Virgil Van Dijk: updates regarding Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City

As we edge ever closer to the January transfer window, more and more stories regarding Virgil Van Dijk’s future on the South Coast are making the headlines.

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So to save you the hassle of the searching through the endless ‘ITK’ reports on Twitter and online, we sieved through the latest updates and collated them all here. You’re welcome.

In the last 24 hours the Independent have claimed that Liverpool are cooling their interest in the Dutchman, unless Southampton are willing to lower their asking price.

The report claims that Liverpool are now being forced into looking elsewhere for defensive reinforcements, with Southampton showing no signs of giving in. It’s believed that Liverpool hoped to make their move in the January transfer window.

However, It’s not just the Reds hesitance to meet Southampton’s asking price that’s causing them to look elsewhere. Liverpool insiders are currently fearful that they simply can’t match the financial power that their Premier League rivals boast.

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Meanwhile, the Mirror believe Chelsea are now set to rival Manchester City for Van Dijk’s signature.

During a recent press conference Antonio Conte remained respectful when asked about Van Dijk joining his side, but the Italian didn’t hold back in urging numerous other top sides to challenge runaway leaders City, in the battle for Southampton’s £70M man.

Every team, every club, must pay great attention. Because if a club like Manchester City takes all the best [players], it will be very difficult for us to fight. Not only in England but in Europe.” said the Blues boss.

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Conte went on to defend City’s right to continue spending big, but insisted his own club and their title rivals must try to keep pace.

It seems that the race for Virgil Van Dijk is just as much about securing the talent of the man himself, as it is about denying your opponents of a world class talent.

There’s one consistency throughout all of these reports, however, and that’s that Southampton still appear to be standing strong with the Dutchman.

The club appear to be breaking no sweat over the future of the in-demand centre-back, and are happy to wait for their lavish £70m valuation to be met.


Two good, two bad: Chelsea v Southampton

After Wednesday’s embarrassing defeat to Leicester, it’s safe to say that Saints fans weren’t feeling too optimistic about our chances at Stamford Bridge. Despite an improved performance from mid-week the same inevitability’s from Mauricio Pellegrino’s side were apparent, and an improved performance still left Saints picking up no points.

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Two good…

1) Defensive organisation. After looking to have no shape on Wednesday, Saints were certainly more regimented against Chelsea. The goal we conceded was soft from our point of view as Forster should have done better. However, we were hard to breakdown and apart from the goal, Forster was equal to everything thrown at him

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2) Possession. We looked to keep the ball much better than in the game against Leicester and the players didn’t look tentative whilst on it.

Two bad…

1) In a match against a side with the quality of Chelsea, if a side is to get anything from it, you need to have some flair a bit of pace and a clinical edge. We showed none of these qualities yesterday. Any half chances you get you need to take and Charlie Austin will be kicking himself after not netting when coming on. Redmond and Boufal didn’t provide the width of pace needed to break on the counter attack and in truth, we looked a bit lost.

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2) During the first half, and during most of the season, when playing Gabbiadini as a lone striker, he’s too isolated. He often makes runs in behind the defensive line, but I can’t recall the last time he was picked out. Perhaps it’s our midfield not wanting to take the risk or maybe it’s Gabbiadini himself, but more often than not it almost feels as though we have no attacking outlet.

Huddersfield at home next Saturday is the biggest game of our season, and we must get three points. A relegation fight is our harsh reality with teams below us all starting to find their rhythm after Pellegrino’s time may be up.

Two good, two bad: Southampton v Leicester

“Are you glad you sacked Puel” was the cry from the Leicester section of St Mary’s as Claude Puel returned to St Mary’s with a potential point to prove; and didn’t he prove it. Leicester showed all the characteristics that’s Saints fans cried out for from the Frenchman last season; pace, power and a clinical edge. Pellegrino was left red faced as his changed side from the draw with Arsenal were taught a lesson at home. It simply wasn’t good enough and without trying to sound too dramatic, I can’t recall a worse performance from Saints since the days of George Burley and Jan Poortvliet. 

