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Hasenhuttl Speaks On Why Obafemi Is Out Of The Picture
Wednesday, 18th Nov 2020 11:00

Yesterday we suggested that Gareth Southgate should take a leaf out of Ralph Hasenhuttl's book, by selecting only players those players who have earned their place both on and off the field, today Ralph has emphasised just the sort of leadership that is lacking in the England set up.

In January 2018 a little under 3 years ago Saints fans caught their first glimpse of Michael Obafemi as he came on as an 82nd minute substitute in the home 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur, Mauricio Pellegrino giving him his debut.

In the following season he started to force his way into Mark Hughes first team squad and was the latest to be tipped for stardom from the Saints academy, so much so that in the November after only 3 sub appearances for Saints first team totalling 26 minutes he was given a full cap by Ireland playing 8 minutes of their game in Denmark.

This increased the expectation amongst Saints supporters, after another sub role in a debacle at Fulham he was given his first start in the Premier League in the 2-2 draw against Manchester United, a game which would be the last with Mark Hughes in charge.

Initially it looked like the third permanent manager in his Saints career so far might be good new for him, he missed the first three games after Hughes departure with a minor injury, but was on the bench for the trip to Huddersfield where coming on in the 65th minute he scored his first goal a few minutes later to seal a 3-1 win.

At this point he looked to have a great future and set to be the man who fired Saints to safety, but his fitness levels were not what they should be and he would play only one more game that season, coming on at half time at Arsenal and departing 20 minutes later with an injury.

Rumours were already starting to surface about his lac of application in training as well as his lifestyle leading to him picking up minor injuries easily, although it should be noted that at 18 his body is still developing.

Back in the summer of 2019 Ralph Hasenhuttl rooted out the alleged bad egg in the Saints squad and packed him off on loan for the season and this seemed to show in Obafemi's return to the Saints squad, but he was still only used as a substitute and some 22 months after his debut , his only appearance in the starting line up was that United game almost a year earlier.

But Hasenhuttl had started to see his tough love approach paying off and he was named by the Austrian in the starting XI for the first time for the trip to Arsenal, this would be the start of the Saints revival last season and Obafemi played a full part before coming off on 76 minutes with Saints 2-0 up, sadly as we all know it would be one of our late lapses to hand the Gunners an equaliser in the 6th minute of injury time.

It has to be said that as Saints moved up the table he initially didn't have much impact, substituted off in the next game against Watford before Saints stormed back in the final minutes to win 2-1, an unused sub in the following two games against Norwich & Newcastle and only a fleeting appearance at Aston Villa as Saints won 3-1.

But his time came at Chelsea when he and Che Adams led the line as Ralph Strangely rested Danny Ings, in truth Adams was the key man in this 2-0 win, but it was Obafemi's running that took the plaudits as well as a superbly taken goal.

He was given a new contract earlier this year and thanked the manager for sticking with him through difficult times.

For the rest of last season he was still used mainly off the bench, but he was a vital member of the squad and he added to his goal tally with goals at West Ham & Manchester United after the restart when he scored in injury time to nick a point for Saints.

When the season ended it looked good for Saints going forward they had options, not only Danny Ings, but the born again Che Adams, the experience of Long and then the pace of Michael Obafemi, he had played in 21 of the 38 games Saints played in the Premier League and been on the bench for the rest.

One strange fact I have only just realised is that all of his goals for the club, 4 in the Premier League and 1 in the league cup have come away from home, he is yet to score at St Mary's.

So Saints fans were looking forward to this being the season when Obafemi finally realised his potential, at 20 with Hasenhuttl's training paying off and hopefully no off field distractions, in an attacking Saints side he could be the icing on the cake.

But that has not proved to be the case, out of 8 league & 1 cup game played so far, Obafemi has featured just twice, 6 minutes against Brentford in the EFL Cup & 13 minutes against Burnley in our first win of the season.

Up to the Everton game he had been on the bench for every game though and still looked to be a vital member of the squad, Saints fans did not question why he hadn't got on the field, after all with Ings and Adams in such good form, Djenepo back to fitness, not to mention the arrival of Theo Walcott, it was a battle for a place these days.

So his name not being on the bench for the visit of the Toffee's didn't raise too many eyebrows, until it was realised that both Dan N'Lundulu and Nathan Tella were !

The trip to Villa also saw Obafemi missing and when Saints beat Newcastle to go top of the league for the first time in 32 years, both were on the bench and Obafemi's wasn't.

Now Ralph Hasenhuttl has given an insight into why the young Irishman has been dropped not just from the Saints squad but also the Irish squad, where although he had been a regular member of the set up when fit, he had not added to that solitary cap two years ago.

Asked for the reason behind Obafemi's recent absence from the squad, Hasenhuttl told the Daily Echo:

"Others have been better. It’s so simple as this.

"If you know me as a coach then you know that for me the form is more important than the talent.

"When somebody shows me more in the sessions, then I am always keen to take him and give him a chance. When you see our actual squad, there are seven or eight players when I arrived or during the time I’ve been here, there have been moments where they haven’t been selected for the squad at all.

"This is tough, but they know when they show up, they always have a chance to come back. I think this is the best you can give as a manager - to give everybody a neutral chance to show up and then you are good or bad at that moment and then if you get the chance to play, then you must show up."

Asked for his assessment of Obafemi's development this season, having previously been a part of every first-team matchday squad in 2020 before his recent exile, Hasenhuttl added:

"The problem with Michael was always he would play one good game and then fall back a little bit and was not professional enough to force or keep his position in the team or in the squad.

"This makes it too easy for others to go above him. I think this is what he must learn.

"Once he is in the squad, don’t give it away so easily and try to be aggressive and dangerous in front of the goal.

