Yan Valery taking his opportunity with Southampton


Ralph Hassenhuttl made more than one bold decision in the January transfer window at Southampton. The Austrian took over a squad struggling to score goals and struggling even more to keep them out. But instead of recruiting new personnel to solve the issues, he put faith in some of the players previous managers refused to give opportunities to.

In fact, the new boss went one step further than not recruiting, he trimmed the squad, offloading Manolo Gabbiadini, Cedric Soares and Wesley Hoedt leaving the club in some capacity. Jan Bednarek, Yannik Vestergaard, Oriol Romeu, Micheal Obafemi and Yan Valery have all come become more prominent members of the first team as a result of this winter clear out.

All have impressed, with Bednarek being rewarded with high praise from the Southampton fans across the board for his no nonsense, determined defending style. But it is Valery who in recent weeks has stepped up to the plate. The French-Tunisian youngster scored his first goal for the club at the weekend, a 25-yard thunderbolt against Manchester United in a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford.

While it was this moment that made those outside of Southampton stand up and take notice, Valery has quietly been progressing as a full back under Hassenhuttl, after being given the opportunity to make himself undisputed number one with Cedric’s departure. The faith in Valery is such, he is currently the only recognised right back in the squad.

Settling into his role has not been easy, having struggled against the likes of Josh Murphy against Cardiff City, and getting sent off against Leicester City in a battle with Ben Chilwell. But the 20 year old has shown no signs of hiding, coming back from from those minor setbacks and proven to be a worthy adversary for Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba and Alex Iwobi.

Yan Valery Heatmap – Wyscout

Implemented as a wing back in a 5-3-2 formation, Valery is given the licence to roam forward and provide Southampton with width on the right flank. His ability to carry the ball is something that has grown alongside his confidence.

As he eased his way into the Premier League, the simple option was often taken, trying to prevent any mistakes that may be caused by nerves or inexperience. But in recent weeks, as shown against United, Valery has shown a taste for flair, an ability to dance through challenges with fancy footwork to drive into the box and test the goalkeeper or provide a teammate with an opportunity.

The final ball is not always of the highest quality, but Valery is not yet the finished article. On average, only 17.4% of his attempted crosses meet it’s target, although Southampton have struggled with goalscorers in recent years, therefore the blame for a poor conversion cannot lay solely on the shoulders of Valery himself.

Going forward, he has proved a useful outlet for Southampton, using his pace and trickery, he has completed 59.5% of his attempted dribbles and won 55% off his duels in attacking areas. As shown against the likes of Manchester United and Luke Shaw, Valery has the capability to battle with some of the best there is to offer.

Defensively, the France born defender has impressed, making an average of 4.23 clearances a game, and 4.54 interceptions. Which lends itself to the way the young defender has adapted his positioning and decision making transferring from an orthodox fullback at youth level when being thrust into a wing back role in the Premier League.

At the weekend Valery proved his worth when compared with his opposite number Ashley Young. Despite being moulded into the role at United, Young is a vastly experienced winger-cum-full-back and has performed admirably in that full back role in recent years, at one of the biggest clubs in the world. But statistically, Valery proved that putting faith in those less experienced can sometimes prove fruitful.

Young lost the ball 16 times up against Ryan Bertrand, whilst Valery, who had to pit his wits against Paul Pogba, only lost the ball 10 times. Key to that stat is that six of those losses by Young were in his own half, compared to two from Valery. Which lends itself to show the composure shown by the Southampton youngster compared to the more experienced player, despite being up against a higher quality of opponent.

Hassenhuttl has shown an immense amount of faith in Valery. Being the first choice fullback at a Premier League club is a huge responsibility for any 20 year old. Whilst most managers in charge of a club fighting at the wrong end of the table (Southampton currently sit in 17th place) the Austrian has dipped into the famed academy, and offered an opportunity to a hungry youngster to get the club out of the mess they find themselves in.

Manchester United marked Valery’s 15th Premier League appearance this season, against the same opponents he made his debut, which was Mark Hughes’ final game in charge of Southampton.

There is a lot more to come from the young full back, as there is Southampton as a club. But Hassenhuttl has shown the fans and his bosses that he is capable of utilising the tools he has, improving and coaching players to steer the club clear of danger. For young, hungry and talented individuals like Valery, that is an exciting prospect.



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