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?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk