Luke Shaw – the next England left-back or the next Gareth Bale?
A lot has been made of the English talent currently strutting their stuff at high-flying Southampton. From Jay Rodriguez to experienced frontman Rickie Lambert, and Adam Lallana to Callum Chambers – there is somewhat of an English revolution happening at Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Another player part of that English contingent who has established himself as a mainstay of the Saints’ starting XI, is 18-year-old Luke Shaw.
Destined for greatness
Many ex-players and pundits have labelled Shaw as England’s future left-back and it’s no surprise when you look at his statistics and performances from the season so far.
When comparing him to Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs for example, Shaw creates more goalscoring opportunities, has a better crossing accuracy, tackle success rate and wins more aerial duels than his fellow countryman.
His direct running style and tendency to dribble past opponents makes him a formidable player to face. Despite being just 18, Shaw continues to play like an experienced defender and his call-up to the England squad for last month’s friendly with Denmark emphasised how far he’s come since making his senior Southampton debut in 2012.
With 32 league appearances under his belt this campaign, Shaw will be hoping to be included in England’s World Cup squad this summer. He faces stiff competition from the likes of Leighton Baines, the experienced Ashley Cole and the aforementioned Gibbs, but his inclusion is starting to look like a genuine possibility.
It’s a view that’s shared by his team-mates too, and Adam Lallana has gone as far to compare him to former Saints star Gareth Bale, stating, “I knew how well he [Shaw] has been doing, playing with him every week. He’s got such a level head on his shoulders and is so grounded – Gareth’s gone on and never looked back. I know Gareth did play left-back as well. There are similarities there, but I wouldn’t want to put too much pressure on Luke.”
Lallana played with Real Madrid’s £85m star Bale when he was at St Mary’s and also saw Arsenal stars Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain come through the ranks at the south coast side.
Bale, whose goal last week helped Real Madrid win the Copa del Rey, won Football League Young Player of the Year in 2007 following a season as left-back and he scored five goals in 45 appearances in total for the club. Shaw’s frequent dribbles and attacking runs down the left flank are now seeing him draw comparisons with the former Southampton academy graduate and Madrid star.
However, Shaw completely eclipses Bale when looking at the number of appearances he’s made compared to the Welshman at 18-years-old (25 apps to Bale’s 8). It emphasises how much of an impact he’s made in such a short space of time.
During his schoolboy days at Rydens in Walton-on-Thames, Shaw regularly played in an central midfield position as his coach wanted to see him get as much of the ball as possible. This is one of the reasons Shaw’s rampaging runs are the kind you’d expect from a winger rather than a defence-minded left-back. His physical attributes are also a feature of his game which makes him more difficult to play against. Shaw is more well-built and physically mature for his age when comparing him to the lightweight frame of an 18-year-old Bale.
Europe’s elite have been monitoring Shaw’s progress since he first came onto the scene a couple of seasons ago. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are all teams searching for a young, promising left-back – but it is the latter side who remain the favourites to land Shaw’s signature.
Shaw is a boyhood Chelsea fan and has told close friends that he’d one day love to play for Jose Mourinho’s side. With 33-year-old Ashley Cole on his way out of Stamford Bridge, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him come in as direct replacement for one of England’s finest ever left-back’s.
Does Shaw have the defensive discipline to continue his career at left-back or will he utilise his attacking strengths and play further up the pitch?
We’ll find out in the coming seasons and whatever happens you can be sure that the youngster is destined for a very special career.