Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl’s decision to omit Jan Bednarek from his squad for his side’s FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City was a “curious” one, according to journalist Tom Barclay.
Bednarek has been a regular member of Southampton’s starting XI this season, but he was not even on the bench for the last eight encounter at St Mary’s.
Why did Bednarek not play against Man City?
Hasenhuttl opted to go with the centre-back pairing of Jack Stephens and Mohammed Salisu for the game against Pep Guardiola’s side, and he did not name a recognised central defender on the bench.
When asked why Bednarek had not featured after the match, Hasenhuttl suggested that the 6 foot 3 defender was not 100% focused on the game as he had an important international match coming up for Poland.
Poland are due to face Sweden on Tuesday in a World Cup play-off final, with the winners booking their place at this year’s tournament in Qatar.
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What has Barclay said about Hasenhuttl’s admission?
Barclay can understand why Bednarek’s mind may have been elsewhere given what is at stake for Poland in their one-off match with Sweden.
However, he still feels it is bizarre that the £19.8m-rated defender missed a crucial FA Cup match for the Saints, which they went on to lose 4-1.
Reflecting on Hasenhuttl’s reasoning for leaving out Bednarek, Barclay told GIVEMESPORT: “It is an odd one ahead of a big game like that. Yes, internationally they’ve got some big fixtures and it’s been a very emotional time from a Poland point of view, remember all of the players did that joint message about not playing against Russia after what’s happened in Ukraine.
“So, he’s feeling very patriotic, a proud man to play for his country, but it was quite curious. It’s not often you hear that ahead of an FA Cup quarter-final.”
Was it a mistake to leave out Bednarek?
Southampton put up a good fight against City, and were level at the hour mark, before the visitors ran away with the match in the final 30 minutes.
There is no guarantee that things would have been any different with Bednarek in the team, but it still seems strange to leave out an established starter for a game of such importance.
The gap between Southampton’s match and Poland’s play-off game is nine days – more than enough time for Bednarek to recover from his exertions in the former fixture.
In retrospect, Hasenhuttl may wish that he’d put his foot down and insisted that Bednarek played to give his side the best chance of making it into the semi-finals of the FA Cup.