Jay Rodriguez was on fire last weekend as West Brom picked up their first points of the Championship season with a dramatic 4-3 win over Norwich at Carrow Road, and Southampton will be wishing they never sold him after their recent striker troubles.
Jordan Rhodes had put the Canaries ahead before keeper Tim Krul clattered into the Baggies’ summer signing Dwight Gayle in the penalty area. Rodriguez stepped up and swept the ball into the bottom corner to equalise from the spot.
The 29-year-old then put Darren Moore’s side ahead just two minutes into the second half. His shot from distance was speculative but well struck and it was too much to handle for Krul. After 65 minutes, the 6 foot 1 attacker showed his quality again as he dummied a Matt Phillips pull-back in order to let youngster Harvey Barnes bend the ball home from a far better angle.
It’s clear that Rodriguez is too good for England’s second division, but no club matched the Baggies’ valuation of their star man, with his former club Burnley seemingly closest after having a £16m bid rejected.
The England international only joined West Brom in the summer last year in a £12m deal from Southampton and since then, the south coast side have had serious issues with getting goals from their strikers. Their toothlessness was highlighted once again in the opening weekend goalless draw with Burnley.
Manolo Gabbiadini came in to St Mary’s in January 2017 while Rodriguez was at the club and certainly hit the ground running, scoring four goals in his first three Premier League games. However, last season the Italian managed just five in all competitions and now looks to be short of confidence.
Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino was sacked in March, and his attempt at buying a striker to address the issue failed miserably. In January earlier this year Southampton smashed their transfer record to sign Guido Carrillo for £19.2m from Monaco. The Argentine signed a three-and-a-half-year deal but has already left the club on loan after failing to score a single goal in 10 appearances.
Southampton’s top scorer since Rodriguez left the club has been another former Burnley man, Charlie Austin, who netted seven in 24 Premier League appearances last season but struggled with injuries throughout. Then there’s Shane Long who, despite his excellent work rate, only managed a paltry two goals in 35 appearances in all competitions last season, while youngster Michael Obafemi who has only made one appearance for the first team.
There’s no doubt that Saints have struggled to find the perfect striker since Rodriguez left the club.
He struggled with injuries during his time on the south coast, missing the entire 2014/15 campaign with a serious knee problem that also ruled him out of contention for England’s World Cup squad the summer before. However, the current West Brom man still managed to net 35 goals in 126 appearances during five years at St Mary’s and has scored 13 for West Brom since he left.
In contrast, the five strikers that Saints have used since last summer’s transfer window only have 15 between them. Having now signed Rodriguez’s former Burnley teammate Danny Ings, who they released as a schoolboy, Southampton fans will be hoping that they have finally found a prolific striker – although it’s clear that most would still welcome the current West Brom man back with open arms.