After their 9-0 defeat to Manchester United in the wake of an ongoing injury crisis, Southampton need a pick-up before Fantasy Premier League managers will consider them for Double Gameweek 25.
And they may already have the catalyst for that waiting in the wings, as Takumi Minamino (£6.0m) prepares to make his Premier League debut for the Saints.
The question is: how quickly can he make an impact?
Anyone having an early night on Sunday will have missed the most surprising deal of the deadline, which saw the Japanese international loaned out by Liverpool.
Minamino was thought to be an important part of Jurgen Klopp’s side but it appears the boss wants him to get more Premier League experience first.
Southampton, who are going through an injury crisis, had been looking for attacking cover in the window and manager Ralph Hasenhüttl revealed Minamino was the perfect fit:
“I am very pleased to welcome Takumi to our squad for the rest of this season. He will help provide another good attacking option, and is importantly the right profile of player for us.
“This will give us some additional depth in our squad at an important time, and I am looking forward to beginning work with him on the training pitch.”
The former Red Bull Salzburg player could be introduced to the team straight away, with Theo Walcott (£5.8m) and Stuart Armstrong (£5.5m) becoming the latest Saints players to suffer an injury.
With a relatively low price and the potential for out-of-position appearances, will Minamino’s loan prove to be beneficial for Fantasy managers.
The signing of Minamino in January last year was heralded as a masterstroke, with the player costing around £7.25m due to a release clause.
Minamino made a name for himself playing for RB Salzburg in Austria, particularly with his performances in the Champions League.
His performance at Anfield for Salzburg, where he scored and was his side’s best player, had his future Liverpool teammates raving about him to Jurgen Klopp, urging him to sign him.
And his style even appeared to be perfectly suited to Klopp’s system, with Minamino frantically pressing defenders and unlocking defences with his dribbling skills.
Along with his style and pressing, Minamino also produced impressive attacking numbers, with 64 goals and 44 assists in 199 games for Salzburg.
So when Minamino arrived at Anfield, the hope was that he would provide quality cover and eventually challenge Liverpool’s front three.
But the attacking midfielder has often found himself on the periphery of the team since his move a year ago.
Hopes that this season would see him settle into English football did not pan out, with Minamino restricted to nine appearances, mainly from the bench.
Jurgen Klopp even suggested that the player’s height had counted against him, due to Liverpool’s issues at centre-back.
“Takumi is an incredibly good player and we didn’t give him enough chances, that’s the truth. That’s for different reasons. Sometimes it was just the size; because of our problems in defence we were not tall enough and then Takumi on the pitch you think, ‘OK, how can we do that then?’
Defending set-pieces is a very important part. It’s for the player not too interesting and for journalists probably not too interesting, but in some moments even these kind of things make the difference why one player is playing and the other not.”
Southampton were also surprised to hear Minamino would be available, having initially inquired about loaning right-back Neco Williams (£3.9m).
But upon hearing of Minamino’s availability, Hasenhüttl reportedly jumped at the chance, knowing Minamino was schooled in the “Red Bull way” which shares a lot of the same philosophies as his Southampton side.
THE RED BULL WAY
Minamino played his best football in Salzburg’s 4-2-2-2 formation, a system Hasenhüttl has replicated at Saint Mary’s.
Southampton’s style of play, which sees their team relentlessly press opposition and implement fast attacking play, also shares elements of Klopp’s Liverpool team, which is why Minamino has been allowed to head to the south coast.
In this system, Minamino was often the focal point of Salzburg’s offence, linking it with their midfield and acting as their main creative force.
Minamino’s control, passing range and dribbling skills were vital in Salzburg’s attack, with players making runs in behind him.
Former manager Jesse Marsch previously explained how his footballing brain was more valuable than his physical abilities:
“When I came [to the club], I knew he was going to be a big part of what we were about. He’s smart, very clever. He’s not pure explosive but he understands football, he understands how to make final plays and tactics.”
As well as making final passes, Minamino’s dribbling skills developed as a number 10 in the Salzburg system, which gave him the freedom to drop deep and run at defences.
The Japanese forward was also one of the hardest working members of the squad, pressing right across the frontline and into the channels.
With all of the of the aspects of play shared by RB Salzburg and Southampton, it would appear Minamino should fit in straight away.
His creativity could also provide a much-needed boost to an ailing Southampton attack.
INGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER
Minamino will be joining a Southampton attack in dire need of goals and creativity.
Known for their vibrant attacking play last season with Danny Ings (£8.4m) at the helm, goals have completely dried up for the Saints.
They are the lowest scorers in the Premier League in their last six games, hitting the back of the net only two times.
Injuries to key personnel including Ings haven’t helped, but their lack of goal threat appears to run very deep.
With Southampton’s small squad and current injury crisis, Minamino is likely to see plenty of game-time, whether in midfield or up front.
The Japanese star has clearly had a tough time settling into Premier League football, but there have been flashes of what he can do.
And based on his previous form, he appears to be moving into a system more suited to his style of play.
It may be that Minamino needs to play with a strike partner or in a deeper position, rather than as a centre-forward in a three, as he did at Liverpool.
Southampton are in dire need of a creative body up front and in midfield, so if Minamino can replicate the form he showed at RB Salzburg, he could provide a much-needed boost to Southampton’s season.
His presence in the side could also bring Danny Ings back into the thoughts of Fantasy Premier League managers.
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