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Preview: Liverpool v Southampton

After falling to defeat against Burnley in their last Premier League outing, Southampton will be desperate to right their wrongs this weekend as they look to kickstart their disappointing season so far.

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Liverpool, however, come into this fixture in fine form, having recorded three back to back victories across all competitions – finding the back of the net 10 times along the way. Something Southampton could only dream of at this moment in time.

But In order to gain greater insight into our upcoming opponents, we spoke with Hari Sethi – the host of Anfield Index’s Premier League preview podcast.

How would you summarise your season so far?

Liverpool’s season so far has been wrought with frustration. Failing to address the defence in the summer was pure negligence from the club, despite the faith Klopp seemingly has in his current options. Though the Reds are capable of producing scintillating attacking spells and new signing Mohammed Salah has settled incredibly well, there’s the still the feeling amongst the fanbase that we’re building on sand and until that changes we aren’t able to invest ourselves in this project fully.

What would make for a successful season?

A successful season would be consolidating our place in the top four, securing CL football and perhaps, just maybe, improving the defence by replacing Dejan Lovren.

How do teams get the most joy out of your defence?

Targeting either our young options at RB – Gomez or Trent Alexander Arnold or Dejan Lovren who’s been very poor so far this season. Very often, however, teams won’t have to do anything special to get joy out of our defence, they’re especially generous and often gift goals through individual errors.

Which player has surprised you most by stepping up?

It’s not been a surprise to me, but Alberto Moreno has been great so far this season. Adding a great deal to our attack with well-timed overlapping runs, showing a more considered side when needed and also pressing effectively.

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

Roberto Firmino. One of the hardest working members of the team, a good laugh and he’d also be able to start a fire by reflecting the sun off his teeth.

Minus Virgil Van Dijk, which Southampton player would you take to join your side?

Lemina. A promising young defensive midfielder.

As an outsider looking in, which Southampton player needs to step up to help Pellegrino’s Saints?

Tough question as what you really need is a lively and ruthless striker. However, if Tadic could form a more effective partnership with one of your wingers or even take on greater responsibility this could provide some temporary respite.

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

I think Liverpool will win 3-1 .

Southampton keeping watch on Manchester City’s Bobby Duncan

Southampton are reportedly interested in Manchester City youngster Bobby Duncan, who looks set to leave City in the near future.

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The report from The Times claims that Southampton aren’t alone in their pursuit of the 16-year-old, however, with both Arsenal and Tottenham keeping a close eye on the front-man.

After losing Jadon Sancho to Borussia Dortmund only earlier this summer, Manchester City now risk losing yet another one of their highly rated stars; one can only assume that such decisions are made in the pursuit of first-team opportunities, given the frightening squad depth at City.

Duncan, who is a cousin of Steven Gerrard, showed his talent for England’s U17’s only last week, scoring a late winner to beat Portugal 3-2 after initially going 2-0 down.

Duncan is yet to sign a professional contract, but City hope to pen the youngster down on a new deal before his 17th birthday next summer.

It’s been awhile since Southampton had a young English forward leading their front-line, and with Sam Gallagher’s career stalling at Birmingham, on top of Ryan Seager edging closer to 22-years-old, this signing could prove to be a smart investment for the club.

It must be noted, however, that City will be entitled to receive compensation should Duncan leave.

Preview: Stoke City vs Southampton

After a convincing victory over Roy Hodgson’s Palace, and an encouraging performance against Manchester United, it appears that we’re starting to see the foundations of Mauricio Pellegrino’s work. 

But whilst we know what we can come to expect from Southampton this weekend, just how much do we know about our upcoming opponents?

To find out more, I spoke to Stoke City’s very own club journalist, Jon Sidaway.

How would you summarise Stoke City’s season so far?

We’ve had a tough start, but we have picked up a satisfying four points from games against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea at the bet365 Stadium prior to tomorrow’s match as well as drawing at West Brom – who have become somewhat of a bogey team in recent seasons. We played ok on the opening day against Everton and were unfortunate to lose in my opinion, while our other defeat at Newcastle was a little disappointing. That said, I think a lot of people are happy with our return of five points from six games, particularly against quality and stubborn opposition who we failed to take many points off last season. Performances have genuinely been ok, although I feel we haven’t truly threatened or punished teams enough in the final third despite seeing much of the ball in most games. We’re a side that is perhaps still gelling after several summer signings, so I’ve no doubt that things will click and come to fruition when the season starts to pick up pace. Overall, I would say we have had a promising start whilst seeing some encouraging signs.