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The good…

1) We scored. Maya Yoshida bundled the ball over the line following a corner to give Saints fans a glimmer of hope. Maybe this goal would have been more significant had Charlie Austin tucked home a second just prior to Okazaki’s second and Leicester’s fourth, but at least we saw the ball trickle past  Schmeichel at some point.

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2) Fraser Forster’s saves. Truly scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one, but without a number of reflex saves from Forster, the score line could have been much worse.

The bad…

1) Possession. Saints were so sloppy when retaining the ball tonigt there were countless times where we easily handed the ball back to Leicester. This not only degraded confidence of our players but it allowed the Foxes to execute their game plan expertly. We played right into their hands, allowing them to pick up every second ball and punish us.

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2) Organisation. Passion. Fight. Determination. All the elements that made our performance against Arsenal good were completely void tonight. As fans, we thought we had turned a corner from a slow start to the season, but after tonight it feels like we’re back to square one. We have a massive week ahead of us with Huddersfield at home on the horizon.

In truth, there could have been at least six talking points that could have been included in the “bad” section of this article. Last night’s performance was nothing shy of abysmal and the players and management really need to work together to get us out of another slump. One win from eight games is relegation form, there’s no doubt about that. However, credit must be given to both Leicester City and their fans tonight as both were in great form. The fans were loud from the get-go and fully backed their team. As for the Saints, it’s back to the drawing board.

What is Southampton FC’s average yearly salary? And how does it compare to Premier League rivals?

In the modern day of football, It’s a sad reality that just about any achievement or issue is aided or solved by a clubs financial power, and their ability to use it effectively. As much as we don’t want to admit it, money talks, and it’s as simple as that.

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Scan Twitter on any given match-day for fan opinions, and often you will find a wealth of comments that only further feed into this idea…

“We simply have to invest this January window or we’re going down”

“Our club has all this money from sales, yet the higher forces are choosing to line their pockets with it!”

“£18M for Mario Lemina? That’s the best bit of business Southampton have ever done”

Whether it’s projecting views on transfers, shining a bright light on the club, or even quite the opposite, most opinions within football come right back to the subject of money.

Southampton FC in particular, are a club where numerous fans have questioned the willingness of the higher forces to re-invest. Our ability at finding value for money in the transfer market is impeccable, and on numerous occasions now we’ve commanded eight digit figures for the services of our players; causing some to question the ambition of our club, under the assumption that  were not directly reinvesting the money received from player sales.

But using data provided by the Global Sports Salaries Survey of 2017, we’re able to gain some insight as fans into just how much our club is investing on a yearly basis.

Southampton have been criticised over recent seasons for failing to invest proportionally to their sales, but when you take a look at their respected company in the table shown above, such claims suddenly hold little weight.

The survey claims that Southampton are believed to pay £2,271,286 (£43,679) per player per year on average, placing them in 10th when compared to the other Premier League sides.

When placed alongside NBA, NFL, MLB, IPL and NHL teams, the survey also found that Southampton boast the 110th largest wage bill of a sport club in the world.

Southampton are obviously never going to challenge any of the teams above Tottenham Hotspur financially or domestically, so let’s wipe them from the chart. It should be no surprise that those teams top us in the table.

From there the only teams outspending us on a yearly basis are West Ham by just under £700k, Everton by £530k and Leicester City by £220k.

And to be perfectly honest with you, I’m not surprised that any of these sides have pipped us in the table.

Leicester City have the financial advantage of winning the Premier League back in 2015/16, followed by an impressive season of Champions League football the year after.

Everton have the backing of Farhad Moshiri, as well as the Romelu Lukaku money that they invested into numerous first team players.

And then you have West Ham, who are… well… West Ham. Plenty of money being thrown around, but little sense, direction or strategy.

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These are the teams that Southampton need to be competing with, and at this moment in time Everton and Leicester are just one and five points away respectively.  

Watford are also just three points ahead of the Saints, whilst Burnley are on a one man mission to break the relationship between investment and success in the Premier League.

