Dusan Tadic: Should he stay or should he go?

According to reports at The Times, Dusan Tadic is believed to be a target for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool this summer.

This conveniently concocted transfer rumour isn’t what prompted me to start typing away however; Instead, it was the reaction to this news from many Southampton fans…  

This Premier League season has been a write off, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. The football has been dire for the most part, Claude Puel looks as if he will face the sack, and a number of players are certainly guilty of not matching expectations – perhaps none more so than Dusan Tadic.

With the way things are in the modern game, this has naturally caused a number of supporters to switch on the former fan favourite, claiming that they are open to let the Serb move on this window.

Whilst each fan is of course entitled to their own opinion, it baffles me that someone can talk about discarding a player with such clear and previously proven talent. Certain comments would have you fooled that the playmaker is rotting away as dead wood in our squad, when in truth, it’s simply been his first troubled season at the club.

Granted, a player of his talent should be doing far more in the final third, but does that mean we should give up on him just yet? Not a chance, and here’s why.

With the appointment of Claude Puel as first team coach last summer, there came a new vision for how Southampton should play their football. Puel adopted a number of systems during his first season as Southampton boss, trialling both a midfield diamond (442) and a conventional 4231, but the general approach was one of patience and disciplined structural organisation.

Puel encouraged his side to be comfortable on the ball and patient whilst in possession, searching for the perfect moment to cut through the opposition’s defensive lines.

This is a change in style that quite frankly, Tadic has found very little joy from, recording his worst Premier League season for both goals and assists

Where in the past Tadic would be tasked with the freedom to hunt for pockets of space and drive at the defence, he now finds himself surrounded by defenders with almost every touch of the ball. This is a symptom of Puel’s style of play, which hands the opposition the time to form two defensive banks as we look to break them down.

Whether this is Tadic’s failure to adapt, or even Puel’s failure to accompany Tadic in the side, It’s obvious to me that a patient style of football doesn’t bring the best out of Dusan.

Taking risks and playing with a high intensity has so often allowed Tadic to be at his best, but such a game plan was clearly discouraged by the Frenchman.

Evidence of this can be seen in previous seasons under Ronald Koeman, who played to Tadic’s clear strengths. During his debut season in the Premier League, Tadic fired in four goals and picked up seven assists, before recording seven goals and 12 assists in the following season.

Compare that to just three goals and five assists this season (despite starting six and three more games respectively) and it’s no wonder why he’s struggled this season.

It’s also worth noting that Tadic (24) has recorded more career Premier League assists than Alexis Sanchez, Raheem Sterling, Roberto Firmino and even Willian. A player of such quality doesn’t lose it all overnight.

There is however a criticism of Tadic that I can perfectly understand, and that’s his tendency to show a lethargic and disinterested attitude.

Tadic has never been one to run to the media and cause a stir, but this stroppy attitude on the field is one that doesn’t sit well with many fans – especially when the team is in a slump and needing inspiration.

Such a trait is infuriating to watch from the stands, but to tell the truth, it’s a common theme amongst attacking midfielders when they don’t receive the ball in the right areas. I’m not justifying his actions, but it’s certainly not unheard of. 

The final consideration for keeping Tadic is the potential for change this summer. If the Southampton board dismiss Puel as many are expecting, then a new manager will of course take charge, and this hands Tadic the opportunity for a fresh start.

We’ve seen first hand this season that new management can help talent individuals flourish. So if Cedric Soares and Oriol Romeu have been able to do so under Puel, what’s stopping Tadic from doing the same next season?

Whether Puel sticks around and decides to change his approach, or Southampton find new management, I’m certain that if we retain his services, we haven’t seen the last of Dusan Tadic at his very best in red and white. 

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