Southampton have had a steady start to the new Premier League season, winning two of their seven games so far which sees them sitting in 12th place on eight points.
Fears have been mounting that the goal-shy Saints won’t be able to break the shackles they fund themselves in in-front of goal under Claude Puel but there is a cause for optimism that the wealth of attacking options should gel soon enough and the goals will once again come with regularity at St. Mary’s.
This weekend, Southampton welcome Newcastle down to the south coast and both sides boast stoic defences and rather inefficient attacks, and there isn’t a more fitting example of an inefficient attacker for the Saints than Shane Long. Visit 888sport for the latest odds ahead of Sunday’s fixture.
Long has appeared in seven successive games this season without scoring, extending his goalless run to 25 games for club and country, last finding the net in a 4-0 away win at Sunderland back in mid-February, accounting for just one of his three Premier League goals last season.
Despite his barren run in front of goal, Long is a mainstay in the Republic of Ireland international squad and was called up for their final two 2018 World Cup qualifiers this month.
The 30-year-old striker sustained a hip injury whilst away with Ireland which forced him to miss their dramatic 1-0 away win against Wales which saw them beat the Welsh to a World Cup play-off spot, with the draw taking place next Tuesday.
While the injury is not considered serious, Long is expected to miss Sunday’s game against Newcastle as the Toon Army go in search of their first win at St. Mary’s in 13 years. Long scored and assisted in a 3-1 win against Newcastle in April 2016.
In Long’s absence, Southampton will likely turn to Manolo Gabbiadini to lead the line on Sunday, but the Italy international himself is in a poor run of form, finding the net just once this season, his only goal in his last 16 appearances across all competitions after netting six goals in his first four games for the Saints.
While Southampton will be looking to fend off interest in star defender Virgil van Dijk in January, it’s likely they will use the winter transfer window to try and add firepower to their faltering attack and the Saints are being linked with a move for Paco Alcacer, who has been made available for transfer by Barcelona.