The Republic of Ireland national side prepare to face Poland this evening for a friendly fixture on the back of a 4-1 thumping against Wales last week.
The beginning of Ireland’s UEFA Nations League campaign served as a firm reminder of how far the national side need to improve if they wish to qualify for the European Championship in 2020.
Martin O’Neil has a huge task on his hands in lifting the morale in the dressing room following their drubbing against Wales, and Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas believes it will be a step too far in the midst of an acrimonious sub-plot concerning a supposed fall out between Roy Keane and Harry Arter.
Indeed, Nicholas has predicted that Poland will run out 2-0 winners and he bemoaned Ireland’s lack of firepower at centre-forward as one of his main justifications for his prediction.
More specifically Nicholas singled out Shane Long for criticism by describing him as a ‘runner up front’ before going on to admit ‘there are no goals in there (in Long)’, as per Sky Sports.
Although his verdict on Southampton’s centre-forward will certainly not fill him with confidence, it’s difficult to argue against Nicholas.
At international level Long (valued at £6.3 million by Transfermarkt) has only managed to muster 17 goals from 81 appearances, whilst his record at Southampton hardly makes for impressive reading with just 27 goals to boast from 156 appearances for the club.
Long has never been prolific at the highest level and his determined attitude has compensated for his shortcomings in front of goal, but with little by way of alternative strikers to chose from O’Neil is left in a difficult situation.
With Long now 31-years-old it’s likely that his willingness to close down defenders will ultimately begin to dwindle and, with no poachers instinct to fall back on, his playing days with both Southampton and the Republic of Ireland are beginning to look numbered.
Southampton fans – thoughts on Long? Let us know below!
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