Coming off the back of an incredible performance against Norwich City, James Ward-Prowse has been named as the England U21 captain – this reward will see Ward-Prowse take charge on the pitch for the forthcoming Euro qualifier against Norway. Southampton fans would agree that this achievement is a testament to the youngsters recent showings in the red and white stripes. So, is this the moment for Ward-Prowse to truly nail down his starting place?
A mature set of performances, International recognition and a current starting spot in the first team; the 20 year old is certainly doing his career no harm.
Though Victor Wanyama’s tantrum has given a helping hand to Ward-Prowse, it didn’t mean he was guaranteed to fill the boots. Yet here we are, Ronald Koeman shall be dealt a manager’s best nightmare upon the players return from International duty.
In the past two seasons Ward-Prowse has dealt battle with one of the league’s strongest midfield partnerships. Sadly however for the now England U21 captain, it was a partnership that held quality in abundance and rarely fell short of fitness; thus forcing Koeman to predominantly place Ward-Prowse in a less familiar advanced role. Whilst he has undeniably come up with the goods in assists and creativity, his lack of bursting pace, quick feet and poor finishing has left him ineffective when played as an attacking midfielder. His talent is clear to see, but for quite some time now we have been wanting to witness him apply his trade in a more natural position; perhaps a place in the midfield partnership, Ron?
With Morgan Schneiderlin now spending every waking moment studying the almighty Van Gaal “Philosophy” and Wanyama coming out the tail end of a disruptive transfer saga, this really is the moment for the young Portsmouth born boy to earn his spot.
In Southampton’s three nil domination over Norwich City, the La Masia academy star Romeu joined Ward-Prowse in the middle of the park. This partnership seemed to click from the very first whistle as it provided the much needed base to push Southampton onto victory. With both players holding incredible technical ability and an intelligent mind, the two put an end to the hoof ball that Southampton fans have become accustomed to as of late. Instead, fans were treated to the site of a classy Romeu – playing as the anchor from deep – and Ward-Prowse splitting the defence open and co ordinating in perfect harmony. Simply put, it was the perfect midfield balance and if either of the duo were not to start on Southampton’s visit to The Hawthorns, it would be a despicable decision. Fans have labelled the performance as their most attractive in recent games and best of all, it placed a smile back upon the face of Ronald Koeman.
You could easily argue that to see Southampton play in such a positive and attractive fashion is no surprise, given that Ward-Prowse was handed the chance. In previous fixtures we have seen a mistake filled and sluggish paced transition from defence to attack, this has strongly damaged our power at both ends of the field in turn. Most notably, these uninspiring performances have occurred when Wanyama and Steven Davis form a pair; whilst both players hold fantastic attributes in the correct system, they both rely on their physical strengths.
At this point to restore Southampton’s beautiful fluid football they need reassurance and class on the ball. Strangely enough, thats exactly what was shown against Alex Neil’s Norwich last weekend. The young man offers a calming influence on the ball, the ability to switch play over any distance, the intelligence to find space, a positive approach to play and not to mention his beautiful set piece deliveries.
If Ward-Prowse is able to maintain his position in the first team, it would not only be an incredible achievement for him, but also for the fans and the club. It’s a proud moment as a fan to watch over a player and know that he is one of your own, a feeling that as a Southampton fan, will never die.