Analysing Charlie Austin's match-winning display against Swansea for Southampton
Signed in January at a bargain price from QPR, Charlie Austin could be forgiven for not having enjoyed the opening weeks of the season as he has played second fiddle to an out of position Nathan Redmond since the departure of Graziano Pelle when the Italian moved to China in the summer. With 30 minutes played in the opening two games of the season, Austin was hauled off against Sunderland and didn’t even feature against Arsenal.
Therefore, when he scored twice in the first half up against Sparta Prague in the Europa League, many expected him to be on the team sheet as Swansea visited Saint Mary’s this weekend. Wrong again, but when Austin got his chance he certainly proved his point.
Coming on in the 53rd minute to replace Irishman Shane Long after the latter had a quiet afternoon, Austin immediately put himself in on the action, hitting the crossbar after just nine minutes when Nathan Redmond’s cross came just a tad too quickly to allow the 27-year-old to adjust and keep his shot down enough to give the Saints the lead.
He got another chance though, and just two minutes later he converted with a superb chested control and convincing finish straight into the top corner putting his side ahead. The finish was a confident one and a clinical one, something that the Saints have been missing so far this season, with Shane Long struggling to find form and Nathan Redmond still adapting to his new role up front under Claude Puel.
His return of four shots in 37 minutes was double what Long managed in 53 minutes and whilst equal to Redmond’s efforts across 90 minutes, Austin put two on target, scoring one, and hit the crossbar with another, with the former Norwich City speedster failing to test Lukas Fabianski. The ex-Swindon Town hit-man made it clear the difference that an out and out forward can make, and should have done enough to justify a claim for a starting spot next weekend.
However, there is more to Austin’s game than his striker’s instinct and finishing. As he created a chance for Redmond to score from the edge of the box to seal the victory late on, the forward exhibited his ability to bring others into the game in an unselfish nature which many top Premier League forwards can be accused of lacking.
Austin also offered a different aspect to the Saints attack, winning 100% of his three aerial duels. With Puel at times favouring a more direct approach than Ronald Koeman did on the south coast, Austin has made it clear that he is the most successful forward in the air since Pellè’s departure and has further stamped his claim on that as he stamped his authority on the game physically, ensuring it was far from an easy afternoon for the Swansea back-line.
After such a promising display as a substitute saw him net his third goal in four days, it would be criminal if Claude Puel opts to leave Austin out of the EFL Cup tie against Crystal Palace and the vital bottom of the table clash with West Ham next weekend. Austin almost single-handedly steered his side to their first victory of the season on Sunday, but will need to replicate that form throughout the season if the Saints are to be successful this campaign.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Steve MCCATHIE.