The PickOurTeam player ratings are interesting to look at, and have Morgan Schneiderlin rated as the best Southampton player this season. That's something that is hard to argue with.
Schneiderlin has become a pivotal part of Saints team, turning in a number of impressive performances that have even lead to praise from pundit phenomenon Gary Neville, and we all know Neville is never wrong. Schneiderlin's a classy player and important for Saints and without the ball. His range of passing is excellent and he's got the ability to dictate games if given time on the ball.
Without possession he's just as important, with an unbelievable work-rate and tough tackling he can shut down the opposition midfield. He showed this against Arsenal recently, when he kept media darling Jack Wilshere quieter than a nun's love-nest.
Schneiderlin has made more interceptions this than anyone else in any of Europe's top five leagues, while he's made more tackles than any other Premier League player. His average distance covered over ninety minutes is also the highest in the Premier League. Meanwhile within the Saints squad he's made the most accurate forward passes and committed the most fouls, earning more bookings than anyone else in the process. These statistics back up some of the praise I lavished on him, including his terrific work rate, much-improved defensive skills and expansive range of passing.
When he first arrived Schneiderlin was pretty on the eye, with his passing ability evident, but he was too lightweight in defence. A run of injuries and a poor team around him certainly didn't help as Saints were relegated in his first season. In League One though he really started to find his feet, improving his defensive capacity and ensuring he could operate with less time on the ball.
He was crucial to our back-to-back promotions and formed a brilliant partnership with Jack Cork towards the end of last season. The two complement each other well, both being prepared to but in the hard yards, and Cork's discipline allows Schneiderlin to venture further up the pitch where his passing can be even more decisive. It's no coincidence that he's doubled his Southampton goal tally this season. Under Mauricio Pochettino he's been asked to press higher up the pitch, something he does well, and as a result has more opportunities to join the attacks.
Schneiderlin £1m Bargain
Schneiderlin arrived at St. Mary's for £1m back in the summer of 2008, when 18. Although it looked like a strange transfer at the time, given our financial troubles, it has proved to be a brilliant buy. Is he the best ever £1m buy? I don't know, but he must be up there, especially when you consider his age. Then again, Rickie Lambert must be up there too.
With Newcastle having a special 'French Day' to celebrate their links with the other side of the channel, it would be brilliant ironic if Saints' Frenchman has big game on Sunday. The way he's played this season, it wouldn't be a surprise.