For many sides, especially those with ambitions to finish in the upper echelons or avoid relegation in any of England’s top four divisions, the cup competitions are most often used to rest regular first-team players, allowing those on the outskirts of the squad a chance to impress.
In the previous round of the cup, the Saints made eight changes to the side that drew against Manchester United, with Mohamed Elyounoussi the man who shinned in his starting role.
Scoring a hat-trick in a recording breaking 8-0 away victory against Newport County, the Norwegian has kept his place in the side ever since, starting and finishing all three of Southampton’s following league fixtures.
His starting position in Hasenhuttl’s squad shows the Austrian values high-level performances in the cup and will give those who step up in midweek a chance to show their quality once again in the league fixtures that follows.
Southampton’s Young Player of the Season from last campaign is almost guaranteed to be given minutes on the pitch at Bramall Lane.
Although the 22-year-old made his debut for his current side against Norwich City near the end of the 2019/20 season, it was last campaign where the former Arsenal academy player made his mark on the south coast.
Making 18 appearances, seven of which were starts, Tella impressed both on the wing as well as a striker with both his ability on the ball and his pace when attacking the opposition defence.
Scoring his first goal for Southampton in a home victory against Fulham, many had expected Tella to remain a prominent player in the Southampton squad – especially after collecting a high volume of minutes in pre-season.
However, the addition of both Adam Armstrong and Armando Broja in the summer transfer window has seen his slip down in the pecking order. The return of Elyounoussi and Hasenhuttl preferring either Moussa Djenepo or Nathan Redmond on the left-flank has also seen opportunities in the side reduce, with the soon to return Stuart Amstrong and Theo Walcott set to make things even harder for Tella.
Despite starting and scoring in the last round of the cup against Newport, the attacker has played just 11 minutes of league action this season. Many would forgive the academy graduate to be left frustrated with his time on the pitch this season, but the forward has suggested that he welcomes the added level of competition.
"That’s what I want, I like competition. I think it will bring the best out of me, make me want to do more, work harder, and show that I can do more," he explained to Hamshire Live earlier this month.
Although this will come as pleasant reading for those who take an interest in the club, there will be a level of concern that his contract is up at the end of next season, with no murmurings about a fresh deal on the horizon. As a result, if Tella is still sitting on the same contract he has now at the end of the current campaign, it would understandably cause concern.
The Saints have recently lost Danish duo Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Jannik Vestergaard in the past two summer transfer windows for a cut-price due to their contract expiring with less than 12 months to go at the time they were sold.
Most notably out of the recent departures was the main striker Danny Ings, with the England international making the switch to Aston Villa with his deal at his former side running out at the end of the current season.
Albanian international Broja was one of three players that made the move from Chelsea to Southampton in the previous transfer window. Unlike Dynel Simeu and Tino Livramento who relocated destinations permanently, the 20-year-old made a loan switch to his current club weeks after signing a new five-year deal that will keep him at Stamford Bridge until 2026.
Despite being labelled a “slow starter” by Hasenhuttl just over a week ago, with this likely to being a factor in why Broja is yet to start a league game this season, the former Vitesse loanee has shown his qualities in his limited time on the pitch.
Making his debut against Newport, the striker scored inside the first 10 minutes of his debut, stroking in the rebound after Redmond’s initial effort smashed off the crossbar. He scored his second of the match just before the hour mark. Latching onto a through ball from Elyounoussi, the clinical forward lashed the ball into the top corner from just inside the box.
Although he has failed to net a league goal in his three substitute outings (none of which lasting more than 25 minutes), Broja has already made an impression. Despite having quiet games against both Newcastle United and Manchester City, his home debut against West Ham United showed signs of encouragement.
Replacing Armstrong with 15 minutes remaining, becoming the sole striker in a 4-1-4-1 formation, the summer signing had Southampton’s two best chances of the match. First striking the post from a long distance, the forward came so close to opening his Premier League account with just minutes left to play.
Latching onto a James Ward-Prowse free-kick, the towering striker rose above Craig Dawson, powering his header past Łukasz Fabiański but not beyond Declan Rice, with the England international clearing the ball off the line.
Signing from Brest in the summer of 2020, combative midfielder Ibrahima Diallo has seen his time on the pitch vary since his arrival.
In his debut campaign at the club, the Frenchman played 22 times in the Premier League, 10 of which being starts. Regularly playing alongside the ever-present Ward-Prowse at the base of the midfield, the 22-year-old had his most impressive match in a 1-0 home victory against Liverpool, who were leading the charge at the top of the Premier League at the time.
Despite his sporadic starting spot in Hasenhuttl’s side, the Austrian manager thinks highly of the former Monaco man. Being in the squad 28 times over the entirety of last season’s league campaign, Diallo only failed to come onto the pitch on six occasions, only missing a spot on the bench when out through injury.
The trend has continued into the current season. Despite failing to start in the league, the midfielder has come off the bench in four of the five games, bringing energy into the midfield or coming on as a third man in the middle.
With Ward-Prowse and Romeu striking up a partnership as a duo, it is likely that Diallo will find it difficult to break into the side unless there is an injury or a formation change, with the cup the best chance for him to make an impression.