Victor Wanyama is a player that divides opinion at Southampton. Some fans would love to see the Kenyan stay at Southampton whereas the ever-expanding anti-Wanyama camp can’t wait to see the back of him when he leaves St. Mary’s, which inevitably appears to be this summer. But when the defensive midfielder’s time is up on the south coast, will he be missed?
It’s a big question and one that many Southampton fans often revert to social media to discuss and debate. The powerful midfielder is young, freakishly strong and can be unbeatable on his day. But you just have to look to where he’s been over the past six weeks or so to see one of the biggest criticisms of his game; his discipline.
The 24-year-old has spent the past six weeks suspended after picking up his third red card of the season in Saints’ win over West Ham in early February. He could be in line for his return to action in Sunday’s clash between Saints and fellow Europa League qualification hopefuls Liverpool. Ronald Koeman had words with Wanyama after the rash challenge on Dimitri Payet that saw him notch his hat trick of red cards for the season, claiming that the Kenyan ‘has to learn from his mistakes’.
He recorded his second red card of the season in the away game against Norwich, when his commitment to Southampton was questioned after two silly challenges got him two yellow cards. It seems to be a common theme that, whilst he can shrug off any player who dares challenge him with complete and utter ease, he still makes naïve challenges that result in him getting punished.
However, Wanyama’s recent absence provides a strong claim for the pro-Victor camp of Southampton fans. Since Wanyama’s dismissal against the Hammers, Southampton’s impressive run of form and defensive record came to an end, with the Saints winning two, losing two, drawing one and conceding six in the process. Those that want Wanyama to remain at St. Mary’s will point to that slump in form and argue their case for how crucial he is in the middle of the park. His physical presence and combative nature functions as a key cog in the way Southampton play.
When Koeman opts for a back four, he can drop in between the centre backs to allow the full backs to bomb forward, adding security to the defensive line. When Saints play a back three, not only does it give him a slight bit of extra freedom, but he can hold back to allow one of the centre backs to advance forward when they build offensive moves from the back.
However, a feeling amongst Southampton fans is that the St. Mary’s faithful don’t get to see the best of Wanyama on a more frequent basis. The Kenyan seems to be a shadow of the player that partnered Morgan Schneiderlin in Southampton’s midfield last season, leading to suggestions that the now Manchester United midfielder made Wanyama look better than he is. Wanyama’s most notable performances this season have coincidently come against the ‘bigger’ teams. It seems as though Wanyama sees those games as a job interview with his contract reaching its final year in the summer and the 24-year-old having itchy feet to leave the club.
His pre-season this campaign was blighted by throwing his toys out of the pram when he was denied a move to re-join former boss Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs – a case of déjà vu for the Southampton board after an identical scenario with Morgan Schneiderlin the summer before. Wanyama had the perfect opportunity to replicate the man who he formed a formidable relationship with for two years at St. Mary’s.
Schneiderlin got over his initial tantrum, knuckled down, performed admirably and left Southampton in a positive and respectful manner to a club who, at that moment in time, were in a better position than Spurs. Wanyama had that opportunity this season but his reaction to being refused a transfer has been the complete opposite to that of Schneiderlin.
It seems inevitable that Southampton will be forced to offload Wanyama this summer with it not looking likely that the Kenyan will sign a new contract. A move for Wanyama in the summer will see Saints have to settle for a fee lower than his market value but that won’t bother Ronald Koeman who has built up a reputation of being very shrewd with his transfer dealings.
Schneiderlin’s replacement Jordy Clasie has looked better with each game after a slow and difficult start, and Chelsea misfit Oriol Romeu was a great piece of business by Koeman after impressing this season. The duo arrived at Southampton for just over the £12.5m Southampton splashed on Wanyama showing Koeman’s ability to grab a bargain. Both Clasie and Romeu in addition to set piece specialist James Ward-Prowse, who’s yet to make a midfield position his own, and the hunger and exuberance of the highly rated Harrison Reed provides a strong competitive foundation to Southampton’s midfield if and when Wanyama leaves Southampton.
Wanyama’s physical presence and ability to bully players in order to dominate the midfield will definitely be missed, but the aptly nicknamed ‘Mighty Kenyan’ will be much easier to replace than Morgan Schneiderlin. So, all in all, will Southampton miss Victor Wanyama if he was to leave this summer? For sure. Is he irreplaceable? Absolutely not.
Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by David Price.