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Big Vic’s Big Season: Is Wanyama set to become a star?

The Boot Room

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It was almost the match made in heaven. The work-rate, force and athleticism of Victor Wanyama, alongside the adeptness at creating play from deep while also breaking breaking up play effectively of Morgan Schneiderlin meant that, for spells under Mauricio Pochettino and for most of Ronald Koeman’s reign, Southampton had one of the most balanced and talented midfield pairings in the league.

A lot has been made of Schneiderlin’s journey from League One to Europe with the club – making a French World Cup squad along the way – especially in light of his move to pastures new with Manchester United. This has all been deserved; a player doesn’t make such an obvious positive impact upon his team without being excellent – however, it has meant that the talents of Schneiderlin’s former teammate have gone under the radar somewhat – with all of the touted interest from big clubs in Southampton’s midfield this summer going towards Schneiderlin.

This, however, has been a good thing for Koeman’s Saints, as the club can begin to adjust to life in the post-Schneiderlin era with the future of one of the bedrocks of the club’s midfield already secured. Of course, Jordy Clasie has joined the club already from Feyenoord, with links with further additions to come – Leon Goretzka of Schalke being the latest potential target reported by the media – and the youthful duo of James Ward-Prowse and Harrison Reed, who have both come through the club’s academy in recent years.

With Schneiderlin’s exit, England’s James Ward-Prowse can build upon his relationship with Wanyama on the football field.

Wanyama, however, clearly offers much more Premier League experience than youngsters and new signings from abroad, with two years under his belt since his move from Celtic, and indeed plays a different role to each of the above; none have quite the physical presence of Wanyama, for example.

To describe Wanyama’s attributes as solely related to his strength, power and physique would, however, be quite clearly wide of the mark. Equipped with a great pass, good technique on the ball, and the ability to shoot from range when needed – obviously, sitting further back usually, we don’t often see this latter ability being use – Wanyama is a complete holding midfielder, really only rivalled by Nemanja Matic at Chelsea in terms of the best holding midfielders in the league, and streets ahead of players like Francis Coquelin at Arsenal or Lucas Leiva at Liverpool, whose interpretations of the role received much acclaim towards the back end of last season, largely for the balance they added to their teams.

While Schneiderlin was obviously hugely influential over the two seasons in which the pair played together, Wanyama made a virtually instantaneous impact at the club following his transfer in 2013. Obviously, an improvement in league position – from 14th to 8th and then 7th in Wanyama’s two years at St Mary’s – somewhat speaks for itself, this has been down to other factors; however, between the start of September and end of October 2013, a Wanyama-inspired Saints side conceded just one goal – that only coming at Old Trafford in a draw with Manchester United – over the course of six games. Going into big games against then-league leaders Arsenal and European challengers Chelsea in late November, the club had conceded just five goals since the start of the season. That was a side with Artur Boruc in goal.

Can Wanyama fill the gap left by Schneiderlin, the man he partnered excellently under both Pochettino and Koeman.

Injury forced Wanyama into a side role for the rest of the season, with the Kenyan sustaining an injury at half time in the loss to Aston Villa at the start of December which only allowed him to play periodically in the rest of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign. Decisive goals at the start of the Koeman era, however, consolidated Wanyama as a key player at Southampton, with a late winner against Swansea in September and a screamer against Hull in the opening minute helping the Saints secure a second placed position in the late Autumn of 2014.

Wanyama also overcame his injury problems of the season prior, missing only seven games in all competitions in 2014/15. This will be crucial for the Kenyan in the coming season, too, with Southampton likely to have to deal with several European fixtures – assuming they don’t crash out in either of their qualifying rounds – as well as potential cup runs and the already strenuous 38-game season of the Premier League. Perhaps part of the reluctance of larger clubs to sign Wanyama instead of Schneiderlin stemmed from the injury troubles of the previous season.

At 24, though, Wanyama will still develop from his current status of one of the Premier League’s leading midfielders, and is set to become one of Southampton’s most important players in the coming year. With a stellar performance against Vitesse in the club’s first European qualifier, Wanyama has already shown his credentials in the new season, and his talent should help Jordy Clasie, and any subsequent signing, to settle in well to life on the South Coast.

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Chelsea

Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts

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Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

Photo: Getty Images

The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Everton

Gylfi Sigurdsson shows why Everton splashed £45m on his services

Everton fans will hope they see Sigurdsson in fine form next season.

Mathew Nash

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Iceland pulled off another shock at a major tournament, as they managed to hold out for a draw against Argentina. Alfred Finnbogason scored the equaliser after Sergio Aguero had given the Albiceleste the lead. Lionel Messi then saw a penalty saved as Iceland fully deserved a share of the spoils.

One man who was in sensational form throughout the game was Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Only recently returned from a knee injury he was the beacon of quality that Iceland needed. When they needed a player to keep possession he was there and he was a constant thorn in the side of Argentina’s defensive generals.

It was a performance that will remind Everton fans just why they spent £45 million to bring him from Swansea City last summer. It also highlighted that, used correctly. The ‘Iceman’ could be Everton’s talisman.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

When Sigurdsson arrived last season he did so at the same time as two identical players. Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney also joined Everton last summer leaving them overbooked in that area of the field.

With Everton failing to bring in sufficient wide options, Sigurdsson also found himself playing wide left for much of his time at Goodison Park.

What is clear from the Iceland game is that Sigurdsson is best in the number 10 role, playing off of the front-man and hopefully next season that is where Everton will see him. With Cenk Tosun ahead of him, pace out wide and reliable generals behind him in midfield the Icelander will be free to roam and play his best football.

If Everton do that, then they will see more and more of the real Sigurdsson next season.

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Manchester United

Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance

The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.

Jamie Watts

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West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.

Photo: Getty Images

Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.

Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.

Photo: Getty Images

It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.

Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.

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