In a season which has predominantly seen Southampton Football Club struggle to maintain their Premier League status, there has been one player that has shown an unconditional endeavour to the capacious task of survival.
As an exciting youngster from the eastern French commune of Zellwiler, Morgan Schneiderlin moved to Southampton with an exponentially increasing potential which had seen the 18 year old playmaker captain the French Under-19’s squad and make his professional debut 2 years prior.
The transition to English football, however, proved as onerous as Southampton’s gradually declining league position, which saw the South coast club relegated to the third tier of English Football. Despite Schneiderlin’s 33 appearances for the Saints, he was largely condemned for his light weight, unimposing football style, which saw him make a scarce impact on the team.
The following season Schneiderlin continued to encounter problems implementing his fluid style of play in games where the opposition were aggressive upon an unfavourable surface. His time in Southampton’s two year stay in the third tier was underwhelming, seeing him feature sporadically throughout.
It was after promotion to the Championship, however, when Schneiderlin’s renaissance began, the then manager Nigel Adkins recognised his potential as a more combative midfielder and with that in mind, encouraged Schneiderlin to become a more physical presence on the field, pressing opposition in midfield and breaking up opposing attacks. It was a role that Schniederlin developed with apparent ease, becoming an influential component of a stringent 4-4-2 formation which focused on counter attacking football. Making 42 league appearances, he received unanimous praise from observers for his developing ability and contribution to Southampton’s second successive promotion.
The Premier League is where he has begun to showcase his talent on a consistent and emphatic basis. In his 28 appearances this season he has the highest number of tackles in the league with 119, with a total of 253 ground duels completed. His continues to impress with 107 interceptions coupled with winning possession a remarkable 193 times. His 5.57 minutes per challenge represents his impact with his high pressured combative approach.
Having watched him play since he joined the club it has always been obvious that Schneiderlin has something special. His work-rate off the ball is almost unparalleled, for this reason I see him as a real unsung hero of our team and I would only expect to see his attacking game develop further under Mauricio Pochettino.
Sam Guyatt – Southampton FC Supporters Club
What has been so curious about Schneiderlin is that despite his positional transformation, he continues to secede from the orthodox role of a ball winning midfielder, retaining his innate ability as a playmaker. Of his 1430 passes, 852 of these have been in the attacking half; in turn this has presented 24 goal scoring chances. Schniederlin, himself, has scored more goals this season, 4, than in his previous 4 years at the club.
The managerial change that saw Nigel Adkins replaced by Mauricio Pochettino has further aided Schneiderlin, Pochettino’s insistent on a high pressing defensive line has seen his performances improve even further. His numbers for tackles, interceptions, and possession won in the attacking half have been their highest since the beginning of the Argentinean’s stewardship. High fitness levels are paramount under this style and it is something, Schneiderlin himself, has said was something he has improved
Fitness is something I have worked on a lot. When I was in League One I could not finish a game without blowing or after 60 minutes feeling tired on the pitch, so I’ve tried to make sure I eat the right things and look after my body better. When I was 18 I thought if I ate a pizza and a lot of takeaways at nights it wouldn’t affect you but it did. Now I eat only healthy French food.
It has helped me score goals – before, I couldn’t make those forward runs because I wasn’t fit enough to get back in position
His performances have been exemplary in a difficult season for Southampton Football club, whether or not the Saints manage to retain their Premier League status, Morgan’s affair with England’s top division will surely not end come May.
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