Pochettino refutes claims that his selection caused Saints' cup exit

Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino was in feisty form, completely refuting suggestions that an altered team selection led to Southampton's FA Cup exit.

As the press gathered at St. Mary's Stadium for Mauricio Pochettino's routine pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to West Ham this weekend, there was still lingering disappointment in the air.

Those disappointments emanated from Southampton's FA Cup elimination at the hands of Sunderland just five days earlier.

Despite Sunderland making nine changes of their own, Pochettino's Saints side slumped to a disheartening 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light, in a display devoid of any inspiration or positives.

Rather predictably, the early stages of the press conference were riddled with questions debating Pochettino's judgement, but it is not something the Argentinian coach apologises for.

“We accept the criticism because we know that we did not have a good day – we had a bad day," he said.

"I want to make clear that, during the time we've been here, we've shown we fully care about English competitions. I can understand the fans' disappointment because we are also disappointed."

After pressure on the topic of his team selection, which saw five changes, but the continued presence of stars such as Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, Pochettino made his stance clear.

"We chose the best starting XI. We made the correct decision in picking those players," the Argentine said.

"I reject any criticism that we didn't put out the best team for that day. We always pick the squad that's best for any game."

Southampton drew criticism from pundits and their own supporters for fielding a team that lacked key figures including Artur Boruc, Jose Fonte, Jack Cork, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez - but Pochettino admits that he has no shame in continuing with his policy of blooding youth players and giving opportunities to those on the fringes of the first team set-up.

However, Pochettino was accused of disrespecting the competition by a number of leading media voices. It's something the former PSG defender vehemently refutes.

“I think it is a bit rich that we get criticised when we have shown all season that we are not afraid to use young players. We started with Sam Gallagher against Arsenal and nobody said we had no respect for the Premier League. I think it is quite contradictory.”

“We came out with a team that we thought could win the game, but in the end it wasn’t our day.”

Although he was unwilling to accept the allegations that it was his team selection that led to Southampton's elimination from the competition, Pochettino remained defensive of his players and was cautious not to lay too much of the blame at their door either.

"What makes me sad is that these comments are quite disrespectful to those that were on the pitch that day."

Southampton now travel to the Boleyn Ground this weekend, where they will face a West Ham side looking for their fourth consecutive win.

The Saints themselves are unbeaten in six Premier League fixtures ahead of this weekend's tie.

image: © flawka

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