Many Southampton fans have already highlighted their main objective from the current transfer window; to retain our assets rather than reform our squad. But whilst this is an opinion I certainly share, there’s one position in the side where Southampton Football Club can’t afford to stand still.
Regardless of whether Virgil Van Dijk stays or goes, Mauricio Pellegrino needs another body at the heart of his defence; and in my eyes, Kevin Wimmer fits the billing.
At this point some may understandably have their doubts, due to the 24-year-old spending the past two seasons as back up at Tottenham Hotspur, but hear me out…
First and foremost, being second choice to Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen is certainly no insult; far from it in fact. Under Mauricio Pochettino’s management, the pair have arguably become the strongest centre-back partnership in the Premier League, and given that current Saints Ryan Bertrand and Oriol Romeu were forced out of Chelsea due to unassailable competition, it’s mindless to discount a player’s ability for these reasons.
The Austrian International has built up a reputation as a tough tackling centre-back, who isn’t afraid to put his body on the line and block efforts at all costs. He’s more than capable in the air, and despite his naturally strong physical nature, is accomplished on the ball too – a vital characteristic for being a Southampton centre-back.
However, there are of course some areas of his game that desperately need work.
Wimmer deputised well for Vertonghen over the 2015/16 season, and barely put a foot wrong; proving himself to be reliable back up should anyone be on the injury table. But over the 2016/17 season and so far in pre-season, Spurs fans have found that the lack of game time has taken a toll on his fitness. His reading of the game is also struggling at the minute too, with opportunities coming few and far between.
But when you consider Pochettino’s demands of a centre-back, it’s understandable as to why Wimmer has struggled over the past 12 months. Wimmer’s not a quick defender by any means, so when he plays in a defensive line as high and physically demanding as Tottenham’s, he’s naturally going to be exposed in these areas of his game. On top of this, he can’t evade pressure or carry the ball out of defence quite like Vertonghen or Alderweireld, meaning he’s forced to operate in a system that doesn’t play to his strengths.
What’s most encouraging about these current shortcomings however, is that all of them can be solved under the right management and set up; something Southampton Football Club have shown with a number of players in recent years.
Wimmer would be my personal choice, but of course I would back any other first-team signing given our track record. The bottom line however is that we simply have to get someone through the door; not only to potentially prepare for a Van Dijk exit this summer, but also to ensure that we have a mature defender who knows his demands if Van Dijk departs next year.
Aiming to form an entirely new defensive partnership in just one window is a risk that would be all too mindless to take.
I’m confident that if our club is keeping tabs on Wimmer – as some reports are suggesting – we’d be able to mould our system to his strengths, and he could get back to realising the joys of being a truly valued squad member. He only has to ask Romeu and Bertrand what it’s like…