Ralph Hasenhuttl was quick to praise the efforts of Shane Long earlier this week and insisted that the 33-year-old is still a key part of his squad, despite his lack of minutes in the Premier League this season, but really the Austrian should be looking to promote Nathan Tella ahead of the Irishman.
The Austrian manager left Long out of his squad to face Sheffield United last weekend, as the Saints recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory, which led journalists to question the striker’s future with the South Coast club.
He replied, saying:
“There was a reason why we signed another contract with Shane because he is always a guy we can take and we can use as a sub, or from the beginning.
“He gives everything for the team and for the club.
“Even if he is not playing or not in the squad, he is always positive. He always tries to support the others.
“For every player comes the moment when he gets older, that he is more on the bench. I had the same situation, I was playing until I was 37.
“I knew in the last three or four years I was more a sub but a good sub because I was always scoring, always positive and tried to push the team, because I knew I had a powerful 30 minutes.
“I must say he is still very fit. He can still play 90 minutes without a problem – but even as a sub, I think he is important for our team.”
However, the experienced striker has featured for just 61 minutes in the Premier League so far this season, even in the absence of Danny Ings whilst he was out injured, so it seems as if Hasenhuttl cannot find a place for him in his starting eleven right now.
The Austrian manager must also consider the performances of Tella with the youth academy, as the youngster has impressed since moving up front, scoring an impressive four goals in the Saints’ 5-2 win against the Leicester City academy side at the weekend.
Hasenhuttl spoke about his change in position recently, saying:
“We need to think about what the best position is for him and it seems more and more that he seems more confident on the nine than on the ten, so let’s push him there and get the best out of him and we will have a lot of fun with him.”
He has also suggested that the youngster has “no fear” in the past, so it seems strange that he hasn’t made more senior appearances for the South Coast club.
Therefore, it seems as if Tella’s future with the club is as a striker, and after his impressive displays with the academy, Hasenhuttl must consider promoting him to the senior side, with Long perhaps likely to be the man to drop out in order to accommodate him.
The former Arsenal youngster has just five senior appearances to his name at Southampton and keeping him out of the first-team for a 33-year-old Long who looks to be well past his best, could prove to be a mistake by Hasenhuttl, especially if Tella’s head is turned by another club offering more regular first-team football.
Hopefully, Tella can add to those appearances during the busy Christmas period, as it certainly looks as if Southampton have a real talent on their hands.
And, in other news… KWP 2.0: Saints must sign 20 y/o beast who’s as “brave as a lion” in Janaury…