Southampton striker Shane Long’s rich vein of form continued as became a Premier League record-breaker in the 1-1 draw with Watford at Vicarage Road on Wednesday, and manager Ralph Hasenhuttl deserves the plaudits for the Republic of Ireland international’s revival.
On the chalkboard
As has been well publicised time and time again, the 32-year-old doesn’t have the best record when it comes to scoring goals – a clear issue when you are a centre-forward.
However, the former Reading and West Bromwich Albion man has begun to find the net on a regular basis in recent times, with the strike against the Hornets following on from goals against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool.
The Irishman’s confidence was clearly shot before the current run, as he was even struggling to do the things he is best at – chasing and harrying defenders using his pace and strength.
That is exactly what led to his goal against Javi Gracia’s men though, and Hasenhuttl deserves the praise for the work he has clearly done with Long.
How has he changed things?
As with other players that have made an impression under the Austrian that were struggling for game time under his predecessor Mark Hughes – Jan Bednarek, Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse spring to mind – he has accepted the striker’s limitations.
There is no doubt that Long isn’t the best technically – as shown when he missed the ball in a great position against Jurgen Klopp’s men – but he has plenty to offer in other ways.
Hasenhuttl has played to those strengths, and now the 32-year-old is benefitting from a bonus goalscoring streak ahead of the visit of Bournemouth on Saturday.
The fact that the former RB Leipzig boss has forgotten about Long’s record of putting the ball in the back of the net, and instead helped him have a purpose in the side and become a vital member of the starting XI, tells you all you need to know about the 51-year-old.
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Brighter things are coming for Southampton and the Republic of Ireland international next term.