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Has this Southampton star justified his price tag this season?



When rumours of Shane Long’s £12m move from Hull City to Southampton started to circulate, many fans were baffled. It seemed hard to understand why Southampton would pay £12m for a striker that had never got into double figures in the Premier League. The only impressive traits Long had, seen from him during his spells with Reading, West Brom, and Hull, was that he was quick and would chase down any ball that was still in play. His debut season at Southampton was ordinary. This season has been anything but.

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Long had to deal with the pressure of the transfer fee as well as having the famous no. 7 shirt at St. Mary’s in his debut campaign. He spent most of the last campaign on the south coast out on the wing rather than in his favoured position down the middle which was occupied by Graziano Pellè.

Long started this season as he finished the last; playing second fiddle to Pellè. The Italian had been Ronald Koeman’s preferred choice after the Saints boss bought him from his former club Feyenoord. However, Pellè has experienced a difficult season this term, struggling with form and injuries after a strong start. Long was the man that replaced Pellè superbly when he was injured. Long’s performances were so impressive that when Pellè returned from injury, he could only settle for a place on the bench with Southampton’s number seven one of the first names on the team sheet.

One of the reasons that Long has become such a key player for Southampton was highlighted at full time after Southampton’s victory over Manchester City at the beginning of May. A Southampton supporter tweeted a photo of Shane Long dropping to the floor with exhaustion; an image that epitomises everything that he offers the Saints. Long’s work rate is a perfect match in Ronald Koeman’s system of pressing opponents. Whether he successfully wins the ball back or forces the opposition into making a mistake, Long’s work rate ensures that opponents don’t have a moments rest when he’s on the pitch. The 29-year-old is relentless in his pressing and it’s his appetite for the game that has made him such a popular figure at St. Mary’s.

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Whilst Long’s performances may only get the plaudits when he finds the back of the net, his full contribution to Southampton is often only evident when you’re able to watch a full game. His persistent and tireless style from the first whistle until the last has ensured that week in, week out, he is a thorn in the side of the opponent. Whilst he may not be as technically gifted as some of his teammates, he has certainly shown this season why every team needs a Shane Long.

One criticism of Long’s has been that he’s not clinical enough. Before he joined Southampton, he had never reached double figures in the Premier League. That changed this season when his energetic performance in the 4-2 victory over Manchester City was rewarded with his 10th league goal. Long’s desire to beat Nicolás Otamendi to the ball sent the striker into double figures in a game that some criticised the decision to give hat-trick hero Mané the man of the match award because of Irishman’s impressive performance.

Koeman recently praised Long, stating that he has become “more complete as a player, as a striker”, also joking that he was glad the forward wasn’t playing in his heyday as a central defender. Long has exemplified that a player can never be too old to develop and grow into a better player. He revealed recently that Koeman has educated him a lot about the game and his newly taught understanding of football has enabled him to become a better player.

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From being on the fringes to being the first name on the team sheet, Long has gone from strength to strength under Koeman and at St. Mary’s. Saints have gone under the radar in the second half of the season because of Leicester’s remarkable feat. Only the Foxes have picked up more points since the turn of the year than Koeman’s men and Long has been an integral part of that. It speaks volumes of Long’s attitude and determination as well as the quality of the staff at Southampton to make the Irishman an even better player than the one that arrived under a cloud of confusion.

From the raising of eyebrows at the price tag to the raising of fans out of their seat with tireless work rate, sheer endeavour, an unrivalled hunger for the game and an improved eye for goal, Shane Long has become a favourite amongst the St. Mary’s faithful. Long may it continue.

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Dan is a Journalism student at UWE and is an aspiring football journalist. His first ever football match was Southampton's 3-2 win over Leeds in 2003 and he has been a Saints fan ever since.

English Premier League

Tottenham should target Mario Lemina as long-term Mousa Dembele replacement

The Lilywhites should begin planning for life after the Belgian international.

Jake Jackman



Mario Lemina
Photo: Getty Images

The upcoming summer is going to be important for every top-six team for different reasons and they will all be looking to compete for the title.

Tottenham have been on the brink of achieving something special under Mauricio Pochettino. They have established themselves as a regular Champions League team and have played some excellent football, but they have yet to deliver a title challenge from post to post and that is their next challenge.

Throughout his time in North London, Pochettino has been reluctant to spend big money on a ready-made world-class player. The Argentine prefers to sign potential and mould a player in his own image. This summer, he will need to strengthen his squad once again as he lacks depth in a couple of positions.

One area of the pitch that he will look to add reinforcements is central midfield. Mousa Dembele has been the star in that position, but he is now 30 and he can’t be expected to play every match across all competitions.

Meanwhile, Victor Wanyama has only played 14 times in the Premier League and seems out of favour with Pochettino. Eric Dier and Harry Winks are both good options, but neither have pushed on in the way that Tottenham would have hoped.

