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Extra goal ace appeals to fans
Unforeseen events can shake even the greatest plans.
Mauricio Pochettino and the Saints scouting network will have been working away for months headhunting potential summer recruits.
A club the size of Saints has spies everywhere, and, when the manager outlines where he wishes to strengthen, they get to work.
Not only are potential targets watched and reported on many times, but background checks on them take place to ensure they are the sort of character the club wants at that particular time.
Of course, their likely availability and cost also need to be assessed.
Pochettino will no doubt have had enough of a list of priority positions to fill his mind, and the chances are that it hasn’t differed that much from the fans.
It’s generally not that hard to see where a football team needs strengthening, where a squad is thin on numbers.
Pochettino has in recent weeks made several remarks about his squad being light in numbers and, though he prefers small and compact to having a multitude of options, many of whom won’t play, maybe he is getting a little frustrated at how things have gone.
Back in January a poll on dailyecho.co.uk showed that fans wanted a goalkeeper to be signed in the window, with a centre half not far behind. A striker trailed in third place.
Fast forward only a handful of months and the latest incarnation of basically the same vote has yielded very different results.
Now the clear priority is a striker, with a goalkeeper and defender tucked in behind.
It’s an astute observation and comment on what has happened at Saints in the intervening period.
Back in January the main argument for adding a striker would almost certainly have been to get a little extra pace into the side rather than because of a lack of options.
Obviously a larger number of people felt that a goalkeeper and a centre half were more important, but there had been recent injuries to Jose Fonte as well as Artur Boruc.
Fast forward to today and, with the first choice centre half pairing in tandem, even with only Jos Hooiveld as cover with Maya Yoshida injured, that area has slipped down the wish list.
Even a goalkeeper, with both Boruc and Kelvin Davis out right now too, isn’t seen as the number one priority.
Scoring goals is really what football is all about, especially when you are as attack minded as Saints.
Since January things have changed.
Firstly, Dani Osvaldo departed after his training ground bust up. That move came too late to realistically enable any cover to be brought in.
Secondly, and more significantly, the injury to Jay Rodriguez feels like a game changer.
Rodriguez has been superb for Saints this season. He is their top scorer and has provided such a constant threat, not to mention goals.
Though everybody hopes for a blistering return as soon as possible, at this stage there can only be uncertainty as to when he will be able to return to the first team, and exactly what sort of player he will be at that point. Even with the best medical care out there, a torn cruciate ligament is not the kind of thing you quickly bounce back from. It is a long and arduous process, full of highs and lows.
There is a very real prospect that, given he will try and re-enter the team during the season, he won’t be fully up and running at 100 per cent match sharpness until the Christmas and new year period, and even that is assuming a smooth rehabilitation process.
With that in mind it’s hard to see that Saints can really just wait for him to return.
The back end of this season, to be blunt, doesn’t really matter. Saints are where they are and that isn’t going to change much with or without Rodriguez. But for him to miss half a season is a different story altogether.
There is of course time for Gaston Ramirez or Sam Gallagher to prove they can replace Rodriguez, but neither are the same sort of player, so Saints will need to adapt their style or buy a direct replacement.
Certainly the numbers in that area look a little thin.
If you look at those three attack minded forwards in behind Rickie Lambert there is Adam Lallana, Rodriguez and Ramirez as real threats – Guly do Prado falls into that category as well but he is out of contract in the summer – while Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse have been excellent and are more there to bring the extra balance required.
Gallagher could maybe be reshaped for a Rodriguez style role but is a more natural like for like for Lambert and is the only real cover now for the big man as it was a position Rodriguez could also step into.
Obviously finances will also dictate. Buying good attacking players is an expensive business, but Saints look as though they may need to spend now.
The results of the poll look quite fair, even though it might mean a rethink for Pochettino and his staff for it to be accomodated.
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