It’s a hectic period for Southampton Football Club and it seems by the end of the week, they’ll have made at least four signings in the summer transfer window already.
Jannik Vestergaard, along with Marlon Santos, looks likely to join Stuart Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi as the club’s new incomings, and Angus Gunn is the latest player to have arrived at St Mary’s.
Saints are willing to offload Fraser Forster this summer and with Alex McCarthy now tied down on a four-year deal, the club have gone in search of a high-quality goalkeeper to challenge the club’s number one and have arrived at Gunn.
So, with the 22-year-old having joined in a deal worth an initial £10m from Manchester City, let’s take a look at just what Saints are getting with the signing of Angus Gunn!
Gunn was born in Norwich and progressed through the Norwich City academy at a young age. In doing so, he looked set to follow in his father’s, Bryan Gunn, footsteps, with the Scotsman having made 390 appearances between 1986 and 1998 for the Canaries.
The promising shot-stopper impressed at youth level for Norwich and it wasn’t long before Premier League interest came about, as Manchester City completed the signing of the youngster in 2011.
Gunn quickly established himself as one of City’s brightest young talents and after impressing in his first two years in Manchester, he was rewarded with his first ever professional footballing contract.
International recognition from England’s youth setup continued to grow as Gunn developed at Manchester City and he was a part of the U17 squad that travelled to Slovakia for the European Championships, where he made two appearances.
Gunn began to enjoy involvement with City’s Under-21 squad and then proceeded to feature in the club’s Under-19 side as they competed in the well-regarded UEFA Youth League.
In March 2015, Gunn made his debut for the England Under-21 side after being called up by Gareth Southgate. The goalkeeper played in his country’s 1-0 win over the USA Under-23 side, handing him his first taste of U21 football with the national team.
By the end of the 2015/16 campaign, Gunn had established himself as City Under-21’s number one goalkeeper and had cemented his place in the England Under-21 squad. Gunn was a part of the squad that won the Toulon Tournament in 2016, accompanied by current Saints players Matt Targett, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond.
The summer of 2016 was one of change at the Etihad Stadium and Manuel Pellegrini was replaced as City’s first-team boss by Pep Guardiola. After considering loan proposals from Championship clubs, the Spaniard opted to take Gunn with the City squad for their pre-season tour of America ahead of the 2016/17 season.
Gunn featured fairly regularly in the friendlies, playing out a half against Borussia Dortmund and a half against Bayern Munich, and even saved three penalties in a shootout against the former during the friendly match. This convinced Guardiola to keep Gunn at arm’s length for the time being, and he was even named on the bench in some of City’s Premier League and Champions League games throughout the season, despite him having never made a senior appearance.
As last season, came around, though, it became apparent that Gunn would not get the opportunity to impress for City. The club signed Ederson Moraes from Benfica for big money, and this led Guardiola to let Gunn leave on loan. He returned back to his hometown club Norwich City and enjoyed a fine season on an individual basis.
Gunn started every single game in the Championship for Norwich last season and instantly became a key figure in Daniel Farke’s plans at the club. He became the undisputed first-choice goalkeeper and his influence was clear for all to see.
Despite Norwich enduring a difficult campaign, Gunn kept 15 clean sheets. Although the Canaries’ structure was largely defensively-minded, the 22-year-old’s impact at Carrow Road was exemplified by the fact that he made a total of 139 saves in the Championship – the second highest amount in the league.
Gunn contributed with some standout displays in the cup competitions for Norwich, also, as he turned in two notably impressive performances in the club’s away fixtures at Arsenal and Chelsea.
His displays in the first half of the season actually earned him a call-up to the England senior squad. Jack Butland pulled out through injury and Gareth Southgate opted to hand Gunn the chance to train with the national team ahead of their friendly against Brazil in November 2017. Gunn was selected for this training period instead of several seasoned pros, including Southampton’s own Fraser Forster.
Gunn’s superb season at Norwich has led him to now and it seems after five years on the books at Manchester City, a new chapter with Southampton awaits.
