Graziano Pelle has become the latest striker to tread the dangerous, highly scrutinised path from Eredivisie to the Premier League, and Southampton fans are understandably wary of what £9 million has bought them.
Flop stories reign aplenty in this region, with Afonso Alves perhaps the most famous of the lot. Costing Middlesbrough about £12 million in January 2008, he did little to help Gareth Southgate's cause—aside from a lone hat-trick during a final-day 8-1 thrashing of Manchester City. Middlesbrough were relegated the following year and Alves moved to the Middle East for a £5 million loss.
Bas Dost, once a killer in the box with Heerenveen, struggled mightily with Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga and has discussed several exit strategies and loan options in the past few years.
Such a poor record has made the footballing world wary of Eredivisie hitmen: Are they truly excellent, or is the typically low standard of defending allowing them to shine?
But with Pelle, Saints hope they've found the exception to the rule. Ronald Koeman knows his game inside-out and he knows a player or two. It'd be a massive surprise if he got his wires crossed on a player he'd personally presided over scoring 50-plus goals in two seasons.
You watch Pelle and you can see he's different than Alves, Dost and Altidore. He's a polished target man, playing in his prime, and he's not your typical fox-in-the-box poacher.
Feyenoord were a varied, well-balanced team last season, and Pelle was their focal point. His clever positioning and movement enabled Jean-Paul Boetius to find space to impact, Lex Immers to shine off the right and even Ruben Schaken to impress.
His use of the chest to link play is eerily similar to Rickie Lambert, and in many ways the two compare very closely. Both could be described as a poor man's Fernando Llorente and that's not an insult—much in the same way that describing Charles Aranguiz as a poor man's Arturo Vidal is a stylistic compliment.
Pelle heads well, finishes instinctively, drags markers around superbly and is capable of the odd flick or trick to spring a runner into space. With Dusan Tadic providing ammunition and Jay Rodriguez (eventually) running in behind off him, it's an ideal goalscoring trio.
He was asked to do very little in terms of pressing in the defensive phase, with the 4-3-3 formation tilting into a more 4-4-2-esque shape to allow Schaken to press from the right. When Koeman later switched to the 3-5-2, Pelle played very well with whichever partner he was given.
Koeman will mould his Saints team around Pelle and make allowances for him in any system or shape he plays. He'll be involved in everything—a true focal point—and, at the very worst, enable others around him to shine.
The nomadic Italian, now 29 years of age, is in his prime yet still hungry to improve. Dani Osvaldo, take notes.
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