Southampton are likely to offer a new contract to striker Shane Long in the coming weeks. The 33-year-old’s current contract with the Saints expires at the end of the season.
The Republic of Ireland international struggled for form earlier this season improved performances have seen him return to the starting lineup at St Mary’s. Long started and scored in the 3-2 loss to Tottenham Hotspur last time out. He has now started the last six matches for the Saints, scoring two goals and contributing an assist.
Despite not being a regular at Southampton this season, Long still has a part to play under Ralph Hasenhüttl.
Why Southampton Must Offer Shane Long a New Contract
Losing Danny Ings
Danny Ings is in impressive form this season. His 14 goals were crucial towards the Saints charge up the table but his performances raised interest from Manchester United recently.
If Ings leaves the club in the summer then Long and 23-year-old Che Adams will be the only senior strikers at the club.
Hasenhüttl would certainly replace Ings if he departs, but keeping Long would be essential to a transitional period in attack for Southampton. He could return as the first choice striker as it may be too soon for Adams or 19-year-old Michael Obafemi, who have one goal between them, to lead the line.
Long joined the Saints in 2014 from Hull and has remained at the club for the past six years. He made 193 appearances for the club to date.
During his time at the club, Hasenhüttl always backs Long and praises the striker’s attitude and style of play on the pitch.
Seemingly, Long also has an influence on the dressing room as one of the more senior players. He could play an important role in guiding developing the younger attacking players at the club. The likes of Moussa Djenepo, Obafemi and Adams would certainly gain valuable experience with Long still at Southampton.
Long’s goal-scoring has slowed over the past two seasons. Over the past three and a half seasons, he has only scored 14 goals for the Saints, compared to 15 in his first two seasons.
But, his recent goal in the 3-2 loss to Wolves, ghosting into the penalty area unmarked to steer home a well-taken header, proves he can still contribute at the top-level.
The striker also provides the work rate and determination that has been central to Southampton’s recent turnaround in the Premier League. He is a nuisance for opposition defenders and his relentless running frees up space for Ings to poach effectively. This is a big part of Long’s game, but at 33 he is still proving he can work as hard as ever.