Charlie Austin & Southampton: Debut and goal

That’s what Charlie Austin does.

Paddy MacNair has caught some flak for losing Austin in the build-up to the winning goal at Old Trafford on Saturday, but really he just joined a long, long list of defenders who have been made to look equally foolish.

Perhaps one of the reasons why Austin took so long to emerge in the professional game is because his biggest virtue - his ability to just appear unmarked in the box - is a relatively difficult ability to price. It’s not like being exceptionally quick or having a thunderous shot, rather it’s the sort of thing which takes a long time to notice.

As has been suggested on this site before, Austin has his limitations. He isn’t particularly great outside the box and he doesn’t stitch offensive phases together as well as a lot of other Premier League forwards, but he will always have value because of the way he moves in short spaces. His anticipation is very good and he seems to judge the flight and passage of the ball better than most others.

He’s an opportunistic finisher rather than a complete forward, but that kind of player still has a place in the game.

Saturday was the perfect introduction to his new fans, because it’s a sequence which characterised him perfectly as a player. He rarely looks like a threat during games and he does suffer long periods of anonymity during matches, but invariably he finds himself in the right place at the right time - and the regularity with which he did that last season, while playing for an under-talented side, was difficult to ignore.

He has a ceiling and, as mentioned previously, this is probably it. But £4m for a player who has his set of abilities is ridiculously good value. Southampton had an advantage and their south-coast location meant that they were best-placed to tempt him out of his promise to stay at Queens Park Rangers, but they’ve still pulled off an enviable coup.

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