Who has been the brightest light from last summer’s transfer business?

We signed some top players in the summer including the experience of Darren Fletcher who has made a massive difference, while Maxim Choupo-Moting arrived as an unknown quantity on a free transfer but has impressed in the games he’s played. For me though, Kurt Zouma has been the brightest signing for us and it’s a massive shame we only have him on a season-long loan from Chelsea. His physical presence is outstanding and he has a surprising amount of pace for a big guy! He has certainly helped strengthen things at the back and he has quickly become a favourite amongst players, staff and supporters alike. He’s a bright young player who you just know will go on to have an impact at a bigger club. His reading of the game is very good, he’s not scared to put a foot in and he excels in confidence on the ball when looking to play out from the back.

Who do you think could be your star man this season?

It’s a big season for Xherdan Shaqiri, both on an individual and Club level. He will obviously want to have a good campaign and be in the best form possible heading into next summer’s World Cup while he has had to become the main marquee man for us following the departure of Marko Arnautovic to West Ham. That’s nothing new for him though because he’s the face of Swiss football and played for Bayern Munich and Inter Milan who are elite clubs, so he will thrive under that added bit of pressure like all top-class players do. He arrived back from pre-season in good shape and has certainly looked up for it ever since. The main objective for ‘Shaq’ is to stay fit and get a run of games under his belt because that was a burden for him last season and when he’s out of the team you really do miss his presence. If he can do that, then he will thrive and be our biggest threat in attacking areas. If you could pick any Southampton player to join The Potters, who would it be? Southampton

If you could pick any Southampton player to join The Potters, who would it be?

Southampton are notorious for having top quality players, as well as nurturing youngsters from their academy into the first team, so it’s quite difficult to choose just one player. I look at players like Virgil Van Dijk who is strong and composed alongside James Ward-Prowse who really is an exciting talent. Then there’s Shane Long, who I really rate, he’s a workhorse and is constantly looking to chase down defenders and cause a problem. If I were to assess our current situation, then I would have to choose someone like Ryan Bertrand. We’re crying out for an experienced wing-back, we currently have Mame Diouf playing that role who – to his credit – has performed admirably, but that’s not his natural position. Bertrand has pace and strength alongside vital top-flight and international experience. He’s exciting and is at the prime of his career and although I would class him as a fullback – with how popular the 3-5-2 wing-back formation is lately – he has all the attributes to be a success in that role.

What would make for a successful season?

The manager’s aim is to always better the previous season’s finish, so ending the 2016/17 campaign in 13th was a disappointment, especially after three successive 9th place finishes in the Premier League. The primary aim is to better that this season and cement ourselves in the top 10 at the very least. We’re ambitious and we want to do as well as possible, so if we can pick up positive results and remain consistent then there is no reason why we can’t push for 6th place and potentially bring European football back to the Potteries. To do that, we need to top our recent positive results against Arsenal and Manchester United by taking as many points off the likes of Southampton and other clubs who share the same ambition. There’s no reason why we can’t because, on our day, we can really punish teams. The biggest blow is that we’re out of the Carabao Cup, a competition we wanted to do well in. It’s been a long time since this football club won a major trophy so hopefully we can get the luck of the draw and perform well when we kick-off in the FA Cup in January.

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

We have a quality dressing room and there are some good characters, but most importantly they’re all very good people. But if I were to choose just one it would have to be Crouchy! He’s a great guy to be around and has a very witty, yet chilled personality. He has time for everyone and I can’t imagine there are many people out there who dislike him. Plus, on a desert island, he would come in handy if ever there was a coconut too high on the tree!

And finally, what is your prediction for this Saturday?

As I said, it’s important we follow up our results against Arsenal and Manchester United by recording a positive scoreline in these types of games. It will certainly be a tricky contest and I think it will be a very close encounter. Either side has the potential to nick it, so it’s pivotal we look to control the game from the word go, especially at home. When the crowd are behind us, there’s no sound like it and you can see it really spurs the team on. I also think after the last week, we will be eager to get back on track so I’m going to go for a hard fought 2-1 Stoke City win.

