Having played just a single FA Cup match prior to the previous campaign, it’s fair to say little was expected of Luke Shaw upon Southampton’s return to the top-flight. A product of the club’s youth academy, he looked firmly behind Danny Fox in the left-back pecking order but after climbing off the bench towards the end of the Gameweek 10 defeat at West Brom, the youngster soon established himself as a first-team regular.
Initially selected by Nigel Adkins and subsequently under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino, Shaw went on to start 22 of the Saints’ remaining 28 league matches, with only a couple of minor knocks and a brief illness limiting his game time over the rest of the season. A series of consistent displays and comparisons with fellow-Southampton academy graduate Gareth Bale already have the suitors circling but, despite being linked with the likes of Chelsea and United, the teenager is expected to remain at St Mary’s as Pochettino’s side look to better last term’s 14th place finish.
- Analysing Southampton’s defensive displays, the stats highlight how they gradually improved under both managers last season. The first 10 Gameweeks under Adkins saw the Saints concede 28 times, while the following 12 matches harvested 12 goals against before Pochettino took over. The Argentine’s installation saw his side take a step backwards, shipping 11 goals in six games, before his high pressing game proved dividend, with just nine goals against in the final 10 Gameweeks. With Pochettino’s future looking assured, the Saints could well benefit from less chopping and changing at the helm next time round.
- Ultimately, with 60 goals against in 2012/13, Southampton were one of the poorest overall backlines. Given that only four defences conceded more goals, it’s fair to assume that they will remain in the budget bracket across the Fantasy games – a price of 4.5 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) looks on the cards for Shaw and, with new boy Dejan Lovren adding plenty quality at centre-half, the Saints could prove strong value at the back next time round.
- While the likes of Lovren and keeper Artur Boruc offer up alternatives at the back, Southampton’s 4-2-3-1 system and high pressing game seems tailor made for both Shaw and fellow full-back Nathaniel Clyne to forage forward and offer plenty pace, width and creativity from deep. Granted, he failed to produce any attacking returns last term but, having grown accustomed to the rigours of the Premier League, Shaw may well be set to justify the level of interest shown by many of the top-flight’s elite.
- Delving deeper into the defensive data, Shaw’s presence at the back made a considerable difference to the Saints’ resilience. They conceded 37 goals in the 16 matches without him in the first XI, or 2.3 goals per game, compared to just 23 goals against in the left-back’s 22 starts – just over one goal a game conceded; a substantial difference which bodes well for his game time over the season ahead.
- The opening fixtures have fallen firmly in Pochettino’s favour as he looks to get off to a strong start. Having already engineered home wins over the likes of Chelsea, City and Liverpool during his short spell in charge, the Argentine will be buoyed by a schedule which hands his side seven enticing opening fixtures (SUN, WHM, CPL, SWA, FUL, HUL, AVL) at St Mary’s. As mentioned in one of our recent rotation articles, pairing Shaw with a West Ham backline option looks a viable tactic over the first few months of the campaign.