The Barclays Premier League returns to action tomorrow
The Barclays Premier League returns to action tomorrow after the two-week international hiatus, much to the delight of players and fans across the country.
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One man in particular, Southamptons French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, will be itching to get back onto the field to prove to the international selectors that he is worth a place at the World Cup in Brazil.
Twenty-three year-old Schneiderlin has been an integral part to the seasons surprise packages rise to fourth place in the Premier League table as part of a defensive unit that have conceded just twice in seven games.
Its an excellent return for the Frenchman who must surely be on the radar for French Manager Didier Deschamps after also winning both the Fans Player of the Year and Players Player of the Year titles at Southamptons end of season awards last May.
Since arriving at St. Marys in 2008 for a modest 1.2m (recent rumours over an Arsenal bid estimate his current worth at around 10m) the creative Frenchman has experienced a long education process through the ranks at the now infamous Southampton FC Academy.
He left his first club, RC Strasbourg, with just five appearances under his name to move to the south coast citing first team football and the clubs excellent record at developing youngsters for joining the Saints over their bitter rivals Portsmouth.
He said: This is a very good club and one where I know I'll get the chance to play. There we're other clubs interested in me but I know Southampton have a good record in bringing through youngsters.
Here you do not have to wait until a certain age in order to play. If you are good enough then you will play and that is important to me.
However, things didn't turn out the way the former French Under-18 Captain had originally envisaged as relegation from the Championship in his maiden season was coupled with criticism from the terraces directed at the Frenchmans lightweight and unimposing style to mark a miserable start to life in England.
Fortuitously for both the club and Schneiderlin, the combination of owner Markus Liebherr and Manager Nigel Adkins reversed the respective fortunes and brought back confidence and ambition to the flailing south coast club.
Former physio Adkins achieved back-to-back promotions at St. Marys to take the club from the depths of League One to the bright lights of the Premiership, in the process making a mockery of Chairman Nicola Corteses five-year plan to reach the top tier by completing the task in just three years.
Under Adkins, Schneiderlin became an ever-present, making 42 appearances during the promotion from the Championship and providing a key role in midfield to both break-up play and set-up attacks.
His energetic and combative style of play was a far stretch from the weak and unfit player who began his Southampton career: Fitness is something I have worked on a lot. When I was in League One I could not finish a game without blowing or after 60 minutes feeling tired on the pitch.
When I was 18 I thought if I ate pizza and a lot of takeaways at nights it wouldn't affect you but it did. Now I eat only healthy French food.
It has helped me score goals as well. Before I could not make those forward runs because I was not fit enough to get back in position.
Schneiderlins five goals in the 2012-13 season helped Southampton comfortably survive their first campaign back in the Premier League but it was not his strikes that caught the attention of the press.
The midfielder was named FourFourTwos Central Midfielder of the Year thanks to a trio of impressive statistics. The Frenchman was top of the charts for both the most interceptions (139) and most tackles (146) made in the Premier League, while his 84% pass completion rate was exceptional for a player who attempted nearly 2,000 passes only eight players attempted more.
It was no surprise therefore that he also swept the accolades at the Southampton FC end of season awards by winning both the Fans Player and Players Player of the Year gongs. Incredibly he won the fans choice with 68.6% of the vote, miles ahead of second-placed Rickie Lambert on 11.6% despite the England centre-forwards 15 Premier League goals.
So what does the 23-year-old have to do to break into the French national side?
Having progressed through the French youth ranks, picking up 31 caps from under-16 to under-21 level, his international career has stalled short of a first cap for the senior side.
As a former under-18 captain you'd expect Schneiderlin to be a hot prospect for making the cut, but his progress has been blocked by the emergence of defensive midfield rivals Blaise Matuidi, Moussa Sissoko and Paul Pogba.
Despite the obstacles in his path, Schneiderlin remains confidently optimistic of making a breakthrough.
He said: My ambition, personally, is to get in the French squad, so that's why I'm working hard on everything, but that's the way it is.
Everyone wants to be in the national team, it's not just me. Its part of the game, but it will come one day.
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Posted in Sports Post Date 01/12/2017