Victor Wanyama should not start against West Brom

It’s business as usual this weekend as Premier League football returns after the recent international break. Southampton head to The Hawthorns to take on a West Brom side sat 15th in the table with one win, one draw and two losses from their opening four games.

Returning from international duty with Kenya this week is Victor Wanyama, who missed Southampton’s first league win of the season against Norwich. His boss, Ronald Koeman, declared his midfielder was “not mentally or physically ready” to play, having been unsettled by Tottenham during the transfer window.

During Southampton’s pre match press conference on Friday, Koeman told reporters that he “spoke to Victor yesterday and he’s back with real focus for the team, and if he is back like that he is part of the team,”, whilst adding it was “possible” Wanyama will start at West Brom on Saturday.

That’s certainly good news for Southampton fans because Wanyama is a fantastic player. However the real question is: should he be starting the match against West Brom?

I don’t think so. Here’s why:

Don’t change a winning team

Consistency is a key factor in helping players generate momentum and maintaining/improving performance.

As I discussed after Southampton’s win over the Canaries, James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu were excellent in their defensive roles. Whilst West Brom will provide a tougher test than Norwich, the pair must be given the chance to show they can perform against better opposition too.

I fully expect Ward-Prowse, Romeu and Davis to retain their starting places against the Baggies with Wanyama on the bench.

Lessons must be learned

There is definitely a lesson to be learnt here. Whilst Wanyama has returned fully focused on his football the impact his transfer unsettling had on the rest of his team mates should not be ignored.

Fortunately the Kenyan’s absence wasn’t felt against Norwich but he did miss the second leg of Southampton’s play-off round second leg at FC Midtjylland with a “stomach infection”.

We’ll never know if Southampton would have qualified if Wanyama had been available for selection, however it’s hard to argue that his absence would have been anything but a negative for the squad at that time.

Therefore the lesson is this: don’t tell the club you wish to leave, miss a few games and then expect things to go back to the way they were. Wanyama must stay committed in training and hope that his hard work, or a drop in performance from one of his teammates, warrants a  place back in the starting eleven.

Setting an example

Imagine how Ward-Prowse or Romeu will feel if either of them is dropped after their excellent performances against Norwich, in order to make space for Wanyama. Players need to know that playing well will extend their game time, just as poor performances will reduce it.

On the flip side, Wanyama – along with any other players who are the subject of future bids – needs to know that becoming unsettled or distracted could result in 3-4 weeks without first team football. That’s damaging to a player and we need every player at Southampton to know it could result in a prolonged spell without football if they conduct themselves inappropriately every time another club shows interest.

A new contract

It’s rumoured that Southampton are in talks with Wanyama over a new 5 year contract. Personally I don’t think he’ll sign it as he’ll be looking to leave the club next summer. With just 2 years left on his current contract it’s more likely that the club will cash in on him at that time.

If I could offer Big Vic any advice it would be to follow the example set by his former teammate Morgan Schneiderlin. Get your head down, play your football and make other clubs – not just your former boss – sit up and take notice.

You may just find yourself at a much bigger club than Tottenham…