Sofiane Boufal has only been with Southampton since late August of 2016, and unsurprisingly (as I anticipated), a number of our fans don’t seem to be his greatest admirer.
Boufal’s career in red and white stripes got off to a flyer. Having joined the club already nursing an injury, Boufal had to wait until the 26th of October to make his first start for the club, but boy was it worth the wait…
— Daniel Emery (@DanielEmeryRS) October 27, 2016
Following his sensational strike against Sunderland in the League Cup, Boufal then proceeded to pick up a number of appearances, sometimes operating as a number ten, and other times as a left winger. Over these showings he was able to show us glimpses of his fine footwork and unpredictable nature on the ball.
By this point Boufal had already pulled out enough trickery to build a compilation video, but fans were still asking for more of a final product, and that’s exactly what they received during Southampton’s clash against Middlesbrough.
— Abdellah Aârab (@AlmarssadproCom) December 11, 2016
But since this scintillating run of form, Boufal has struggled to maintain those same performance levels, and with that, there has been plenty of criticism. Criticism that I personally believe, is unjust and irrational.
Ever since our return to the Premier League, fans have been screaming out year on year for creativity and flair, but now that it’s here in the form of Boufal, these same fans don’t have the patience to let him find his feet.
Despite still being inside his first season as a Premier League and Southampton player, fans are expecting instant and consistent results from a player that is currently facing all types of new challenges. He’s playing in a new League, with new demands, having to overcome a language barrier, and this is all whilst he’s having to find his new role in the Southampton side.
On top of this, he’s also been expected to find a level of consistency in the team, despite Puel’s weekly weekly squad rotation – a policy that can sometimes be cruel on new arrivals, who require regular game time to be at their best.
It’s difficult as a creative player to truly cement your place in the team when each and every week, you’re having to adapt to a new frontline – especially when you’re a new arrival. One week Boufal is having to play direct to Charlie Austin, a forward who struggles to play quick one-two’s, and the next he’s expected to find Shane Long through the channels. This is whilst Boufal himself is also having to adjust to playing as either a number ten or as a left winger.
Perhaps now that Puel has halted his rotation policy with the introduction of Manolo Gabbiadini, Boufal will soon be able to find his most natural position and style of play.
Right before our very eyes we have a player that is capable of humiliating defenders, whilst also being able to find the back of the net from the most acute of angles, yet still, I am already witnessing fans jump on his back and rule him out of being a success at Southampton.
Quite simply, Sofiane Boufal is a player who loves to take risks, and it seems that some fans just can’t quite grasp that fact. Whilst I see a player that is wanting to change the game, make an impression and play positive, others see this as irreversible greed and selfishness. Granted, he has certainly shown his tendency to overplay and rush his decisions, but to see this as something that can’t be channeled and worked upon is mindless.
Boufal is an exceptional talent – in terms of raw ability, I’ve seen few better in a Southampton shirt over recent years – but in order to truly reach his thrilling potential, he needs an abundance of patience and support from us Southampton fans. Something that I know we are more than capable of providing.