Remember when Shane Long was considered a bad signing because of his price? I wonder where those people are now...
To be fair, nobody could've expected Long to be as good as he's been, especially this season. He's gone from backup to one of the first names on the sheet before games in two seasons at Southampton. You can attribute his best talent to his work-rate and speed as he is incredibly fast, and is a nightmare for opposing defenses. You can watch the Euro's and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Long is a striker who's not just about goals, but an overall performance. He challenges the opposition when in defense, he runs around in the midfield setting up passes, and has huge runs through the center or either wing in attack. His in-air abilities are actually good too, and although he's not as strong as Pelle, he can just as easily jump up and win balls in the air.
Shane Long isn't perfect, but no Saints player is. Sometimes you're left wondering what he's doing out there with a bad shot, or missing big chances and opportunities. One thing you'll never be able to challenge him on is his work and commitment when out on the pitch. He runs around everywhere, and won't stop until every defender is dead and out of breath.
Long scored 13 goals in 35 matches, and depending on next year's manager, I expect even more from the Irishman. He also averaged the second most goals per 90 minutes, just behind Graziano Pelle. He will be a massive key to success for Southampton as they look for success in the Europa League next season. He is definitely Saints top striker going into next season, ahead of Pelle and Austin.
SMM FINAL GRADE: 9/10
SMM Summary: We are completely in love with Long. His work-rate, newfound finishing ability, and ability to carve up defenses makes him a top striker, and the most valuable asset in attack. Some think it was a fairly close race for player of the year with Virgil Van Dijk, which is very fair considering how well he played, especially in the final 10 games or so. He is a huge asset for next season.
And with that, we are all done with the player reviews. Thank you to everyone who contributed to polls, discussions, and even helping to write these things.