Shane Long was handed his first Premier League start of the season against Fulham on Boxing Day but the 33-year-old’s disappointing performance confirms that he is no longer good enough to be a starter for the Saints in the Premier League.
The Irish forward has struggled for game time this season, with the good form of Danny Ings and Che Adams, as well as the loan signing of Theo Walcott, meaning that he has rarely been selected by Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Before the game at Craven Cottage on Boxing Day, the experienced striker had made eight appearances from the bench, totalling just 61 minutes.
However, injuries to Ings and Nathan Redmond left the Austrian manager short of attacking options ahead of the trip to West London and Long played the full 90 minutes in a disappointing 0-0 draw.
Whilst he did see an excellent finish rightly ruled out for offside, the former Reading man was anonymous for large parts of the game.
As per SofaScore, Long touched the ball just 28 times in the stalemate and was able to complete just 12 passes, suggesting that he was unable to have much influence on the game.
It was disappointing, therefore, that Hasenhuttl left Nathan Tella on the bench, whilst young Dan N’Lundulu was introduced as a late substitute when you feel that either youngster could have made more of an impact.
Unfortunately for Long, his last Premier League goal came in February’s 2-0 win against Aston Villa, which certainly suggests that he isn’t the player he once was and that Hasenhuttl should now cast his eye to the future and trust Tella, N’Lundulu or Michael Obafemi to step up in the absence of Ings.
In January of this year, the Austrian manager was full of praise for Long’s efforts, despite his lack of goals, saying:
“He’s an unbelievable wall player for us, and that gives you another chance to keep heaping pressure on the opponent.
“He’s very strong in the aerial duels and that can squeeze opponents.
“What I like too is he knows exactly when to go and when to stop, because this is sometimes not so easy for a player.
“It is all this kind of work that makes him so important for us.”
However, his lack of goals is clearly a huge concern and work rate alone is not enough to replace Ings whilst he is sidelined, so Hasenhuttl must now axe the 33-year-old in favour of the younger talent available at the South Coast club.