Southampton are starting to hit their stride in the EFL Championship. Unbeaten in 7 games, manager Russell Martin has finally found his starting 11, and players have settled into their roles. The Saints have jumped up the table into a playoff spot, and while early, fans are starting to dream of promotion again.
While the team has been progressing and looking better week after week, striker Ché Adams has gone the opposite way. His goals (3 in the first 4 games, none since), assists (last one September 23rd), and playing time have all gone down of late.
Adams is a bit of a polarizing figure on the South Coast. He has had a topsy-turvy career since joining Saints from Birmingham for 15 million pounds. Critics will point out that he never cracked 10 Premier League goals in a season and is an inconsistent finisher (who could forget his horror moment against Wolves).
Southampton has to make a decision on Ché Adams now
Regardless, all will agree Adams has not lived up to expectations so far this season. While 3 goals and 2 assists is an okay return through 14 games, in his last full season in the Championship the Scottish international scored 22 goals, Southampton need more from their striker. More worryingly, he often looks disconnected from teammates, and isolated up front.
For a striker whose arguable best skill is link-up play, Ché Adams looking isolated is worrying. But the issue may be tactical. While the progression from defending third to attacking third is equitable, the Saints’ ball progression in the final third is very heavily weighted towards the wings.
Aside from Stuart Armstrong, Southampton’s central midfielders (Will Smallbone, Flynn Downes, Shea Charles) rarely make forward runs, and even more rarely make forward runs through the center of the pitch.
But that is exactly Ché’s strength! Adams is at his best when receiving the ball on the half-turn and having runners run off him (if you would please turn your attention to Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C). It’s no coincidence two of these three clips feature Danny Ings, who has made a career making those incisive runs that Che loves to find. Sidenote — rewatching these clips was great: Juan Larios can really drive with the ball! Joe Aribo scored a Saints goal?