Claude Puel has warned his Southampton side not to let themselves be distracted by trying to keep West Ham playmaker Dimitri Payet quiet when they head to the London Stadium.
France international Payet scored a 25-yard free-kick in injury time to see off the challenge of Accrington Stanley in the EFL Cup on Wednesday night.
Accrington boss John Coleman felt Payet’s set-piece ability makes him just as dangerous from a dead ball around the box as he would be from the penalty spot, while West Ham manager Slaven Bilic says the Frenchman reminds him of the way former England captain and Manchester United midfielder David Beckham would net such crucial goals.
Puel, though, believes concentrating on delivering their own required performance will be key if Southampton are to record what would be a fourth consecutive win in all competitions.
“It (a free-kick from Payet) would be a good opportunity for them, and of course defending is important, but we must also concentrate on all the many good things we do on the pitch,” the Southampton manager said at a press conference.
“He (Payet) is a very good player on the free-kicks, but our players also have many qualities and it will be difficult for West Ham to defend these players.
“It is important to keep in our minds all of the good things we can make on the pitch and not just to stay in close (attention) with the opponent, (but) to give a good answer against all of the (West Ham) team, with a good concentration.”
Southampton secured their place in the fourth round of the EFL Cup with a 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.
A first Premier League win under Puel’s reign came by beating Swansea, which was then followed with defeat of Sparta Prague in their opening Europa League tie.
Puel, though, accepts his squad now face a real test of their aspirations this season, with three tough away matches, travelling to Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Israel early next week and then playing away at defending Premier League champions Leicester before the international break.
“We can see the good work on the training sessions and in every game, we are strong in defence and also with good possibilities on the counter-attack, playing good football, even with different players out on the pitch,” he said.
“All of the squad can take confidence from this, to show that it is possible to play these many games every three days, which is what we challenged the squad to do at the start (of the season).
“All is positive, but now it is important to continue the work, to see if we have the ability to travel, when we have three games away.”