So what exactly does this chart appear to show us?

In my eyes, two things; the first is that whilst there is a rough correlation between the two, there’s obviously no guarantee of success or improvement with investment.

The second is that Southampton Football Club certainly cannot be accused of under-investing.

Sure, maybe we missed a trick in not signing an additional forward or winger over the summer, but I’d be more inclined to blame that on a failure to identify a clear weakness, rather than a fear or reluctance to invest.

If you wish to read further into the interesting findings of this survey, then follow this link to download the data for free

Two good, two bad: Souhampton v Arsenal

Despite a feeling of frustration from conceding late on, most Saints fans would have taken a point prior to today’s clash against Arsenal. Over the past four fixtures now, Mauricio Pellegerino’s side have shown a considerable amount of improvement from previous showings, and that was once again seen today. 

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The good…

1) The performance levels and professionalism of Charlie Austin, Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Jack Stephens. All three individuals have had to fight for their places in the side after not featuring as much as they would have liked during the opening games of the season. Austin showed his clinical edge, Hojbjerg controlled the midfield alongside Romeu and Stephens showed his calmness on the ball against the likes of Sanchez and Ozil. What impressed me the most was that all three worked their socks off for the team and contributed massively to a strong team performance.

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2) The organisation of the side. The key to such a strong squad performance was that each player evidently knew their role and were on the same page. Saints looked very happy to face the Arsenal front line and for most of the match looked comfortable to soak up and defend the pressure put on our goal. However, with the quality that Arsenal possess on and off the bench, it’s always going to be a tough ask to keep them out for 90 minutes

The bad…

1) Not putting away our chances. How many times are we going to be saying that this season? The game was there to be killed off at times today and unfortunately, we couldn’t find that elusive second goal. As Charlie Austin broke through on goal shortly after his first, many if not all would have thought we would be celebrating his second but he struck low and Cech managed to palm the ball to safety. Romeu striking the bar and Bertrand dinking his effort wide were arguably our best chances of the second half, and the latter had to go in; no excuses.

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2) The curious case of Nathan Redmond. We all know that Redmond has the talent and potential to become a very good asset to Southampton, but his season so far was perfectly summed up by today’s performance. Poor decision making on top of bad execution with final balls and switches just reflect his low confidence. We saw flashes again today but he looked reluctant to get past a rigid arsenal back three. Credit where it’s due, he worked hard and continually tried to correct his previous errors, but I can’t see what he’s doing to keep Boufal out of the team. The Moroccan possesses the ability to beat a man and look forward as soon as he’s on the ball. Hopefully, we will see the Nathan Redmond we invested £12 million in to.

Behind enemy lines: Southampton v Arsenal

Southampton find themselves in an awkward position at the minute. After a poor start to life under Mauricio Pellegrino, with worrying results and even worse performances, the players finally appear to have turned a corner over the past three fixtures. But while performances are showing genuine signs of improvement, results need to follow suit before cries for change start to be heard again.

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This weekend, however, Southampton’s opponent’s will be no pushovers; Arsenal are coming off the back of a 6-0 Europa League win, and will be desperate to get back to winning ways in the league after an unfortunate defeat against Manchester United.

So, to get the inside track on the Gunners, we spoke with Mason McDonagh, an Arsenal fan and writer for Sports Keeda.

How would you summarise your season so far?

Results haven’t really defined how well I think we’ve played. Silly defeats to Watford and Stoke away from home were low points but overall we’ve performed well as a team

What are your hopes for the remainder of the season?

Now, with City already having the title wrapped up by the looks of things, I’d say anywhere in the top four and the Europa League or another FA Cup would be a successful season

How have teams got the most joy out of your defence?

I’d say quick forwards have been a problem for Arsenal for a while now, as Southampton’s fans will remember well from Shane Long’s performance in 2015

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Which player has surprised you most by stepping up?

