Shaw shapes up as the 'new Bale'

Latest talent off the Southampton production line is already interesting tonight's opponents Arsenal

Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain return to Southampton today for the first time since leaving St Mary's for Arsenal, Walcott for £5m in January 2006 and Oxlade-Chamberlain in August 2011 for £12m. They head back as England internationals, and reports suggest that – sooner or later – they will be joined at the Emirates Stadium and in the England squad by a third graduate of the South Coast club's vaunted academy, the left-back Luke Shaw.

Shaw, 17, was singled out by Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, when asked ahead of this evening's match what he thought of the outstanding output of the Southampton youth system, which also includes Gareth Bale of Tottenham and Wales. "It is exceptional what they have done," Wenger said. "Three wingers and Luke Shaw..."

With problems at left-back, where Kieran Gibbs has struggled to stay fit consistently, Wenger is certain to have watched plenty of DVDs of Shaw, as well as had him scouted several times. But the England Under-17 defender has also been linked with Chelsea, where Ashley Cole's future is uncertain. It may seem fanciful to suggest that a player with only 10 Premier League appearances to his name could step into either team, but Shaw shows a maturity way beyond his years.

Nigel Adkins, the Southampton manager, held him out of the team at the beginning of this season as Saints attempted to get to grips with the top flight, but eventually the need for more quality in a shaky defence forced Adkins' hand. The teenager made his first Premier League start against Swansea City on 10 November and his impact was immediate. Southampton conceded only six goals in his first eight matches. In the previous 10, they had let in 28.

Everything suggests that Shaw will follow in the illustrious footsteps down the St Mary's left flank of Bale, to whom he has been compared. Speedy going forward and recovering, a good decision-maker, and a resolute defender, he already looks almost the finished article.

"'Almost' is the word," Les Reed, the Southampton executive director, said. "He is still learning but nothing fazes him and he has stepped up into the Premier League very comfortably. I think a lot of that is to do with the way we bring them up. He has been with us since he was eight, as a lot of our academy players have, and we keep them grounded."

And tell them not to take any notice of transfer rumours? "He doesn't need to be told," Reed said. "The message we give to all of them is that there is a pathway at Southampton, and that is the way the club is run. Although one or two have done it, leaving the club is not necessarily a route to success. Each player has someone a few years older that they can look at and say 'Yes, I can do that.' Adam Lallana is an example to all of them as someone who has made it. And there are others below Luke who will be thinking the same about him."

Playing for Southampton, moreover, has not held Shaw back at England level. "Roy [Hodgson, the England manager] was impressed," Reed said. "Roy has been down several times this season, as has Stuart Pearce [the Under-21 coach]. That is another thing that makes Southampton an attractive place to come to for young players – the people in the England set-up know what we are doing and that is a credit to Matt Crocker, our academy manager, and his staff." Shaw will be out to impress again tonight. But perhaps, Saints fans will hope, not too much.

Kick-off 5.30pm Referee L Probert (Wiltshire) TV Sky Sports 1 (Highlights 10.25pm, BBC1).

Odds: Southampton 4-11 Draw 11-4 Arsenal 7-10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor