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Griffin O’Neill writes a detailed scout report about Josh Sims, Southampton’s latest gem.
We all knew it had to happen at some point this season. Every year Southampton produces new and exciting youngsters and that tradition doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon. This year the face of the production line that is Southampton’s academy is Josh Sims. The 19-year-old winger’s man of the match performance vs Everton a few weeks ago appears to have been just the beginning of a bright future.
Born in Yeovil on March 28, 1997, Sims started off his career in Portsmouth’s academy until he was picked up by Southampton for free in 2012. He made his Premier League 2 debut in 2013 against Reading and featured in the rest of the U-21’s games that year. Last season, Sims was one of the star players. He scored four goals and four assists while completing ninety in the majority of games.
So far this year, he has featured for the U-23s nine times and has scored five goals. Because of this scintillating form, Sims earned his senior debut against Everton in November. In this game, he got an assist for the winning goal and was named the man of the match. Because of this performance, Sims was given extended cameos against Crystal Palace and also came off the bench against Arsenal in the EFL Cup. He also started against Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Europa League. Sims was Southampton’s brightest spark for 59 minutes against Sheva in a drab tie that saw the Saints crash out of the Europa League in the group stage. These positive performances, along with the fixture congestion that is a signature of the Premier League, mean that Sims is primed for a breakout season and this could be the beginning of a very promising career in the English top flight.
For England, Sims has featured six times for the U-18s and won the U-17 EUROs in 2014. One thing that helps Sims on the international stage is England’s need for wingers.
Sims is a modern winger. He can be used as a wide man or instructed to cut inside of his covering fullback. He is most effective when cutting in from the left, though. He also likes to drop deep and receive the ball from his defense and then drive forward and either look for a killer ball or beat his man down the line and whip in a cross. For Southampton, Sims is relied on to provide width to a team that usually plays with four central midfielders and no pure wingers, which is very important for a team that relies on Charlie Austin’s physicality and aerial presence as a primary source of offense.
As previously mentioned, Sims is a very fast player who uses his dribbling abilities to beat defenders on a regular basis. His ability to turn his man was Southampton’s most effective and reliable sources of offensive inspiration against Sheva. This technical ability will help progress greatly in the fast-paced and physical climate of the Premier League.
Another thing that is exemplary about Sims is his finishing ability. He is extremely good at placing his shots and not rushing when placed under pressure. This coolness under pressure and on the ball maturity well help his development greatly and is the thing that could catapult him to greatness the fastest.
The biggest thing off the field working in Sims’ favor is the faith that Claude Puel puts in youth. His use of Sam McQueen, Matt Targett, Jake Hesketh, and Harrison Reed so far this year and his impressive record while at Nice show that Puel knows how to use the youth academy to its full advantage. A prime example of this was when Saints icon Matt Le Tissier said,” I thought it was a brilliant debut, I was really impressed with him. Had Ronald Koeman still been at the club he probably wouldn’t have had that chance, because Ronald wasn’t overly keen on getting the youngsters involved. But current manager Claude Puel obviously liked what he saw, and it’s great for other youngsters knowing this manager will give you a chance.”
Sims’ greatest strength is his ‘weak’ foot. This two-footed prowess was exemplified in a game against Aston Villa in the 2014/15 U-21 season. He cut in from the left, onto his “weaker” right foot and unleashed a fantastic curler into the far top corner that would make Arjen Robben proud. Coincidentally, this goal game only a few weeks before Sims signed his first professional contract with Southampton. This dual footed ability is also very helpful to his development because it means that he won’t end up being easily defended onto his weak foot and that he is able to play a multitude of different roles and positions for the betterment of the team.
While he does appear to be a complete player, Sims does have some glaring weaknesses. He isn’t the most inclined to track back and help out his full back marking. This tracking back is crucial because of the attacking nature of Southampton’s fullbacks Ryan Bertrand and Cedric.
While Sims may possess a lot of raw pace and power, he isn’t the most physically complete player. At only 5’5, and 148 lbs, Sims can be easily bossed around by bigger and more physical defenders. While this lack of height can work in his favor when trying to draw fouls or when attempting to dribble past defenders, it also poses obvious problems attacking and defending during dead ball situations.
Another thing that could hinder Sims’ development is Claude Puel’s favored 4-1-2-1-2 midfield formation. The widest players in this system are Nathan Redmond (A winger converted to striker) and James Ward-Prowse (who plays inside on the right). Sims’ favored winger position has no place, and it doesn’t seem likely that Puel will change his entire system for a 19-year-old. If Sims can adapt to play in a Dusan Tadic type of role in attacking midfield, he should be able to cement his place in Claude Puel’s first team plans for many years to come.
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