I think Lacazette has been exceptional since his arrival and really lived up to his transfer fee. I thought he was going to be more of a poacher, but he has everything

You’re stranded on a desert island and can only be joined by one Arsenal player; who’s it going to be?

Difficult question, but I’ll go with Cazorla. He always seems to have a smile on his face and I think you’d need that being stranded on a desert island

Southampton fans always appreciate updates on their former academy graduates; what’s the general feeling amongst Arsenal fans toward Calum Chambers and Theo Walcott at the minute?

The general feeling is that Chambers should potentially be given more opportunities, especially after having a good season at Boro last year. But Walcott on the other hand, I think a lot of people think it’s time for him to move on. He’s rarely featured in the league this year and if he wants to play more Premier League football, it’s time for him to move on

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Which Southampton player would you take to join your side?

I think like all the top sides in the top 5 it would have to be Van Dijk. I really would have liked Wenger to have gone for him last summer, but I’m not sure if he was even interested

As an outsider looking in, which Gunner would help to improve Pellegrino’s Saints most?

I know Southampton haven’t scored many goals this season so my pick would be Giroud. No disrespect to Gabbiadini, Austin or Long but he would most definitely score more goals

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

We don’t have a particularly great record at St Mary’s, but I do think we’re playing well. I’ll go with 2-1 to Arsenal.

Basel’s Mohamed Elyounoussi on Southampton’s radar

According to Swiss newspaper Blick, Southampton scouts were once again watching over Mohamed Elyounoussi last Saturday, as the Norwegian winger scored Basel’s opening goal against Lausanne.

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The 23-year-old has been on Southampton’s radar for the past year, but interest appears to be growing ahead of the January transfer window. 

Elyounoussi, who plays on the left side of Basel’s front three, was in stunning form yet again last Tuesday scoring in a 2-0 win over Benfica, placing Raphaël Wicky’s side in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Elyounoussi has found the back of the net on four occasions in his last 15 league appearances – averaging a goal every 306 minutes – but it’s the creative side of his game that often receives so much praise. 11 assists from 23 appearences this season is sublime, and exactly the kind of numbers that Southampton could do with registering.

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Initially Elyounoussi has all the hallmarks of a typical Southampton signing; he’s performing at a high level in a lesser European league, has plenty of time on his side, and appears to be within their price range. 

However, the Saints aren’t the only Premier League club interested in Elyounnoussi. Blik say that severeal other Premier League clubs are monitoring the winger closely, including Claude Puel’s Leicester City.

Preview: Bournemouth v Southampton

The season so far has been a frustrating one for Southampton fans, but over the past two Premier League fixtures, Mauricio Pellegrino’s side appear to have turned a corner. 

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The Saints ran out deserved winners in their battle with Everton, showing fluent and expressive attacking play, before cruelly facing defeat at the death against league leaders Manchester City.

Despite only coming away with three points from the two fixtures, the squad have finally shown a clear understanding of the managers game plan and rediscovered their willingness to fight. A great improvement compared to previous gutless showings.

But what type of challenge will their opponents present tomorrow?

To find out more about the Cherries, we spoke with Kris Temple, a TV and radio broadcaster for BBC South.

How would you summarise Bournemouth’s season so far?

Very poor start, impressive in November, until Burnley when they were disconcertingly poor again.

What would make for a successful season?

Every season for a club of their size it has to be staying up. But having finished on the coattails of Saints last season in 9th, it would be a good achievement to finish above them, given that the two clubs are still quite a way apart in terms of resources.

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How have teams got the most joy out of Howe’s defence?

In case Pellegrino is reading this I won’t say too much!

Set plays were a worry earlier in the season, but they’ve sorted that out now. It’s mainly been individual errors rather than a specific approach by the opposition.

Which player has surprised you most by stepping up?

I’m a big fan of Lewis Cook, as are the fans. We haven’t seen that much of him yet, but he’s looked very assured for someone as young as he is,

Which areas of the field do you consider AFCB to be short in?

The wingers haven’t consistently delivered this season. Junior Stanislas is the most creative but he hasn’t been fit that much.

