It has been reported recently in The Athletic that Southampton are willing to let Michael Obafemi leave in the January transfer window, should they agree a deal which suits both parties, meaning he could be allowed to leave on loan or permanently.
The Irishman has struggled for game time for the Saints this season, with Ralph Hasenhuttl rarely deviating from his front two of Che Adams and Danny Ings.
Even when Ings has been sidelined through injury, the Austrian manager has preferred loan signing Theo Walcott up front, whilst it seems as if youngsters Dan N’Lundulu and Nathan Tella have both moved ahead of Obafemi in the Saints pecking order.
As a result, he has made just one substitute appearance in the Premier League so far this season, which will undoubtedly be disappointing for the 20-year-old when you consider that last season saw him make 21 appearances in the top-flight.
Hasenhuttl has criticised the youngster’s professionalism in the past, saying:
“The problem with Michael was always he would play one good game and then fall back a little bit and was not professional enough to force or keep his position in the team or in the squad.”
However, he has still shown himself as capable of being a threat in the Premier League, having contributed four goals and three assists in 29 appearances in the top-flight.
With Ings now sidelined after picking up a hamstring injury, you would hope that Obafemi would be given an opportunity to impress in the Saints’ upcoming fixtures, instead of goal-shy 33-year-old Shane Long, who started the Boxing Day fixture against Fulham.
Unless Obafemi can impress Hasenhuttl with his work rate in training, however, he is unlikely to be selected to replace Ings. The England international has proved to be a constant threat with his pressing in recent seasons, something which Obafemi hasn’t really shown so far in his time with the club.
The Republic of Ireland international is still just 20-years-old though and considering his contract is set to run until 2022, Martin Semmens and the Southampton board shouldn’t rush into a decision on the youngster in January, simply because he isn’t featuring as much in the first-team this season.
A loan move would perhaps be sensible, to ensure that Obafemi’s progress isn’t stifled too much, as they could definitely end up regretting selling the £4.05 million rated forward, as he showed enough last season to prove he can be a part of this Saints squad in the future.
Certainly, with Ings’ future still hanging in the balance, with the former Liverpool man yet to agree a new contract with the club, it would make even less sense to let Obafemi leave permanently, as the youngster could well prove to be the natural successor to Ings, provided he can start to show a bit more professionalism and prove to Hasenhuttl that he deserves to start.
It will be interesting to see whether the 20-year-old gets his chance in the Southampton first-team in the coming weeks but even if he doesn’t, the South Coast club shouldn’t allow him to leave permanently in the January transfer window.