Shane Long ready to “kick on” under Pellegrino

After a dire and gutless 2-0 home defeat against Marco Silva’s Watford, Mauricio Pellegrino knew that his side needed change. The return of Mario Lemina in the midfield was desperately needed (whilst inevitable), but it was the curveball decision to start Shane Long which helped Southampton to find joy in attack.

The Irishman failed to score on his return to the starting XI, but his fine back-to-basics performance will have no doubt impressed Pellegrino.

Southampton have lacked a presence up top in recent weeks, with Italian International Manolo Gabbiadini continually being starved of service. Long’s re-introduction to the side however added a new found urgency to the frontline, with each loose ball and centre half being chased and hurried at every available opportunity.

Long’s goalscoring and technical ability is certainly there to be questioned, but it’s undeniable that he’s proven himself to be a nuisance up against any type of centre-back.

It seems that even Long himself is aware of the his own strengths and weaknesses.

“What he (Pellegrino) wanted from the striker was to test in behind by stretching their defence. It creates holes in the pockets for Redderz, Davo and Dusan to get on the ball and I think I am the man for that job,” Long said, speaking on the 1-0 win over Palace.

“But if it’s going to be a deep lying defence and he wants someone to come to the ball he wants different options. It depends on who we’re playing against and as I said I thought I played well today and everyone seemed happy with how I did”

Regardless of whether you’re a 6ft 5 unit at the heart of a Tony Pulis defence, or a ball player in the Barcelona back-line, there’s not a single defender that enjoys being pressed and forced back to their goal.

But with hot competition on his back, Long knows that this form has to follow through into next week…

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Long stated “It’s been frustrating. The gaffer’s got a few options up front with me, Gabbi and Charlie.

“He likes to play one striker so someone will be frustrated, but I’ve just kept my head down, trained hard, and tried to prove my point. I’m just waiting for my chance to come.

“[Against Palace] I feel like I played well but I didn’t get that goal, so the next game I’ll try and put that right and kick on.

“For me it’s all about game time. Goals come with game time. I remember my Reading days even I think I scored one in 13 but finished with 25 goals by the end of the season,” he said.

“Hopefully [Pellegrino] will be happy with me today and I can now get a run of two, three, four games in the team and the goals will come.

“I feel like I’m playing well and the chances will come. I’ve been scoring in training, I’ve been flying on the pitch. It’s just a matter of time.”

Match preview: Southampton vs Hull City

Southampton are coming off the back of two consecutive Premier League defeats, having faced Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. But with Hull City travelling to St Mary’s Stadium tomorrow afternoon, Southampton will be looking to right their wrongs of the last two fixtures. 

What can we expect from our upcoming opponents? I spoke with Rick, an avid Hull City blogger, to find out just that. 

Firstly, what are your thoughts on Hull City’s season so far?

I think to call it up and down would be an understatement. We’ve had times of utter despair, long runs without a win but also pulled off several shocking results and since the change of manager we’ve been on an upward trajectory.

A day before the season started, we had 13 fit players and no hope. Then we beat Leicester. A week before the end of the January transfer window, we’d sold two of our best players and signed no-one, then we brought in half of Europe on loan and we’ve played really well since. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster.

Who has been your player of the season?

Sam Clucas. We’ve had some really good performers this year, in spite of results, but Clucas has been the pick for me. We signed him from League One Chesterfield in the summer of 2016 and that was his third step up in as many seasons. He had a good year in the Championship and showed his was full of energy and versatile but he’s been outstanding this season. Playing at an elite level and showing the technical ability and composure he has in central midfield as well his usual determination and incredible workrate is exceptional. His goal last week is probably goal of the season too!

As an outsider looking in, what is your perception of Southampton this season?

It’s been a good season overall. To finish in the top half, which you should do, and reach a Cup Final is never a bad season for anyone outside the biggest 5 or 6 clubs. Some of the players signed in the summer don’t look up to your usual standard but Gabbiadini was a great buy. Going out of Europe from that group was a big missed opportunity and Saints probably could have finished higher up the league without being involved but not enough to make a difference.