A primary strength of Gunn’s is his ability to make reflex saves at close range. He is a physically imposing goalkeeper, standing at 6’5″, but gets down quickly to make stops, often from efforts stemming from crosses into the box.
Gunn likes to put his big frame to good use by covering the width of the goal when attempting saves from close-range and has shown that he has a certain expertise with regards to this, exemplified particularly his excellent stop against Bristol City for Norwich last season.
The 22-year-old is very much a modern-day goalkeeper, too, and is a talented player with the ball at his feet. He prefers to play short passes, perhaps to do with the previous management from the likes of Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola, and has been previously lauded for his technical ability by Norwich boss Daniel Farke, along with much-loved England manager Gareth Southgate.
Gunn’s handling from long-range efforts is generally good and, at Norwich last season, very few goals were conceded as a consequence of an error from him, but from defensive mishaps.
His ability to command his area is also a trait which has been commended by many. Gunn has proven on several occasions that he can exert an aura of confidence to his defenders given his tendency to claim the ball from crosses and looped balls into the area with relative ease.
The England U21 international has a good experience of playing behind a deep block system, with Farke often favouring a setup consisting of five defenders last season, indicating that he is an adept goalkeeper in backs-to-the-wall scenarios.
Gunn is well-rounded, confident and is a goalkeeper with a big future ahead of him.
There are few noticeable weaknesses in Gunn’s game, but a natural yet infrequent deficiency last season was that of hesitance in terms of decision-making from time to time.
It was Gunn’s first ever senior footballing campaign and although he was generally impressive between the sticks for Norwich, his inexperience occasionally prevailed. He sometimes over-committed when rushing on to one-on-one situations against opposition forwards.
Gunn also, at times, struggled to react quickly enough to shots low down to his posts for Norwich. However, on the whole, his shot-stopping from close range and at distance was impressive.
There were few issues in Gunn’s season at Norwich, and the minor worries can be ironed out simply by good coaching and the acquisition of continuous experience at the top level.
Where does he fit in?
Gunn is likely to come in and initially take up the role of second choice goalkeeper behind Alex McCarthy.
The promising Englishman is set to take the place of Fraser Forster and offer genuine competition to McCarthy in the years to come, as Gunn looks to continue his rapid development into a top quality goalkeeper.
Gunn is at the perfect age to take the next step in his career; at 22-years-old, he is already a capable Premier League goalkeeper but also has his best years ahead of him. This will work well as Southampton look to continue their previous trend of helping younger players to develop and grow at the club.
With Saints allegedly forking out a fee of £10m for Gunn, with the deal also potentially rising to £13.5m, it would be assumed that there is a plan in place for the goalkeeper to eventually establish himself as the club’s number one. For now, though, it seems only logical that McCarthy continues.
Gunn is certainly likely to play out all of Saints’ cup fixtures but is surely set to oversee a somewhat uninvolved role if McCarthy continues his magnificent form from the end of last season.
Value for money?
Given Gunn’s undeniable potential and quality at the age of just 22, it comes as something of a surprise to see Manchester City so willing to sell at an initial fee of £10m.
It’s been reported that the club have inserted a buy-back clause in the deal for Gunn, but irrespective of this, it feels as though Southampton are getting one of the country’s brightest prospects for a rather cheap sum.
Although it seems rather unusual that Southampton are spending a considerable sum of £10m on a backup goalkeeper, it seems the club have recognised Gunn’s potential and have identified him as a player who could prove to be crucial for them in the coming years.
Gunn is perhaps too good a goalkeeper to be spending a season on the bench, but with McCarthy unlikely to be dislodged, it seems like a statement of intent from Saints as they continue to bolster key areas of the squad with a balance of potential and current ability.
Generally speaking, this transfer appears to be a coup for Southampton. The £10m spent on Gunn is unlikely to prove to be value for money in the short-term but if he can fulfil his potential at St Mary’s, the price will be more than repaid in performances as the seasons go by.