There is a lot of quality in the middle of the park at Tottenham, but there haven’t been two players to make the positions their own. The answer to their midfield problems could come from an unlikely place.

Southampton have been a good stepping stone club since their return to the Premier League and, despite their impending relegation, they could have one more jewel worth pursuing.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Mario Lemina has had a mixed first season in England, but there is no doubting his quality in midfield areas. The Gabon international arrived from Juventus and it was considered a coup at the time. He may not have thrived in the manner many expected, but it has been tough to shine in a team battling relegation.

He is a similar midfielder to Dembele in many aspects. Lemina is very effective at winning possession and he is comfortable with the ball at his feet. The 24-year-old averages 2.3 dribbles per game, which is only fractionally lower than the 2.5 managed by the Tottenham midfielder.

Considering Lemina is playing his first season in a new country, this is an encouraging stat and suggests he can become the powerful ball-carrier that Dembele has been in recent seasons. In terms of regaining possession, the Southampton man averages 2.1 tackles won and 1.48 interceptions per ninety minutes.

This is superior to Dembele, who averages 1.14 tackles won and 1.48 interceptions per ninety minutes. There are times when players are stained by a relegation, but the stats underline the impact that Lemina has had on games since arriving in England and in a better team, he could be a revelation.

Southampton are not going to be in a strong negotiating position if they are relegated, as expected. Despite their struggles this season, they have a lot of quality in their squad and there won’t be a shortage of takers for a lot of their players.

Lemina is the standout in their squad and his experience with Juventus means that he has the mentality to step up to one of the top six clubs. He looks a perfect fit for Tottenham and would be a great long-term replacement for Dembele.

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English Premier League

Southampton could be left looking foolish as Matt Targett pushes for promotion

The England under-21 international is hoping to win promotion with Fulham.



Fulham are firmly in the fight for promotion to the Premier League. The Cottagers are chasing Cardiff City in the hunt for the automatic places and will have a shot at the play-offs if they do not make it into the top two. Fulham’s brilliant form has been largely down to the arrival of a loan signing from the Premier League. Despite Newcastle United’s own struggles, Aleksandar Mitrovic was sent to Craven Cottage to try and find some form. The Serbian has done just that, scoring goals for fun in West London. But the impact of another loanee cannot be understated.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Matt Targett arrived from Southampton at the end of January and has gone on to become an integral member of the Fulham first-team. Targett has played 15 times since his move to the club, even finding the back of the net once.

The Saints man has been solid defensively and a threat going forward for Slavisa Jokanovic’s men.

For Southampton, loaning him out could prove to make them look foolish. Whilst Fulham are pushing for promotion, Southampton are desperately scrapping against relegation from the Premier League.

Whilst Ryan Bertrand may be the out-and-out first choice at left-back Mark Hughes’ recent switch to a back three could certainly have seen Targett playing a role in the matchday squad at St Mary’s once again.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

But above anything else, it will be the principle of the matter.

Mauricio Pellegrino was not a fan of Targett and therefore sent him on his way, but he should still be around the club and making an impact in the fight for survival. The fact Southampton, who are currently five points adrift of safety, could get relegated whilst a player they loaned out wins promotion is just bad PR – pure and simple.

It will certainly be interesting to see just where Targett ends up next season, and which division he will be playing in.

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Would Tottenham or Everton be the best move for Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand?

The 28-year-old has been linked with a move away from the south coast this summer.



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After being told by Southampton bosses that the club could not afford to lose both him and Virgil Van Dijk in the same season, this summer may finally see Ryan Bertrand depart Saint Mary’s.

The Sun report that Manchester United, Tottenham, Everton and Newcastle are among the clubs interested in a £25 million bid this summer, following on from Manchester City‘s attempts to lure him north last summer.

The 28-year-old has again shown himself to be a reliable Premier League defender this season but faces a tough choice on where to go next with a departure looking likely as the Saints struggle at the wrong end of the table.

With Tottenham and Everton leading the way, it may not be a simple choice for the versatile defender.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

A move to Spurs would provide the ex-Chelsea man with a return to the Champions League, a competition he won whilst with the Blues, but would also face more of a challenge to walk straight into the first team.

Ben Davies has been performing well at left-back, with Danny Rose also still at the club despite injury problems, and so he may be forced into a less comfortable role on the left of a back three, a position which Jan Vertonghen has made his own.

At Goodison Park, Bertrand can see his role as a leader in the team right from day one. With Leighton Baines not getting any younger, the club is clearly on the look-out for a replacement and he could be that man.

The doubt over a move to the Toffees would be regarding the instability at the club. Sam Allardyce’s future is anything but certain and Bertrand’s loyalty to his previous two clubs may mean he seeks a long-term project and avoid adding to the list of expensive failures that Everton racked up last summer.

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