Jay Rodriguez set to return to the Southampton first team next season having picked up a serious injury at the back end of the 2013/14 season, suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury away at Manchester City that kept him out of Ronald Koeman’s first season at the club last term.
But the former Burnley man is now fit and is going to have a full pre-season at Southampton, which means Koeman could well consider Rodriguez as a new signing for his squad as he has not been available for such a long time.
Before his injury Rodriguez was pushing hard for the World Cup squad and was right in contention to be included in Roy Hodgson’s 23 to compete in Brazil last summer, but the devastating injury put an end to all of that and in many ways the Saints striker will have a fresh start altogether.
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Former Southampton boss Nigel Adkins believes that it could well indeed be a fresh start for the Englishman. He said: “To get a long-term contract, it will definitely be a fresh start and he’ll be like a fresh player for the current manager,” Adkins told Perform at an event to mark his appointment as an ambassador for the Football Foundation, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary.
“He’s a talented boy, he became an England international, so it will be like getting a new signing.”
Adkins of course signed Rodriguez from Burnley in 2012, and due to his injury and the fact Koeman had not had a chance to use the forward, he was inevitably linked with a move away from St Mary’s. But a new five-year deal signed in May put an end to all of that speculation.
The fact that the Saints offered the 25-year-old striker that deal whilst he was injured proved that they believe he will make a full recovery and return to his best form, and if he does achieve that he will be an exciting player for Koeman’s men.
Before his injury Rodriguez was in fantastic form for the Saints. He had scored 15 Premier League goals in 33 matches during the 13/14 campaign, a great return for a striker playing in just his second full season in England’s top flight.
But not only that, he was not always played up top by former Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino. Due to the striker’s versatility, he could be played from a wide left position or up top and as Rickie Lambert was in good form up front for Southampton that season, Rodriguez often found himself playing out on the left.
Those sort of figures compared to the top English strikers last season could only be beaten by QPR striker Charlie Austin, who scored 18 league goals, highlighting how good those numbers are.
Of course numbers only tell you so much, but Rodriguez has a lot more to his game than just goals. He is far more of an all round player than that; he is quick, can threaten in behind defences, creates chances for his team mates and has a lot of energy, which allows him to press defenders.
These are all attributes that Koeman likes in his attackers. Take Sadio Mane for example; his strengths are similar to those of Rodriguez. He was a top performer for the Dutchman’s side last season, scoring the quickest Premier League hat-trick of all time amongst his ten league goals.
Rodriguez can perform in a similar way and add a more clinical touch in the final third. He will be like a new signing for the Saints and it’s a fresh start for the Burnley born forward as he looks to return to his best.