Morgan Schneiderlin has transformed himself into one of the most successful defensive midfielders in the country.
The young Frenchman was once known as something of a lightweight – but has become a genuine tackling machine on Saints’ return to the top flight.
Statistics from every Premier League game played so far this season show that Schneiderlin has averaged more tackles per match than any other player – even those in defence.
Schneiderlin is one of only three top flight stars to have notched up an average of more than four tackles a game.
His 4.5 average puts him at the very top of the table – ahead of West Ham pair Mohamed Diame and Mark Noble of West Ham, who both have a 4.1 average He is also sixth in the Premier League table for the most interceptions made with an average of three per game.
The statistics confirm a remarkable transformation in the game of the 23-year-old who joined Saints in the summer of 2008.
In his first few seasons at St Mary’s, Schneiderlin was highly thought of because of his range of passing.
But he struggled to hold down a place in the side due to his lack of physicality.
That became an even bigger issue as Saints slipped to League One and faced even stronger sides who relied more than ever on brute force to try and make up for the talent deficit they had in comparison to Schneiderlin.
Alan Pardew indicated he would work on fixing that aspect of Schneiderlin’s game, and Nigel Adkins has continued the good work.
The culmination has come this season with Schneiderlin arguably Saints’ best player so far.
He has started all but one of Saints’ game in the Premier League this season in the new-look defensive midfield pair that sit in front of the back four, allowing four attacking players to get forward.
He was initially paired with Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse, but is now settling into life alongside Jack Cork after his return from injury.
All Schneiderlin’s tackling, though, has come at a price – he is just one booking away from picking up a one-match suspension.