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Arsene Wenger hails Southampton's prolific production line of "top talent"
Arsene Wenger has praised the Southampton production line as he prepares his Arsenal side to go up against Saints in their EFL quarter-final clash on Wednesday.
The latest graduate to make an impression is Josh Sims, who was named man of the match on his first-team debut as Southampton beat Everton 1-0 on Sunday.
The 19-year-old could play some part at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night as both sides look to put their name into the hat for the two-legged semi-finals.
And Wenger knows better than most just what quality can come from years in Saints' set-up, having poached three players from the club over the last decade.
"They have certainly been the most prolific producers of top talent in England in the last 15 years," he said.
"They have not only produced talent, but top talents. We have some examples at our club with Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers.
"But don't forget they've also produced top quality players like Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana and of course others. They do not only produce quality players, they scout very well as well because they scouted players like Sadio Mane."
The Gunners boss confirmed Carl Jenkinson will return to the starting line-up with Emiliano Martinez likely to start in goal after signing a new contract at the club last week.
Lucas Perez could be involved after overcoming an ankle injury with Olivier Giroud set to miss out with a groin problem while Wenger's squad rotation for the competition means Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain are unlikely to start against their former club.
Southampton manager Claude Puel believes his players are talented enough to win a major trophy as they look for a first domestic semi-final since lifting the Football League Trophy in 2010.
Saints' last major silverware was their FA Cup success in 1976 but Puel believes the current crop of players at St Mary's can end that barren run.
Puel said: "I believe (it is possible to win the EFL Cup) with my players - but I do not know if it is possible first time.
"The most important objective is to stay qualified in (as many competitions as possible) and we will see in the second part of the season.
"We want to win (trophies), we need to keep our concentration and perform as well as we can and after that we will see."
Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez and Sofiane Boufal could return to the starting line-up after featuring in the 1-0 defeat to Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday and the former two dropping to the bench against Everton whilst the Moroccan winger missed out completely.
Puel is expected to make a number of changes to his side, using the competition to give game time to his younger players - something he thinks will help their development.
But the Frenchman admits he has to find the right balance between youth and experience against Arsene Wenger's men.
He said: "It is a good competition to try to win something for the club and I think all my players are ambitious for this competition.
"It is a balance between getting the result and continuing the work to develop different players and give game time for players without time in the Premier League.
"I know my job is to help develop these young players in the academy. These players can improve every time. All the players are making progress."