Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse’s star is fading

Can james Ward-Prowse make it at St. Mary's? Photo Credit: David Wingham via Wikimedia Commons
Can james Ward-Prowse make it at St. Mary's? Photo Credit: David Wingham via Wikimedia Commons /

Southampton starlet James Ward-Prowse can dazzle you with skill, but he doesn’t do it often enough to justify his playing time

Southampton 21-year-old James Ward-Prowse has previously been one of my favorite young, Premier League players to watch. His skill with the football can take my breath away during open play and especially on set pieces. Sadly, my man-crush on Ward-Prowse is coming to an end. He just doesn’t do enough while he’s out on the pitch to justify manager Ronald Koeman’s continued selection. His star is slowly, but steadily fading.

I really want things to click for Ward-Prowse. He’s exactly the type of player I love to watch. He’s got amazing vision and he is an absolute magician with the ball. The things he’s able to make a football do from a free-kick position amaze me on a regular basis. His type of brilliance is my favorite type to see on the pitch.

Sadly though, I think he’s over his head at Southampton. Koeman continues to select him but I think it’s to the detriment of his team’s aspirations. He just doesn’t do enough while he’s out there for the Saints. He has all the finesse to influence the match, but the Premier League just seems to physically overwhelm the slight attacking midfielder.

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His overall contributions for Southampton on the season have been just as slight as his wispy frame. He’s only managed to notch one assist in seven appearances and that’s not good enough for a player who relies on his high quality end product. His rating for the season is also a very mediocre 6.56. Southampton needs better production from his spot on the pitch.

Defenders of the young Englishmen will point to his age as the reason for his lack of influence for Southampton this year. Yes, I understand that he’s just 21 so it’s not as if he’s a total lost cause.

It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that his body could fill out and allow his skill to shine through when he’s a little older. Candidly though, I just don’t see that happening. He doesn’t appear to have the frame to carry significantly more weight. That means it’s always going to be a challenge for him to win the ball in the midfield from more physical players.

He’s also not likely to become quicker or faster in the coming years. When you’re at Ward-Prowse’s stage of development, your raw athleticism has usually settled somewhere near its peak. Most young players can improve their football skill and mental attributes, but not their athletic measurables.

The trouble for Ward-Prowse is that he probably can’t improve his skill or mental approach to the game very much. They’re both already off the charts. He can expect some modest improvement as he gains experience, but it won’t be anything that’s all that noticeable. He is already exceptional in both categories so expecting significant improvement is pretty far-fetched.

The best thing for Ward-Prowse might be to take his talents to a different football league. The English Premier League is renowned for its physicality and athleticism. That’s simply not the recipe for a league where Ward-Prowse can thrive. He could easily find a move to a quality side in Serie A or Ligue 1 that would allow him more time and space on the ball. A less physical, but still excellent, league abroad could mold him into a domestic star.

Sadly, I don’t see him developing enough at Southampton to ever be confused with a Premier League star. Instead, he will likely continue to tantalize fans with his rare moments of brilliance followed by lengthy periods of anonymity. He will be a player with a hall of fame highlight reel, but a pedestrian career.