Why Joakim Maehle could sort out Southampton’s right-back crisis

According to Sky Sports, Southampton are set to make a renewed attempt to sign Danish right-back Joakim Maehle, who currently plies his trade with Genk in the Belgian top-flight.

The Saints had made an attempt to sign the 22-year-old former Danish U-21 international back in January 2019 but Genk were not interested in parting ways with their prized asset during their Europa League campaign last season. 

As per the report, Maehle later dubbed Southampton’s interest in his services as ‘a nice proposal from a big club in a big competition’ and the Saints are once again set to try and lure him to the south coast of England during the upcoming mid-season transfer window.

Maehle, who has a contract with Genk until the end of the 2022-23 season, has continued to enhance his reputation as an exciting attacking full-back in Belgium, scoring once and assisting thrice in 24 appearances across all competitions so far this season. 

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Southampton are set to reignite their interest in Joakim Maehle (Getty Images)

A youth exponent of Danish giants Aalborg, Joakim Maehle shot to prominence with his boyhood club in his homeland before completing a move to Genk in the summer of 2017. The Danish starlet has gone from strength to strength ever since, accumulating 5 goals and 17 assists in 105 appearances for the Belgian heavyweights. 

The 22-year-old is yet to make his senior international bow for Denmark but he represented his nation at the UEFA U-21 European Championship in Italy and San Marino earlier in the year prior to the start of the ongoing campaign.

Meanwhile, Southampton currently find themselves locked in a relegation dogfight at the bottom of the table in the Premier League after accumulating only 4 wins in 17 games so far. 

A tally of just 18 goals scored and as many as 36 conceded in 17 games clearly reveals that the Saints have left much to be desired at both ends of the pitch and manager Ralph Hasenhuttl will surely need to find a way to plug some of the gaping holes during the January window in a bid to steer the club to safety in the coming months.

To that end, bringing in defensive reinforcements during the mid-season trading period should be a top priority for the Saints, who have virtually shipped goals for fun in the Premier League so far, and that surely can’t continue if they are to ensure another season of top-flight football. 

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Maehle impressed in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League for Genk this term (Getty Images)

While a new centre-back to replace underperforming stars like Jan Bednarek, Jannik Vestergaard and Jack Stephens continue to be at the top of the club’s agenda, right-back is another department where Southampton will undoubtedly need to make some changes moving forward. 

Cedric Soares, who is out of contract at the end of the season, and youngster Yan Valery haven’t really managed to do enough at both ends of the pitch to warrant a regular starting role under Hasenhuttl and the door is pretty much open for a new right-back to come in and cement his role in the setup.

To put things into perspective, Southampton going back in the market for Joakim Maehle certainly seems to make a lot of sense for a number of reasons. The Saints need long-term stability at right-back and the Dane ticks the box as an upgrade on Valery and a replacement for the underperforming out-of-contract star, Soares.

The 22-year-old comes as a player in the right age bracket who perfectly fits the Saints’ transfer model of bringing in young and talented players under Hasenhuttl, and Maehle still has plenty of time to make adjustments to his game to match the demands of playing in the highly-competitive atmosphere of the Premier League.

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Maehle had previously been linked with a move to Southampton last January (Getty Images)

Verdict

As per whoscored, the Dane managed a pass completion rate of 76.1 in the UEFA Champions League this term, including an impressive 3.3 tackles, 1,3 interceptions, 1.7 clearances, 2.2 dribbles, 0.8 key passes and 1.3 long balls per game, figures which speak volumes of his well-rounded attributes at both ends of the pitch. 

Maehle is only going to get better with time as he nears his prime years as a professional footballer and the time looks right for Southampton to make a move for the highly-rated Danish starlet in January, with the Saints in dire need of some inspiration at the back to help them beat the drop. 

From a tactical point of view, someone like Maehle, who has the versatility to play as a right-back and also as a winger further up the pitch, could be a better fit for Hasenhuttl’s system as compared to an orthodox defender like Soares.

The Austrian has often shown the inclination to switch to a back-three system with two wing-backs operating on either side of the pitch, and it’s easy to see that Maehle could possibly improve the manager’s squad dynamics.

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All in all, Joakim Maehle looks like a player who could offer good value for money in the transfer market and sort out Southampton’s right-back issues for a good part of the next decade. 

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