Five observations as Southampton beat Stoke 3-2 in the League Cup

Graziano Pelle

Ronald Koeman's side secured their 9th win in 10 games as they beat the Potters the second time in five days.

Pelle is as good as anyone in the Premier League

The former Feyenoord man just can't stop scoring, and what's more, he's scoring some stunners. His first reeked of confidence and talent, as he received the ball some 25 yards out, took a touch as the defender stood off him, and then bent a fantastic strike past Asmir Begovic into the top corner. His late goal to settle the tie was much scrappier, turning the ball home after it bounced loose of a defender, but as long as he keeps scoring, and he now has 9 in 12 since arriving at St Mary's, it doesn't really matter how they go in.

Long could start alongside the Italian at the weekend

With the Saints facing Long's former club Hull, it may be advantageous for Koeman to plump with a man who registered his first goal for the club against Stoke. His effort from 10 yards, a fine finish to cap a superb passing move by the visitors, showed how well he is linking up with his new teammates, and should see him head to his old stomping ground in high spirits.

The Saints have another good young left back on their hands

As long as Southampton stay in the League Cup, it looks like Ronald Koeman is prepared to continue to blood young Matt Targett at left back. Luke Shaw left the club in the summer, but in Targett they have another fullback of real talent. Having played nearly every minute of the Saints' League Cup campaign, as well as making a brief league debut at the end of last month, it is fair to say Targett is a capable deputy to Ryan Bertrand.

Koeman is showing superb nous to manage league and cup competitions

The Dutch legend has resisted the temptation to make widespread changes to give his fringe players games in the League Cup, with just Targett and Romanian summer signing Florin Gardos coming in to the team in that competition. Unsurprisingly, this has helped the many summer signings settle in the Southampton side alongside those that have been at the club several years. With no Europe to worry about at the moment, those that play well know they are likely to start the next game, and the consistent team selection has the Saints continuously linking up with each other well, and recording 9 wins in 10 games.

Southampton have a real chance of silverware

Southampton avoided the remaining Premier League sides in the competition by drawing Sheffield United. Though they will have to go to Bramall Lane to win a place in the semi-finals, United are the lowest ranked team left in the competition, and Koeman has to fancy that his side will be able to come through to the two-legged semis. The Saints have already proved that they can go and earn a result at the very toughest places with their win at Arsenal, and given that they're second in the league, Southampton fans have to fancy themselves as second favourites for the cup after Chelsea.

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