If you could take any Southampton player, who would it be and why?

I’ll resist the temptation to say Shane Long, who I still adore, or Charlie Austin, who slipped through our fingers once upon a time. I think I’d go for Gabbiadini. He’s a funny looking striker but is intelligent and just has the knack of scoring goals. We’ve needed someone like that forever.

Just how big of an impact has Marco Silva had on your season?

Huge. Mike Phelan was a good guy and was let down by the owners but he was out of his depth and we’d be down already with him in charge. Silva is a breath of fresh air. He’s had an impact like Pochettino had at Saints and is making pundits look stupid in much the same way. Even before he made signings, he was getting excellent performances out of the team and certain individuals and has changed the way we press, how we squeeze up from the back and how we break at speed. Most impressively, he changes games that we’re behind in with his subs and tactical tinkering. That’s even a step up on Steve Bruce.

If you were preparing to face Hull City, what would your game plan be?

 Just play at home. The fixture list hasn’t been kind to Marco but we’re just a different team away. We counter attack well but don’t take chances and we make defensive mistakes that we don’t make at home. It’s utterly frustrating.

Do you think you have what it takes to beat the drop?

We probably need a result from one of our two home games but I think in giving ourselves a chance from an awful position – we’ve shown we’ve got what it takes. The fixtures are neither good nor bad so it’s in our hands. As usual with City though, it’s the hope that kills you.

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

Being ultra-optimistic, I think we’ll get only our second point on the road this year! 1-1.

Preview: Southampton vs Manchester United

In less than four days, I will have the joy of watching my beloved Southampton FC march out onto the field of Wembley. But sadly, standing strong in our way of cup glory is Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United; a team that are unbeaten in their last 16 Premier League fixtures, having scored 24 goals, with just six goals conceded. In terms of form, there are few better in the Premier League than the Red Devils at this moment in time, but as we all know, football is a funny old sport and over 90 minutes, anything is possible. 

So, to find out more about what we can expect from our upcoming opponents, I spoke with Elliott from United Report.

How does this seasons performances compare to the showings under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal?

Our performances under Mourinho have been the complete polar-opposite to Moyes and Van Gaal’s. We’re still somewhat building from the back but we’re doing it with a lot more intent and pace, something we lacked majorly under the previous managers. We’re now creating a lot more chances than before but are sometimes lacking that end product. Finishing seems to be one of our only weaknesses at the moment and that can be worked on.

As an outsider looking in, what is your perception of Southampton this season?

I’m a huge admirer of Southampton. The fact that the club are constantly selling their best players (unfortunately) and somehow managing to replace them with equal talent is very impressive. Saints have a nice looking spine now – players of note are Van Dijk, Romeu, Redmond and Gabbiadini. I am however surprised at Saints’ position in the league. The current crop of players have a lot of potential and it’s a shame they’re not fulfilling that. However, I do think Southampton will climb the table towards the end of the season.

What do you make of Luke Shaw’s current situation at Manchester United?

Luke Shaw’s current situation at Manchester United – it’s nothing more than tough love from Mourinho. It worked with Mkhitaryan and seems to be working with Martial, and I’m 100% sure it will work with Shaw. The difference is that Shaw is still recovering from a career-threatening injury. Mourinho has already confirmed that he has no intention to sell Shaw and that he is very fond of the player and his potential. It’s all paper talk.

If you could take any Southampton player, who would it be and why?

It’s got to be Virgil van Dijk. The guy’s been one of the best defenders in the league this season and he has definitely changed my opinion of him. I use to have the image of Martial helping Van Dijk with cramp at St Mary’s lodged in my head after the Frenchman put two past Southampton last season and that set my negative view of the player. In a defence that is lacking solidarity at the moment, I’m taking Van Dijk all day.

Who has been your player of the season?

It’s between a few players. My shortlist is Antonio Valencia, Paul Pogba or Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Valencia is arguably the best right-back in the league at the moment – he’s unbeatable in a 1v1 and is an absolute monster going forward. As for Pogba, the world’s most expensive player, everything good goes through him. On his day, he’s unmatchable and he could have had a lot more goals and assists this season if it weren’t for the woodwork and our poor finishing. Ibrahimovic has to be included due to the pure amount of goals the Swede has scored. He’s already got 24 in all competitions and we’re only in February! The scary thing is, he could have had a lot more…

What area of the Southampton side do you feel that United should exploit this Sunday?

