Shunning the ‘second season syndrome’ that is mentioned after a promoted side avoid relegation in their first season in a higher division, Southampton have seen a number of their young English talent grab the headlines and earn international recognition. Most notably is Adam Lallana, who has continued to impress this season with the type of performances that are likely to earn him a World Cup place in the summer.
Often discussed after a disappointing England performance or defeat not many English players are technically gifted, but Lallana is an exception. With the technical ability that has always been present in his play throughout his career, Lallana has reached his peak years and the performances on show have played a big part in Southampton’s involvement in the top half of the Premier League. His goal against Hull City at St Mary’s a few months ago was an example of this as he ghosted past the defenders with ease before applying a finish.
Unsurprisingly, Lallana is the main creative player for Southampton from open play and 40 chances created this season has seen him assist 5 goals. Being able to chip with goals himself as well (7 in the league) makes him a valuable player. Compared to another English player with technical ability – Ross Barkley – the differences that they offer present an exciting image of them playing together for the national team. Lallana has a better goal scoring record despite Barkley having more shots, whilst the Everton midfielder has created more chances without assisting any goals showing how more influential Lallana has been to his team this season. Given their positions and physical shapes these differences in the stats aren’t overly surprising, but offer an interesting look at how playmakers can differ.
Other players who have impressed and deserve a mention are Jay Rodriguez and another product of Southampton’s youth system Luke Shaw.
Rodriguez has built on a decent first season in the Premier League and after a slow start to the campaign the former Burnley striker’s form – particularly since his England debut against Chile – has been very impressive. 10 league goals after 26 games, with 7 coming in his last 15 games, makes him Southampton’s top goal scorer and the second highest English goal scorer ahead of Wayne Rooney. His intelligent runs from the wing have been utilised effectively by Southampton and with Gerrard’s linking for a long range pass, this could used to the same effect at international level.
It is quite a shock to realise Luke Shaw is still a teenager given the consistently impressive and mature performances that have been on show. Having the ability to defend and attack to a good standard in equal measure is a somewhat uncommon thing for a full-back with the likes of Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker looking more like wingers at times. The long term replacement of Ashley Cole on the international front – and Chelsea if the reports in January are to be believed – the two are fairly similar. Shaw wins a challenge every 10.8 minutes compared to Ashley Cole’s record of a challenge every 13.97 minutes, although it is likely Shaw has more defensive work to do than Cole has the 2 minute difference in challenges made suggests.