Wednesday, March 29, 2023

How Southampton Already Has A Ready Made Replacement For Pelle In This Prolific Goal Scorer

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Pranjal Bhawal
Pranjal is the co-owner of The 4th Official. While he completed law from Department of Law, University of Calcutta, his passion always remained in football and that is where he finally ended up at.

Graziano Pelle became the latest high-profile name to say yes to the big money offer from China as the Italian made his move out of the St. Mary’s this summer to join Chinese club Shandong Luneng for £12m. The Italian left the South Coast club after two years at the club and it was a good piece of business from the Saints to command £12m for a 31-year-old whose contract was up for expiry next summer.

It’s quite a surprise to see the Saints not getting linked with a striker to replace the departed Italian. Probably the reason for that is new manager Claude Puel already having identified the successor of the 31-year-old in English forward Charlie Austin who is yet to kickstart his Southampton career since his move to the club back in January.

The 27-year-old is set for his first major tests under Claude Puel when the Saints head out to Holland for a triple header of pre-season friendlies. With Shane Long, Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin, the Saints do not look short on numbers up front. However, Austin has to prove his worth during the preseason. With Europa League commitments next season, Puel won’t be too kind to him if he fails to convince the Frenchman that he has the goals he requires in his squad.

Austin is expected to be given the chance to prove himself in Holland, having been bought in January for £4m as a long-term replacement for Pelle. Austin’s first six months at the South Coast club was not particularly impressive and he had to deal with some injury troubles also.

Charlie Austin GETTY

Austin announced his arrival in dramatic fashion as he came off the bench to score the winner against Manchester United at Old Trafford on his debut. However, he didn’t get a lot of playing time since then, finishing the campaign with just two starts and five sub appearances for the Saints. Shane Long’s form was the key reason behind his lack of playing time but his fortunes could change with the departure of Pelle.

Austin has always been a prolific goalscorer and has done it at the top level as well. In 2014/15 when he led the line for QPR, he scored 18 Premier League goals from 35 starts, averaging a goal every 170.5 minutes. To put that into context, in the same season Pelle averaged a goal 273.6 minutes for a much better Southampton team with better players around him. Last campaign, Pelle’s proficiency improved a bit as he managed a goal every 197.6 minutes.

Austin is more than capable of replacing Pelle if not being an upgrade over the Italian international. The 27-year-old is not a one-dimensional striker like Pelle who relies only on his aerial abilities to find the net. Austin, with the faith of the manager in him, could be Southampton’s focal point of attack in coming years.

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