The absence of Van Dijk is huge for United. He’s probably one of the only players that could’ve dealt with Ibrahimovic’s physicality meaning this factor could be decisive at Wembley.

Who do you expect to be your key man this Sunday, and which Southampton player scares you most going into the game?

If Pogba shows up then we’ll play well and have a good chance of winning, it’s as simple as that. Not only will he need to be pin point attacking wise, he will need to deal with Romeu – who does not lack fight in the middle of the park. In the form he’s in, Gabbiadini is frightening. We can’t afford to give him an inch of space otherwise he’ll showcase his favourite ‘spin & shoot’, which he recently showed vs Sunderland.

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

Full-time score: United 3-1 Southampton. I think our amount of quality will shine through and pinch the win. It will be a good game nonetheless!

Southampton FC vs AC Sparta Praha: My starting XI

So, here we are again. Southampton Football Club are back in the Europa League, but this time, they come bearing a new manager, new players, and the desire to right the wrongs of last season. With the first game of Southampton’s Europa campaign kicking off tonight, I gave my view regarding who I believe should make the starting XI against Sparta Praha. 

Fraser Forster – given the confidence that the 6ft 7-inch giant installs in the defence, selecting anyone else would cause outrage. 

Cedric Soares – at times like this, playing Pied would have been a very useful option; but with the Frenchman out for up to nine months, Cedric has to start again. In addition, It seems that Martina hasn’t impressed Puel either.

Jose Fonte – despite a number of mistakes in recent showings, Fonte is our leader at the back and simply must start in such an important game for the club.

Virgil Van Dijk – for me, Van Dijk is without doubt Southampton’s best defender. Keeping the Fonte and Van Dijk partnership is key.

Ryan Bertrand – despite only just returning from injury, Bertrand’s impact on the left flank is too strong to possibly drop him. We must start the Europa League as we mean to go on, even if that means considering the possibility of starting Targett this Sunday.

Oriol Romeu – the Spaniard was my man of the match against Arsenal last weekend and we must reward him for such a passionate performance. Romeu will be up for this game and provide that much-needed protection in front of the backline.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – after being dropped to the bench last weekend at the Emirates, Hojbjerg will now be raring to continue his exciting start to life at Southampton. From what we’ve seen so far, Hojbjerg ensures that the midfield continues to take up a positive and expressive approach to the game. He’s a player that places the fans on the edge of their seat.

James Ward-Prowse – the England U21 captain has not only been rested well since the International break, but he has also shown promising signs that he can form a partnership alongside Hojbjerg in central midfield. Firstly, I would start Ward-Prowse over Davis as he has so far struggled to adapt to this new central midfield role – this has seen Davis get dragged out of position on numerous occasions and prove wasteful in deeper areas. However, whilst I believe that we would currently be a stronger XI with Clasie starting, the Dutchman has recently been showing fine form and I wouldn’t want to burn him out. Small and effective use of rotation is crucial when playing on both Thursday and Sunday

Dusan Tadic – he is not only our most creative spark, but he’s also coming off the back of scoring against Arsenal last weekend (albeit with the help of Petr Cech) – we can’t afford to bench a player who gives us our bench chance of carving open the opposition defence.

Nathan Redmond – whilst Redmond has so far been lacking the drive and aggression needed from a forward, I believe that It would be idiotic to start him on the bench. In European football, those tight margins matter all the more and the extra pace/movement that Redmond provides will be key if we go on to win. He’s also one of the few players that we possess who can naturally operate in the channels too.

Shane Long – it goes without saying that Long had a shocker against Arsenal last weekend after missing three fantastic opportunities, but to tell the truth, I think that Long has to start again. Not because of form and certainly not because he deserve’s it right now (he doesn’t), but because he is the only striker in Southampton’s ranks who understands Puel’s system. Long has been well below par over the start of this Premier League season, but provided he can at least carry out his demands in the system, the performances of others will be raised. 

