Is it time for Southampton to sell Shane Long?
Shane Long’s form has spiralled at Southampton in the last two seasons. That raises questions about his long-term future at St Mary’s. The 31-year-old joined from Hull City in 2014 but hasn’t hit the heights expected. A goal scoring rate less than one in five matches isn't satisfactory.
Long still gets games due to his industrious style and clever off-the-ball movement. But the missing end product is costing Southampton points. The club may have to trim their wage budget if they suffer relegation this season. Below-par performers like Long could be given the boot.
Long has finally lost his starting place due to poor form. Before this season, the profligate centre-forward had featured in 92 of Southampton’s 114 Premier League games over three seasons. The Saints have finally lost their patience. With just one league goal in 2017/18, the Irishman has made nearly half his appearances from the bench and been substituted in two-thirds of his starts.
He’s failed to improve on a disappointing 2016/17 campaign that saw him score just three goals in 32 league games. Southampton no longer see him as a regular first-team player. Long has pace. He is industrious and selfless on the pitch. But he’s never been ruthless in the final third. All his hard work goes to waste because he seldom finishes.
The Saints striker has managed just eight shots on target in his 23 league appearances this season. Sometimes he fails to register an effort at all. Long has taken just two shots in his last six appearances. If he's having no effect as a starter or sub, the next step is to leave him out of the squad altogether.
Southampton signed Monaco striker Guido Carrillo during the January transfer window. The Argentine has edged Long out of the side ever since, starting six of the last seven league outings. With Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin having better reputations as finishers, Long should be the one to make way this summer.
The problem with selling a player who is no longer producing is no other club wants him. Why would any club wish to sign a player with four goals in his last 55 appearances when he is on £60,000/wk wages.
He was linked with Liverpool and Juventus in 2016 but might struggle to attract a bottom-half Premier League outfit these days. His estimated value is £10 million less than Southampton paid four years ago. His only selling point is he somehow remains a regular for his country.
Long still has two years to run on his deal with the Saints. He would be earning £3 million/yr in the Championship if the 18th-placed side can’t escape the drop zone. If Chairman Ralph Kreuger can’t find a buyer, he will be stuck with a lodestone in the second tier.
Since moving from Hull, Long has scored one goal every 304 minutes. He’s eating up a fair chunk of the wage budget without performing and selling him is a problem. The Saints might have to gamble that he can find his feet in the Championship where he initially made a name for himself.