Watt View - There’s something about Michael
Monday, 23rd Nov 2020 11:00
The past week has seen much discussion and debate about the future of striker Michael Obafemi, with Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl saying he has often not been “professional enough” to keep his place in the first team. This week Matt takes a look at the situation.
Ralph's comments about Michael Obafemi last week are not the only time the 20-year-old has made the headlines for the wrong reasons since the end of last season either, having been left out of Stephen Kenny’s first Republic of Ireland squad despite winning his first senior cap in 2018.
Yet in June he was named on a shortlist of 100 players for the 2020 European Golden Boy award by Italian newspaper Tuttosport alongside the likes of Borussia Dortmund’s young talents Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland.
Then he found himself the subject of speculation around potential £10 million moves to Aston Villa and their Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion following his promising emergence at St Mary’s and growing reputation as a result of his early international call-up.
Obafemi made his debut for Saints in January 2018 and has gone on to make 35 appearances so far, scoring five goals - among them a stunning strike at Chelsea and a memorable equaliser against Manchester United at Old Trafford last season.
So it has been a mixed bag for the youngster both in terms of his football and the news surrounding him, but one thing is for sure...there is something about Michael.
Until the 2-0 victory over Everton at St Mary’s, the current Republic of Ireland under-21 international had been part of every first-team squad of 2020 - but he has been omitted by Hasenhuttl completely for the last three games, losing his place to Dan N’Lundulu.
Given the Austrian’s dedication to playing the right way with the right players and always demanding - and expecting - absolute commitment from his players, he clearly believes Obafemi has what it takes to succeed at the top.
However, he provided this stark response when asking why the striker has played such a limited amount of football this season to-date - just 20 mins in the Carabao Cup defeat to Brentford and the win away at Burnley.
He said: “Others have been better. It’s so simple as this...the problem with Michael was always he would play one good game and then fall back a little bit and was not professional enough to force or keep his position in the team or in the squad.
"This makes it too easy for others to go above him. I think this is what he must learn. Once he is in the squad, don’t give it away so easily and try to be aggressive and dangerous in front of the goal.”
But the capabilities are there, as has been demonstrated by his sustained spell in the first-team squad, as well as his ability to perform the spectacular - as he did at Stamford Bridge - while also showing the nous to poach in the fashion he did against Manchester United.
Ireland boss Kenny has also insisted Obafemi has a “very good future ahead” and urged him to perform well in the under-21s and push himself into the reckoning with Saints - offering the player a route back to his senior national side.
So it seems this is a perfect example of a player who really is in control of his own destiny as the foundations have been laid, the talent is there and the doors are open for him.
Despite the competition for places at St Mary’s, there is no reason why Obafemi cannot and should not be giving Hasenhuttl a headache.
I personally like the player’s pace, strength and eye for goal and I believe he has all the makings of a solid Premier League striker and regular full international. Until then, I hope he becomes a part of the first team squad once again and can reward the club’s faith in him by notching a few useful goals throughout the season.
Photo: Action Images
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