Southampton fans and the summer transfer window – a hate-love relationship

 

Hate – the summer Transfer Window opens.

Rumours fly around Twitter and the tabloids, even before it starts. We lose some big names straight off the bat. Fans fuss.

We get in a couple of lesser known players. Fans fuss.

Weeks go by and there’s no news of replacing all those goals we let go. Fans fuss.

Big rumours of big signings come and go, or, don’t come at all. Fans fuss.

The season starts and we don’t win both games. Fans fuss.

 

But then comes the love.

Saints will now go back to promoting from the academy. Fans Rejoice.

‘Confirmed’ leaks of big names coming in. Fans Rejoice.

‘Confirmed’ reports that Fonte will stay soon arise. Fans Rejoice.

Next up, the points are placed on the board. Fans Rejoice.

This is the ‘Hate-Love’ (chronological order) relationship that Saints fans have experienced each and every summer with the transfer window.

We are now in the final week of this annual rollercoaster, but the Hate-Love will continue. It’s inevitable that Southampton will continue to be linked to numerous players that won’t result in a transfer, and perhaps even more likely, we will sign someone straight out of left field that no one expected.

As it stands it seems highly likely that Sofiane Boufal will sign from Lille for a club record fee. He is an attacking midfielder or winger, depending on which YouTube expert you talk to. But what cannot be debated is that he’s highly rated, with rumours of Barcelona and Chelsea being interested earlier in the summer.

That still leaves us probably needing another out-and-out striker and maybe another centre back, depending on movements on the last day.

All in all however, it has once again been another one of those summers: lots to hate, lots to love and everything in between. But as all good Saints fans will attest, once that window finally slams shut, it is the boys who ARE running around in the Southampton stripes that we care about and that we must get behind.

A tactical analysis of Claude Puel’s Southampton

It’s so nearly back. After almost two and a half months, there are now just three days left until the Premier League season is back underway and St Mary’s is once again rocking. But in Southampton’s usual fashion, they will enter the forthcoming season with multiple changes both on and off the pitch. Most notably, the managerial switch that has seen Claude Puel take over from Ronald Koeman. With pre-season now over, many Southampton fans are optimistic that we can once again defy the odds, but in truth, many just aren’t too sure on how Puel is going to do that. So, after analysing Puel’s red and white army over their six pre-season fixtures, were here to explain how.

Let’s start with the basics. Since taking over at Southampton, Puel has confidently taken to the 4-4-2 diamond formation. This formation (as shown below) holds a four man defence, a deep lying midfielder, two central midfielders ahead of the DLM, a playmaker and two strikers.

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Unsurprisingly, this midfield focused formation allows Puel’s side to adopt a patient style of play with the aim of keeping the ball fixed to the floor. These aims are achieved through the multiple passing triangles that are made available via the formation and player intelligence – an example of a triangle in the 4-4-2 diamond formation is the positioning of the two CB’s and the deep lying midfielder.

Puel’s aim is to ensure that these triangles continue to be formed in almost every passage of play. The simple concept of triangles in football allows for there to be a large number of passing options at all times, but it takes great understanding from each player to make it an effective means of ball retention and attacking play. When carried out effectively, this patient passing system will suddenly draw an opposition player out of position, and in that moment, the opportunity must be seized with a sudden burst of pace and movement. This concept of Puel’s will allow for some potentially beautiful and fluid football to be played at St. Mary’s stadium this season.

As for when the team isn’t in possession, the general means of recovery is through a relentless high-pressing system that ensures that the midfield diamond is always in shape – the diamond constantly shifts the midfield players about as it’s a ball-oriented system (but more on that later).

So, in the same way that Puel likes to build from the back, it seems logical that we start this analysis from the back too. Simply click onto the next page to begin the analysis.

Charlie Austin: Following the footsteps of a Southampton great?

Since Rickie Lambert left Southampton for his boyhood club, Liverpool, there has been a 6ft 2 Liverpudlian shaped gap left on the St Mary’s turf and in Saints fan’s hearts. But, could that gap be filled once again?