"I think this is something he misses, but he’s young, he still has to learn a lot and this is kind of mentality but is also kind of quality."

So it seems Ralph has misgivings again about Obafemi's application, hopefully this is not due to some of the rumoured lifestyle issues of 18 months ago, but more to the fact that having just turned 20 he is still learning and progressing and that is something that can be rectified with a little application from the player himself.

But the comparisons can be drawn between the way Ralph Hasenhuttl conducts himself and the actions of Gareth Southgate as his England squad suffers similar issues with younger players and indeed older one in both their behaviour off the pitch and their failure to play to the standards they have previously reached on a regular basis.

Ralph has shown that he will not tolerate a dropping of professionalism either on or off the pitch, that no player is above the rules & standards set down by the manager, if those rules are broken and the standards not met, then the Austrian is prepared to drop that player or in extreme cases let him leave the club.

Sadly Gareth Southgate seems afraid to do that these days, he is afraid to drop the name players as he fears that their clubs will turn against him, he is afraid that the replacements are not as good as those he should really leave out.

But he is finding out the hard way that you can paper over the cracks, but if you don't deal with them the wall will collapse, he now has an England squad full of prima donnas who expect to be picked whatever their form or behaviour, he has 19 & 20 years olds who flout rules and then are given little more than a brief telling off and that will not bode well for the future of the England set up.

The best way to get a squad of 25 year old brats who don't care about anyone or anything other than themselves is to let them get away with it when they are 19 & 20 year old brats and that is what Southgate is doing.

Thankfully that s not the Hasenhuttl way, he knows that things have to be dealt with before they can cause cracks and he is not afraid to let a talented go if it means keeping the unity of the squad intact, he knows that a positive attitude and professionalism is key and if you don't have that they you will not succeed.

The Leagues of Europe are littered with players who were going to be the next big thing. but after initial success they fade and drop down, always moving to a lesser club who buy the hope they can regain that early promise.

The truth is they never can because their attitude prevents them and it is too late to change.

A good example is Adnan Januzaj, a promising Manchester United youngster 7 years ago at 18, since then he failed to capitalise on that promise and spent loan spells away from Old Trafford with no real success and has spent the last three seasons in Spain with Real Sociedad, turning 26 in February he is at a crossroads, his Father has been too prominent in his career and he has not had the guidance a young talent needs.

He has had a career but not to the heights it really should have been, now he is being touted around Europe, I would be very surprised if he ended up at Saints.

Photo: Action Images

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FrankSaint added 12:03 - Nov 18
Ralph's comments mirror those by the manager of the Irish national side, about why Obafemi has been dropped from the full side to the Under 21. Let's hope the tough love works. At the end of the day, in any career, potential is no substitute for impact.

SalisburySaint added 13:44 - Nov 18
he hasn't been on bench for last three games possibly due to suspension after getting sent off in B team game

saintmark1976 added 14:05 - Nov 18
Southgates’s problem is not one of players attitude Nick. It’s simply that the players he picks aren’t good enough. Take a close look at Harry McGuire as an example. £80 million and he’s no better than our often much unfairly maligned Vestergard or Stephens. I recently watched Spain take Germany apart 6-0 and frankly the current England squad is light years away from their quality.

underweststand added 15:17 - Nov 18
Everyone has their opinions on this site during the last 2 seasons it has brought countless comments regarding our CB's - (none less than from Nick himself)..but whatever the position involved- the truth is that it is the manager who is paid to make the decisions - whether we (the fans) like it or not.

As this article is primarily about MIchael Obafemi, it illustrates that for the up-and-coming talents their ultimate aim is to play for the first team. The real issue is not getting into the sqaud, but showing you are good enough to stay there.
I wouldn't be critical of Obafemi in particular, but he is typical of a teenage talent who finds himself suddenly flung into " the man's game " in the Best League in the World, and where momentary judgements or mistakes can cost win/lose the game.

As Ralph pointed out Obafemi varies between one good game, and the next " not so good " and that is proof of whether the player has "arrived"..or is just "a space-filler".
All who have watched MIchael in the past would agree that he has talent, but being "good enough" to earn that last place on the bench is challenging, especially if you are understudying an international with hundreds of clubs games to his credit.

At this stage of his career, Obafemi (and a number of others in the B side) need regular game time, and more recently Dan N'Lundulu is the latest to " show up and be seen".
Perhaps a half-season loan to a Championship / L1 side would give MO the impetus to get back into Ralph's good books.
This type of short term loan does " separate the men from the boys "- (as Josh Sims' current loan out at Doncaster is showing that he is a class above the others - and worthy of a place back in the reckoning at SMS).


sandywelsh added 17:01 - Nov 18
MIchael Obafemi is not good enough for the Premier League at the moment. He needs to out on loan to a lower league club to gain some experience.

davepid added 18:57 - Nov 18
I think we forget how few of the Academy stars established themselves in the premiership straight from the academy. Walcott, Bale, Oxlade Chamberlain all started in lower leagues, and although Shaw and Chambers did with us they both struggled to be their first choice with Man Utd and Aresenal in later seasons ( though injury didn’t help). Obafemi’s future will have many twists and turns on his way to hoped for success to mirror the way Stephens, Valery , JWP jiz - zagged their Premiership careers in the beginning.

SanMarco added 15:43 - Nov 19
This may, ultimately be as much about talent as attitude. The more talented you are the easier it is to impress in training.

I like Ralph's comments - common sense as much as it is 'tough love' I would have said. If you can't handle rejection you shouldn't be a footballer - everyone is dropped at some stage in their career. Not sure about the comparisons to international management. Southgate's selections may or may not be wrong but I don't think application in training really applies in the same way at international level.

PS minor factual quibble - we didn't lead 2-0 at Arsenal last season. We went back ahead 2-1 with JWP's goal after the saved penalty.

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