You’re stranded on a desert island and can only be joined by one Cherries player; who’s it going to be?

Probably Andrew Surman – I’ve never seen him in a bad mood off the pitch.

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Which Southampton player would you take to join Bournemouth?

Eddie would probably go for Charlie Austin again, but I’d take Lemina on what I’ve seen so far. Looks the part.

Which Cherries player would help to improve Pellegrino’s Saints most?

A fully firing Joshua King – pace, power, and a goal threat.

And finally, what do you think the score will be this Sunday?

I’m going for a 1-1 draw – it’s a bit on the fence, both teams have got their defence sorted recently, but are lacking clinical poise in the final third (Saints’ Everton win aside, against a shambolic opponent)

In defence of defending – a response to Pep Guardiola’s post match comments

Southampton faced heartbreak at the death on Wednesday after Raheem Sterling’s 96th-minute strike extended Manchester City’s unbeaten run in the Premier League to 14 fixtures.

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As a Southampton fan it was gut-wrenching: 90+ minutes of sheer hard work, determination and organisation, only to be defeated by a moment of simply undeniable class.

But after taking a step back from the drama of it all, I could see that it was a thrilling battle between two sides with two entirely different approaches. Southampton could walk off that pitch with their heads held high, despite City leaving as the deserved winners.

But following the post-match press conferences, the game had suddenly been given a whole new narrative, as Pep Guardiola proceeded to blast Southampton for their negative tactics and time-wasting.

“They didn’t want to play. We were the only team who tried to win. We deserved it by far,” said Guardiola.

The Spaniard then went on to slander Southampton for having “10 men behind the ball” and asserting that “their striker was man-marking Fernandinho”.

Now at this point I must confess that I myself am a huge admirer of Guardiola, and certainly not an advocate of time-wasting.

But these comments regarding Southampton’s tactics are quite frankly ridiculous.

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Guardiola might say that defending deep with the aim of rarely breaking forward is unfair, and that’s reasonable. But I can guarantee you that if we asked Guardiola whether it’s unfair to recruit world-class talents like a hacked Football Manager save, and spend over £200M on building a new backline, he’d shoot your question down before you could even finish your sentence.

The point I’m trying to make is that while both are frustrating and unfair to others, they are perfectly legal in the game, and that’s all part of football.

Mauricio Pellegrino didn’t come off the field lambasting the ludicrous amount of money that Guardiola’s spent, so why did Guardiola leave the field moaning about the way Southampton tried to combat his side?

Contrary to what Guardiola may believe, there’s no one way to play football, so please don’t kick up a fuss that we gave you a challenge.

It’s worth noting at this point that the teams who caused City the most frustration this season – Wolves, Huddersfield and now the Saints – all conceded possession and deployed a deep block.

The post-match comments would lead anyone to believe that Southampton posed no threat in the opposition’s box, but this was far from the truth; Oriol Romeu’s goal was worked wonderfully, Wesley Hoedt cannoned a header off the crossbar and Maya Yoshida missed an open goal.

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However, I’m under no illusion that Southampton played a defensive style of football throughout the entire 90 minutes, only looking to attack on calculated and measured occasions.

But is it really any wonder when we had to be wary of Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling charging at our defence, let alone a fresh-legged David Silva, who’d just been subbed on.

Of course Guardiola would love everyone to push forward and go toe-to-toe with City – he’d simply watch on with joy as his team proceeds to wipe the floor with their sorry opponent, before praising them in the post-match presser for giving it a “good go”.

Anyone knows that gifting space to any of City’s world-class forwards is the difference between having a chance of picking up a result at the Etihad, and being completely and utterly humiliated.  

Manchester City are an outstanding football team, and any mid-table side naive enough to think that they can beat them at their own game will simply be picked off at will.

The tone of this piece was exactly the route that I didn’t want to go down following such an entertaining game; Manchester City were an absolute joy to watch, and as far as I’m concerned, each one of those Southampton players can go into their next fixture with their head held high.

