Mark Hughes has looked to address Southampton’s goal-scoring troubles by bringing in Danny Ings, and the arrival of the 26-year-old could have ramifications for the Saints’ other strikers.
Shane Long, in particular, faces a difficult task of getting into the Southampton starting XI.
However, Hughes is adamant he wants to keep the Republic of Ireland international at the club.
Speaking ahead of Southampton’s clash against Everton at Goodison Park, Hughes said (via RTE): “They’re [Long and Steven very much part of what we’re going to do this year and I just said to them: ‘At the end of the year, you’ll look back on the season and you’ll find that you’ve played many, many games so bear with me’.”
With Ings now at St. Mary’s, though, it is hard to see why Hughes still values £6.3m-rated (via Transfermarkt) Long so highly.
The fitness of Ings, alongside Charlie Austin, may concern the former Stoke City boss.
But, worst case scenario, Hughes can always call upon Manolo Gabbiadini, who although has had his own troubles in front of goal, is still a much better option up front than Long.
The 31-year-old has only managed to hit the back of the net five times in his last 62 Premier League appearances for the club and, other than being able to run in behind defenders, does not offer much else.
Long has also been used out wide during his time at St. Mary’s and, given that Southampton do not have a tonne of options in the first-team for those positions, there is some logic in keeping the former Hull City man around.
Hughes, however, could always give someone like Josh Sims a more prominent role in the squad rather than just holding on to Long to use for cover on the wing.
Nevertheless, whether it is up front or out wide, Long is no longer of the required standard to be starting games at Southampton.