With the arrival of Graziano Pelle back in 2014, Southampton fans thought they had an immediate replacement.
Sadly, this was not the case. Whilst the Italian may possess some of Lambert’s mean heading ability and a strong presence up top, this is rivaled by a habit to moan at teammates, storm down the tunnel and find himself amongst long goal droughts – three traits that were never seen in Lambert’s game. Pelle has been a brilliant forward for Southampton and has given fans some unforgettable memories, but he just can’t fill that gap left by Lambert.

However, on the 16th of January, Southampton announced the £4 million signing of Charlie Austin from QPR. The England international striker was in high demand from other Premier League rivals and Saints’ fans were licking their lips at their new found potential Lambert replacement. The similarities are there for all to see.

Back in 2009, Southampton were sitting rock-bottom of League 1 with -10 points. They were crying out for someone who had experience in the lower leagues and the man to change that was Rickie Lambert. Lambert was brought in for £1 million at the age of 27 and those who knew League One, knew that Southampton had found themselves a bargain.
Prior to putting on his red and white stripes, Lambert had scored 29 goals in his previous season for Bristol Rovers – with 59 goals for the Pirates in 155 appearances.
Rather like Lambert, Austin joined Southampton with a goalscoring record to boast about – scoring 46 goals in 79 appearances for QPR. Both strikers joined Southampton with a strong reputation, knowing that if they receive service, then the goals would quickly follow. All fans can agree that both signings are a bargain given their proven records.

Successful debut seasons in the Premier League are yet another similarity between the two. As both strikers were playing for newly promoted sides, the same question marks were lingering over them. Could they handle the physical nature of Premier League defenders? Could they adapt and impress in England’s top division? The answer was of course, yes.
Lambert finished his debut season with 15 league goals, making him the League’s joint highest English goalscorer alongside Frank Lampard.
Charlie Austin also went on to have an amazing breakthrough season in the Premier League, scoring a total of 18 goals – making him the League’s second highest English goalscorer that season.

As for debut goals, yes, you guessed it. They both struck gold on their Southampton debut. Lambert opened his account in a League cup tie against Northampton at St Mary’s, heading home Lloyd James’ cross to open the scoring.
A little more glamorous admittedly, Austin was presented the challenge of grabbing his debut goal at Old Trafford. This looked to be an unlikely feat from the first whistle, as Ronald Koeman opted to start Shane Long. But Austin clearly thought otherwise.
With only seven minutes left on the clock and the game poised at 0-0, Southampton won a free-kick right by the corner flag. With a signature Ward-Prowse set piece, Austin found himself a free header that powered past David De Gea in the United goal.

Best of all, however, both forwards share the same rags-to-riches story. At just 15 years-old, both players were released and forced into the everyday jobs that helped to create their widely documented success stories that we now all know.
After being released by Reading for his slight frame, Austin found work as a bricklayer. Life wasn’t any sweeter for Lambert either, who took up a job at a beetroot factory after being released by Liverpool.
But their dreams of playing football were far from over, as they both went on to join non-league sides. Austin was considerably more prominent in non-league football, having played for Kintbury Rangers, Hungerford Town, and Poole Town. Lambert briefly trained for non-league side Marine, but soon joined Blackpool as a trainee.

For now, though, we should enjoy knowing that we have a forward in our side who has always found the back of the net at all levels of English football. However, to see the best of Austin, it would come as no surprise to me if we must wait until the new season.

The reason being is that he needs time to fully adapt to our style of play. Simply look to Austin’s strike partner Shane Long for a lesson in the importance of patience and time with new signings. During the Irishman’s debut season at Southampton, Long just couldn’t nail down a first team spot. Instead, he would drift into the side with two good games and then frustrate fans with a series of underwhelming and wasteful showings. His £12 million price tag was mocked by many. But now, having been given time to adapt and learn his role in the side, Long has become one of our most influential and exciting players.

But truth be told, the gap left by Lambert will never be filled, no matter how successful Austin is. It was a case of the right man being here at the right time with his and the clubs own two stories merging into something truly special.
It’s certainly exciting and intriguing to see the similarities between the two, but I want to see Austin create his own legacy.

With an eye for goal, clinical finishing and a potentially formidable partnership with Long on the horizon, Southampton fans have every reason to be hopeful that Charlie Austin can one day stand alongside Sir Rickie Lambert in St Mary’s folklore.