It seems a long time ago now that Southampton were the laughing stock of the premier league. Les Reed's name was being dragged through the mud by various pundits after agreeing to sell many of the club's prized assets. And while he asked for patience from the fans as the board pieced together a squad with their new found fortune, many in the media were mocking each signing coming through the door.
Pelle, Tadic, Mane and Forster came into the team with gaudy statistics from less fashionable European divisions and there remained doubts over whether these numbers would translate to the premier league.
Shane Long however was a well known entity. A player with virtues, a man adored by all the clubs he's played for, but his hard work and endeavour were not something that show up on a traditional stat sheet.
Statistics like "He has never scored more than 8 goals in a season" or "He's a goal every four games striker" were spoken in mocking terms. Comparisons to Dirk Kuyt are not what you want for your new twelve million pound forward. Kuyt, lest we forget, was a Dutch international who's inability to find the net whilst working hard saw him invent the new position labelled the "backward".
Fast forward to the present and even if Long were to get a hat trick on the final day of the season he would still only match his record of 8 goals in a premier league season. The doubters haven't exactly been proven wrong, but the Irishman finds himself universally loved by another set of fans and the Hull hierarchy must be questioning whether they should have sold him.
Long is brilliant at aspects of football often labelled the intangibles. Is there a statistic that can quantify his value to the team? Well, yes, if there wasn't then his face wouldn't be in the picture at the top of this page. Instead I would have just been talking about the genius of Morgan Schneiderlin in this post that is little more than an update of the saints PGD.
In January I wrote about the player goal difference statistic. Basically it is the team goal difference whilst each player is on the pitch. Here are the updated figures with a game to go:
pgF: Saints goals whilst player was on the pitch, pgA: Opposition goals, pgD: Individual player goal difference, pgR: Individual player goal ratio, mins: minutes played, pg/90: stats rated per 90 minutes.
The numbers are narrowed down to players who have been on the field for more 900 minutes(10 games worth).
Schneiderlin is still the king. He has cemented his position as the league's finest all round midfielder this season. The team concedes a mere 0.66 goals per 90 minutes when he is on the pitch. But Long seems to be Schneiderlin's equivalent when it comes to the other side of the pitch.
When he is playing Southampton average 1.89 goals scored per 90 and a goal difference per 90 of 1.03. The best player in the squad by these metrics.
The numbers reflect what we see on the pitch. Long started each of the routs at St Mary's this season and was a large factor in them. Sure he left the four nil schooling of the geordies at half time and was only on the pitch for four of the eight goals put past the mackems. But in each of these games he was instrumental in spooking the opposition defences.
Poyet laments the time Shane Long ran around sceaming at Vergini, O'Shea et al.
Interestingly the team haven't had a great Total Shot Ratio or Shots On Target Ratio with Long on the pitch. These are stats that normally correlate with a team's chance of winning. But his tenacity, as was evident on Saturday, shits the collective pants of opposing defenses and creates golden opportunities for team mates.
He may struggle for minutes when competing with the returning J.Rod, Tadic and Mane next season. But here is a statistic that shows Long more than deserves his place in the starting line up.