Graziano Pelle had an excellent spell in his two years at the St. Mary’s Stadium, but following his big money move to China, Southampton fans are left with the question of who will replace the big striker’s position under Claude Puel?
Upon Pelle’s arrival at Southampton, the Italian scored 23 goals in 68 matches for the Saints and was quite an influential figure at the club. Other players will now need to step up in order to cover the goals that will leave St Mary’s alongside Pelle, and Shane Long seems like the best option to lead the attack in the upcoming season.
Southampton remain with talent in the striking department with the likes of Shane Long and Charlie Austin still at the club, and at this moment it appears that these two men will be competing head-to-head for the lone striker position.
That being said, Long may still feature even if it is Austin who ‘gets the nod’ from Puel, due to his ability to also play on the wings or as a false nine. Puel’s tactical advocacy is naturally different from Koeman’s, but with Pelle and also Mane out of the equation (following a big-money move to Liverpool), he currently has little choice but to rely on Long and Austin.
Austin had a rough time last season as he was plagued by injuries, reducing his playing time to just seven games. He’ll be eager to hit the ground running this time around and revive the form he enjoyed while at former club QPR.
Other, more unreliable options include the unfortunate Jay Rodriguez, who after missing nearly two seasons due to a ligament rupture and ankle injury, will understandably face questions as to whether he still can perform at the highest level.
The more likely, and common modern-day solution will be for Claude Puel to invest in the market in a search of a new forward. Southampton have a decent amount of cash to spend thanks to the sales of Mane and Pelle, so the arrival of a decent new forward in the coming weeks is also an option.
The club are reportedly interested in Italian striker Simone Zaza, and the Juventus forward should be available for £25 million. The former Sassuolo man didn’t have the best of times at the Serie A club last year; he bagged a minuscule five goals in 19 appearances, 14 of which were as a substitute.
Now, with the arrival of Gonzalo Higuain, and with Mandzukic and Dybala well ahead of him in the pecking order, Juventus are willing to let him go, but only for the right price due to the fact that Zaza still has four years remaining on his contract.
Southampton are yet to make an official bid for the striker, and so for now with the season fast approaching, Puel may have to work hard with what he already has.