THE BLOG

Player Focus: Few Midfielders Can Offer More Than Schneiderlin

31/07/2014 17:13 BST | Updated 30/09/2014 10:59 BST

2014-07-30-2014_7_MScheiderlinHeader.jpg

On Monday, Ronald Koeman tweeted a picture of a pitch devoid of players, accompanied with the phrase "Ready for Training!". In light of Southampton's recent sales, some felt the tweet was tongue in cheek from the boss, who has lost a number of key players this summer. This transfer window alone, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren have moved to Liverpool, while Calum Chambers and Luke Shaw have signed for Arsenal and Manchester United, respectively.

Recent reports suggests Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin will follow the quintet out of the St. Mary's exit door, though Saints are adamant both players aren't for sale. The south coast club performed well enough in the absence of Rodriguez, who suffered a knee injury away at Manchester City in April, but the loss of Schneiderlin would arguably be the bigger blow to the team.

Only Lovren (7.32) and Jose Fonte (7.21), another who has been linked with a move away from the south coast, earned better a WhoScored rating than Schneiderlin (7.20) in England's top tier last term, reflecting how well he played in the 2013/14 campaign. The midfielder was crucial under Pochettino last season, playing a big role in their 8th placed finish, but the recent sales of his now former teammates are believed to have convinced him that his future lies elsewhere.

Schneiderlin's displays in the heart of the midfield earned him a place in the France squad for the 2014 World Cup, though with Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi ahead of him in the pecking order, the Saints star was limited to just 1 appearance in Brazil, that coming in the 0-0 draw with Ecuador. Regardless, the 24-year-old impressed in the stalemate, proving he can perform at the top level. Only Toni Kroos (10 vs Algeria) won possession more times in the midfield third in a single match at the competition than Schneiderlin (9 vs Ecuador), while he also made 2 tackles and 3 interceptions in his 90 minute outing.

However, it's his league form that has won him admiring glances. Signing from Strasbourg in 2008, the midfielder was central to Saints' rise through the leagues, culminating in their promotion to the Premier League in 2012. Rather than be overawed by the occasion, Schneiderlin took to the rigours of Saints' new surroundings with ease, as his WhoScored rating from the 2012/13 season (7.23) indicates.

2014-07-30-2014_7_Schneiderlin.jpg

During his time in England's top tier, Schneiderlin has made more tackles and interceptions combined (466) than any other player. His doggedness in the heart of midfield has seen him gain WhoScored strengths of 'tackling' and 'ball interception' as he ruthlessly goes about his business in the middle of the park. Unfortunately, this physical approach was always going to be noticed by officials and it is no shock that only Pablo Zabaleta (18) has picked up more yellow cards in the last two league seasons than Schneiderlin (17).

The France international is frequently involved in midfield battles, so while this belligerent approach benefits the team, Schneiderlin will often find himself in hot water with referees. Only four players have committed more fouls in England's top tier between 2012 and 2014 than the midfielder (116), reinforcing his combativeness.

In such a key position however, this style of play is essential. Only Youssuf Mulumbu (327) has won possession more times in the midfield third than Schneiderlin (304) in the last two league campaigns. Without sacrificing possession for his team in the process of winning the ball, Schneiderlin is able to use his vision and awareness to instigate attacks, feeding the ball to his attack-minded teammates in Pochettino's high pressing system. With a commendable pass success (87.3%) in his two seasons in England's top tier, Schneiderlin is capable of picking out a teammate when in possession, playing a key part in the fact that Saints averaged the most possession (58.6%) in the Premier League last season.

2014-07-30-2014_7_MSCha.jpg

On the back of Pochettino's appointment at White Hart Lane, links with a move to Spurs were to be expected. Schneiderlin was crucial to the Argentine's possession based game at St. Mary's during his time on the south coast and the midfielder clearly adheres to the plans of his former boss, so one can understand the desire to take him to north London.

In Mousa Dembélé, Sandro, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue, Pochettino has sufficient midfield options at Spurs, but the pursuit of Schneiderlin suggests the new boss doesn't trust the current quartet to translate his ideas on the pitch. With Spurs battling on four fronts next season however, the Argentine requires strength in depth if the club is to enjoy a successful campaign. Schneiderlin started 31 of the 38 league games under Pochettino last season, and having not suffered any injuries, this hints that his all-action performances can take their toll, so the availability of quality options in the middle of the park will appeal to the Spurs boss.

Nevertheless, Saints' loss would be another team's gain. Dušan Tadić and Graziano Pellè certainly help to make up for the sales of Lallana and Lambert respectively, while the club now has money in the bank to cover the departures of Lovren, Chambers and Shaw. Replacing a player of Schneiderlin's quality, though, will be a much tougher task for the club this summer and it's of the utmost importance Saints resist the temptation to sell.

Do you think Morgan Schneiderlin will be a Southampton player once the transfer window closes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com where you can find yet more stats and player ratings.