SAINTS’ fall away from the Champions League positions can largely be put down to the absence of one man – Victor Wanyama.

The club hit the heights of third place back in November after a great start to the season saw them winning games and conceding few goals.

Wanyama, a £12m summer signing from Glasgow Celtic, was an ever-present in that run as a holding midfielder.

He might have topped the Premier League lists for the most fouls conceded, but his ability to break up opposition attacks was a key feature of Saints’ impressive first few months.

Ex-Saints striker Gordon Watson has been a regular watcher of his former club this season, and knows Mauricio Pochettino needs to see the Kenyan powerhouse back soon.

“Wanyama has been awesome and we’ve really missed him,” he said.

“Look at how many goals we conceded before he was injured, and how many goals we have conceded since he’s been out injured.

“He’s been an absolute perfect signing for Saints.”

The stats bear out Watson’s comment.

Saints conceded just 11 goals in Waynama’s first 13 and a half league games before he was taken off injured at half-time at home to Aston Villa on December 4.

Since then, starting with the second half against Villa, they have conceded 12 times in six and a half games.

From having one of the best defensive records in the whole of Europe with Wanyama in the side, Saints have dipped away recently.

Only four clubs have conceded more goals in the last six Premier League games than Saints’ ten.

“It’s no co-incidence the form has dipped since he’s been out,” Watson conceded.

“When he was playing, teams didn’t like attacking us down the middle.

“Instead, they shipped the ball out wide where our full packs used their pace to attack the ball.

“When Wanyama was playing teams couldn’t get the ball into dangerous areas.

“He would win the ball and give it to people like Morgan Schneide-rlin.

“We were much more compact as a team when Wanyama was playing.

“Since he’s been out, Steven Davis has played there, Jack Cork’s played there, Morgan’s played there.

“Morgan is not a holding midfielder, though. That’s not his best position at all.

“He’s far better as an attacking force.

“There are a lot of positives at Saints this season, and the three biggest have been Dejan Lovren, Jay Rodriguez and Wanyama.”