Only last week Guardiola stated that there is no copy and paste in football with regards to tactics, due to every squad boasting different strengths and weaknesses. So in the same way that Guardiola deployed an incredibly attacking side to secure all three points, Southampton fielded a strong and resilient defensive unit to frustrate and battle.

There’s no right or wrong in how a team wishes to pick up their points, especially when it’s against the most expensive side in Premier League history.


Five positives to take into Southampton’s biggest test of the season so far

After a return to winning ways with a 4-1 victory over Everton, Southampton fans (for the first time in what feels like a long time) have a number of positives to take away from their sides performance.

We saw fluid football, ruthless finishing, and one of the rarest sights that football holds; a Steven Davis goal from outside the box.

So going into what will be our toughest test of the season so far against Manchester City, what are the greatest positives we can take away from Sunday’s fine performance?  

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The return of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Hojbjerg was the beating heart of our midfield throughout the entire 90 minutes against Everton, despite only making just one appearance prior to this. Not only was it a joy to watch him dictate the direction and tempo of the game, but also to get involved in the defensive side too, pressing relentlessly and flying into 50/50’s too. He recorded some delightful stats, too: 121 touches (!), 91.7% pass completion, four tackles, three interceptions.

The importance of our fullbacks

Few teams in the Premier League have better fullbacks than Southampton Football Club, but sadly, this is something we’ve failed to capitalise on so far this season. Last Sunday, however, it was incredibly refreshing to see us have them back on form again.

If we want to play the exciting, fluid football that so many fans fantasise about, then Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand will need to be right at the heart of it.

They worked the channels endlessly, covered their ground at both ends of the pitch and whipped in some delightful crosses.

Having the option to deliver purposeful cross-field balls was a delightful change to our play, as well as their storming overlapping runs in the final third.

Our players believing in both their own and their teammates ability

All too often in recent weeks our front-line and midfield have been paranoid in the final third, scared to be the player that gets caught out and makes that game-changing mistake.

On Sunday, however, we decided to embrace the opportunities that previously we would have  turned our nose up at. We took risks in the final third with drilled passes, flicked passes and trickery, choosing for  the first time in a long time to truly express ourselves out on the pitch.

The players not only believed in themselves, but in the ability of their teammates too, trusting them to come through with the goods in those all-important moments.

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Boufal cementing his place in the starting XI

It’s safe to say that Sofiane Boufal’s career on the south coast has been a rollercoaster so far; it started with sheer ecstasy, placing fans in disbelief at how we obtained such a talent, before they soon turned on him at the first glance of a drop in form.

He’s been labelled as lazy, a luxury player, and (by some) a flop.

But having now been given over a year to adjust to the demands of the Premier League, Boufal now appears to have cemented his place in the starting XI. He’s more relaxed on the ball, more aware of his positioning in the side, and boasts a far greater understanding of his teammates strengths – his relationship with Ryan Bertrand has the potential to be an extremely dangerous asset.

He’s dropped his desperation to impress the fans, which often led to him over complicating play, and in return, he’s become a far more calculated and intelligent player on the ball.

There’s never been any doubt surrounding his ability, but now he’s been given a consistent string of appearances and trust from the boss, he’s been able to iron out his inconsistencies. Who would have guessed it, eh?

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Ward-Prowse fighting for his place in the side 

Whilst Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Charlie Austin grabbed the headlines over the weekend, there was another player that’s been starved of opportunities who conducted an incredibly mature performance; James Ward-Prowse.

When you’ve got players with natural flair such as Dusan Tadic and Sofiane Boufal on the field, you often need someone that can bring balance and stability to the midfields shape. Someone that holds their position, recycles play, and is tactically disciplined.

On Sunday James Ward-Prowse showed that he has the potential to be that player. If he can bring the stability that allows our flair players to flourish, then Mauricio Pellegrino will be helpless in looking to Ward-Prowse as a regular first team option.

It’s also worth noting that he’s familiar in this role too, having played it under Claude Puel in the later stages of last season.