Why Southampton should reignite their interest in Joakim Maehle
Back in January, the Daily Mail reported that Southampton were interested in signing right-back Joakim Maehle from Belgian heavyweights Genk. The Saints were apparently impressed with his rise in Belgium but nothing really came to fruition, as the club opted against firming up their interest in the youngster.
The 22-year-old was lined up as a potential replacement for Cedric Soares back in January last season following the Portuguese international’s departure on loan to Inter Milan.
The Euro 2016 winner didn’t seem to be in Ralph Hasnehuttl’s plans moving forward, with the Austrian more keen to rely on the young and exciting academy starlet Yan Valery, but Soares has been reinstated in the first-team for this term after Inter Milan opted against signing him up permanently at the end of the previous campaign.
Valery was expected to continue as the first-choice at right wing-back in the manager’s preferred back-three system but Hasenhuttl’s frequent switch to a more orthodox back-four has allowed Soares to enjoy considerable involvement early in the season.
Soares has been given the nod ahead of Valery in the last few games, including the League Cup tie against Portsmouth, with Hasenhuttl even deploying him in a wing-back role despite his obvious lack of pace and agility.
Unsurprisingly, that hasn’t really worked out as far as the Saints are concerned and with Valery also struggling for form early in the campaign, the lack of proper personnel at right-wing back has become a nagging issue at St.Mary’s, so much so that Hasenhuttl has been forced to use a creative midfielder like James Ward-Prowse in an unfamiliar role.
Despite splashing the cash on attacking duo Moussa Djenepo and Che Adams in the summer, Southampton have failed to make a big impact in the early stages of the Premier League, not for the first time in recent years.
The Saints currently sit 14th in the standings with just two wins from their first seven games and they need an upturn of form soon enough to keep themselves away from the relegation zone.
Hasenhuttl’s appointment has been a breath of fresh air at St. Mary’s, with the former RB Leipzig boss putting in a lot of effort to bring youngsters from the academy through to the first-team.
Michael Obafemi and Yan Valery have been the beneficiaries of such an approach while Southampton have also invested in quality youngsters like Adams and Djenepo to provide the manager more young talent to work with.
To that end, Southampton reigniting their interest in Joakim Maehle would make perfect sense as the Dane’s arrival could potentially solve a nagging issue in a key area of the pitch for Hasenhuttl.
The 22-year-old’s recent displays in the UEFA Champions League this term have caught the eye and Maehle has impressed with his wonderful all-round game, putting in a solid display at the back to help Genk earn a crucial point away at Napoli on Matchday 2.
Maehle registered 4 tackles, 4 interceptions, 2 clearances and 3 dribbles in the game against Napoli, while the 22-year-old also delivered as many as 4 key passes in Genk’s opening day defeat to RB Salzburg.
Those numbers speak volumes of his well-rounded offensive and defensive attributes as a modern-day full-back and given that he has also proven his ability to play as a wing-back, one does get the feeling that the Danish youth international could turn out to be an upgrade on both Soares and Valery.
Maehle has earned rave reviews for his performances in the Belgian top-flight following his move to Genk from Danish club Aalborg back in 2017.
The 22-year-old, who starred for Denmark at the U-21 European Championship earlier in the summer, has already made a total of 91 appearances for his current club across all competitions, accumulating 4 goals and 15 assists in the process and his performances in the Champions League suggest that he is capable of making an impact at the highest level.
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The Dane recently signed a contract with Genk until the summer of 2023 and while Southampton will need to pay over the odds if they choose to reignite their interest, Joakim Maehle’s arrival would certainly solve some major headaches for Ralph Hasenhuttl.
With that in mind, they should go all out for his services in January or next summer.