxes who then played a full two hours on Wednesday evening.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£4.4m), along with Charlie Austin (£5.5m) and Valery, will return from suspension in Gameweek 23 and it could be that Romeu or Ward-Prowse are handed a breather against Everton given what Hasenhuttl said above about fielding “fresh players”.
Fantasy managers who own the likes of Richarlison (£6.9m), Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.3m) and Lucas Digne (£5.3m)would certainly have been content to see Southampton toiling for 120 minutes just days before their assets visit St. Mary’s.
Hasenhuttl didn’t seem overly downbeat to bow out of the FA Cup, highlighting the extra preparation time it will give his side ahead of future Premier League encounters:
I’m not that frustrated, it’s a pity we gave it [the lead] away two times, but I know that it will be tough until the end of the season.
I think it can be an option that if we aren’t in the FA Cup anymore, then we will prepare for the important games in the league.
You will see this if we prepare in the week with a lot of training sessions, then we will have more chance to be in shape and defend against a good team.
You always hear from managers saying that if they step out of the FA Cup that they can focus on the league. In our situation, it’s very important.
Hasenhuttl can’t be accused of deliberately orchestrating an early exit, of course, and his decision to throw on the influential Redmond at the break underscored his intent to win the tie.
The Saints had lined up in a now-familiar 3-4-2-1 at kick-off, with Kayne Ramsay (£4.0m) joining Vestergaard and Stephens in a back three, and Cedric Soares (£4.2m) and Tyreke Johnson (£4.5m) lining up as wing-backs.
However, Southampton had only registered two shots by half-time – a Stephens header from a corner and a Long sitter that Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos kept out – and Hasenhuttl shook things up by introducing Redmond for the booked Johnson and switching to a 4-2-3-1.
Redmond was deployed first on the flank and then centrally in a “number ten” role when Hasenhuttl withdrew Armstrong and had a significant impact on the game – superbly chipping the Saints into a 2-0 lead, wasting a glorious opportunity in extra time and then missing the decisive penalty in the shoot-out.
The former Norwich City winger almost carved out a tap-in for Mohamed Elyounoussi (£6.1m) and went on to register the joint-highest number of attempts on goal in the match.
Hasenhuttl said of Redmond’s display:
I was very upset about the chance he missed in overtime because he made the wrong decision. If he chipped it in like he did with the first goal, then it would have been perfect and maybe the winning goal from us.
He showed today that he is a key player for us. When he stepped in the game in the second half, we were the better team. He helps us a lot by creating chances.
The guy who makes the turnaround after the break is the guy who misses the penalty, but that’s football.
Armstrong nodded Southampton in front on 68 minutes after Long’s header had been cleared off the line and the Scotland international was busy in behind the less-than-convincing Irish striker, while Elyounoussi did little to suggest he will threaten a regular start in the Premier League any time soon.
In his press conference on Thursday morning, Hasenhuttl discussed some of his injured players that may come back into the reckoning in Gameweek 23:
Michael Obafemi is still not in training, he’s out. A few guys are in training but have still pain. Lemina still has problems with his stomach, for example. Ryan Bertrand, I wanted him to play yesterday but it was too early for him.
There was some very positive news on Danny Ings (£5.5m), meanwhile.
We have to find out who are the players who can be physically so strong that they can play again from the beginning, and we have the chance to bring a few new fresh players in, because we have a few suspended players coming back and Danny Ings’s injury is gone, so he can train twice this week.
He showed that he’s a guy who can score important goals for us. He is back after a small hamstring problem and it doesn’t seem that he cannot play 90 minutes on Saturday, so we have to think about it. We have a few options and we have to look in what direction it goes.
Southampton’s defence shipped two goals to further encourage owners of Richarlison et al, with Stephens playing the Derby attack onside for Harry Wilson’s cross-shot that evaded everyone and Ramsay losing his marker for Martyn Waghorn’s headed equaliser.
Tom Lawrence missed two excellent headed chances to win the game for the Rams as he nipped between the dawdling Southampton centre-backs.
Hasenhuttl reflected on the game as a whole:
If you see the first half, we weren’t good in the game and we had less pressure on the ball.
We made good decisions at half-time, we changed the shape and had more pressure and more situations to win the ball in better spaces.
We created a lot of chances and it was much better in the second half. We scored two wonderful goals and then something happened that can happen. They got a goal from a set-piece that was hard to defend from a dangerous position.
You could feel the players were thinking about what happened [against Derby] one-and-a-half weeks ago. You could feel they were nervous and not so focused anymore.
After the second goal, both teams had a lot of chances to win and we had a one-against-one in overtime that could kill the game for us, but we didn’t.
Southampton XI (3-4-2-1): Gunn; Stephens, Vestergaard, Ramsey (Targett 111′); Cedric, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Johnson (Redmond 46′); Elyounoussi, Armstrong (Slattery 91′); Long (Gallagher 73′).
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