Can Shane Long Re-ignite His Saints Career Under Pellegrino ?
Friday, 7th Jul 2017 10:29
Shane Long was one of those who had cause to moan at the way he was treated by Claude Puel last season, can a change of manager bring a change of fortune ?
Shane Long was a key player in 2015/16 under Ronald Koeman and although he was in the shadow of Pelle and Sadio Mane in terms of headlines, his 10 goals in 23 starts plus 5 as sub were only skightly bettered than the Italian and much better than Mane's in terms of goals per game.
With both gone at the start of last season, Long had cause to hope that he might get more game time under new manager Claude Puel, especially since he seemed to fit the bill as the central attacker in a front three in terms of the mobility neeeded in Puel's system that Charlie Austin did not have and Nathan Redmond was not suited to0.
In the first half of the season Long struggled to get game time in the Premier League and when he did start and that was only ten times, he often found himself hauled off early in the second half.
His 22 sub appearances seemed to be late introductions when an under pressue Puel threw him on in a desperate attempt to score goals in the last ten minutes of a game.
However he let no one down and when he did complete 90 minutes Saints would often win a game or at least get a draw.
Indeed when he did score and as we know goalscorers need games and go on runs, he would often be dropped for the next game, take his winner at Liverpool in the EFL Cup, although he did start the next game, the Arsenal FA Cup debacle and then at Swansea when he scored again, he was dropped to the bench for the next game against West Ham.
Then after that he was sub at Sunderland, but scored in his 15 minute cameo at the end, he was when you add the FA Cup winner against Norwich Saints in form striker but he would barely get game time.
But this was no good to the player who having turned 30 in January could not afford to rot on the bench and with a possible World Cup coming up in 2018 this coming season is crucial to him.
If Puel had stayed then it was inevitable that the irishman would have had to leave the club.
But the arrival of Mauricio Pellegrino might just change all that, Saints do not lack firepower or attacking options, the likes of Long, Gabbiadini and Austin are all proven goalscorers capable of getting into double figures and when you add Nathan Redmond, Sofiane Boufal and perhaps Josh Sims into that mix, we have more than capable goal scoring prowess and I havent even included Dusan Tadic who looks set to go.
The issues last season were not a lack of goal scorers, but the system that was being played that saw us pass the ball around the half way line a lot, but not hit key passes with enough regularity to provide the strikers with chances.
When we did get the ball forward into the channels and quickly then it paid dividends, as it did at Middlesbrough when a quick Jordy Clasie ball found Long who got down to the line and pulled it back for Jay Rodrigues to fire home.
This was classic attacking Saints, the reward for the three players involved was to be dropped for the following week and indeed only J Rod got anymore game time in the final two games, although in fairness Long did suffer an injury that kept him out.
But with Puel gone Shane Long has spoken of his hopes for the coming season and in his own typical style he focuses on the positives and the future not the past.
Speaking to the Club's official site Long said.
“For me, last season was a bit disappointing,”
“I didn’t play as much as I would have liked to and felt I didn’t get the chances that I deserved at times, so I want to hit the ground running this year."
“It’s the first pre-season in a long time that I’ve been here from the start, so I want to show the manager what I have got and leave an impression on him come the start of the season.”
That suggests that he wants to stay and play for his place rather than seek a move elsewhere, at 30 although he still has plenty of suitors, the fact is that none of them offer as much as Saints could conceivably do.
Again this is a summer of transition for Saints but that could offer Long the chance to not only re ignite his career at St Mary's but in doing so give the new manager time to assess the squad and where it needs to be improved.
As I have mentioned the supporters will cry out for a goalscorer, that's natural fans of all club's demand that, but it should be remembered that the issues last season were not about replacing Pelle and Mane, the club had already been proactive in that department when they had signed Charlie Austin to replace the Italian before he had even left, but the fact that Puel just did not seem to want to keep changing things and fitting square pegs into round holes up front.
So good to see that Shane Long is raring to go, last season we were a good side being poorly lead, yet we still finished 8th, the squad is currently stronger than it was most of last season and there will be a few more signings to come yet, we need to tweak this squad and if Mauricio Pellegrino is as good as they claim, then this could be another very good year.
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