Luke Shaw: Manchester United's Next World-Class Left Back
With Luke Shaw emerging as yet another of the growing list of hugely talented Southampton Academy graduates, the speculation over his future at the Saints is already reaching fever pitch. However, with the 17-year old having already agreed to sign a 5-year deal on his 18th birthday his immediate future does seem to be with the Saints, but I will look in this article at why it is he is being linked with the best teams in the division, and will analyse why it is that Manchester United, Chelsea, and Tottenham are all desperate to have the young left back in their side.
Strengths: Shaw is quick, good on the ball and able to beat players at will when going forward. Despite being very young, he already has a keen sense of when to stay back and when to go forward and his pace also allows for him to recover his position quickly and effectively when required. He has the potential to possess the full package at left back, as he is relatively strong and good defensively, whilst being hugely effective going forward. Whereas Gareth Bale was always an attack minded full back during his Southampton days, who was always most comfortable going forward, Shaw has the ability to develop into a top defender too.
Weaknesses: Obviously, at only 17 there is a lot of Shaw’s game that has room for improvement, but that is something that will naturally come with time, and by having the opportunity to play more games at the top level of English football. As previously stated, he has everything already to make him a top player, and is currently performing as well as most left backs in the division. The only areas he could possibly improve upon are his final balls into the box when he gets into attacking areas, and also his defensive positioning when back, as he does tend to drift inside on occasion when the opposition are attacking.
Style of Play: Shaw is a primarily attacking full back who looks to run at the opposition and put them on the back foot whilst also being defensively sound. He is a player who will make up lots of yards on the park, due to his quick pace and ability to recover defensively when forward. He is someone who will look to get into space on the left wing when Saints are attacking in order for him to get on the ball and take the opposition on.
Best Position: Clearly Shaw’s best position is at left back and I firmly believe that will remain the case for the rest of his career. Although, as I mentioned before, Bale started as a left back at Southampton before moving forward at Spurs, Shaw seems to be better defensively than Bale was at his age and is therefore set up for the sort of role that Leighton Baines plays at Everton, or Ashley Cole at Chelsea. I firmly believe that he has the ability to reach the level of these players as well.
Personality: Shaw seems to be a modest young man, who is determined to succeed in the game, and is eager to work hard in order to progress and to get better. He seems level-headed and realises that the best way for him to improve as a player is by playing regular football, and he knows that doing this in the Premier League with Saints is the best thing for him for at least the next couple of years.
As I have noted, I don’t believe Shaw will go anywhere in the summer and strongly feel that he will be an important player for Saints for at least the next 2 years. However, it is important to be realistic and accept that at some point in the future he will be likely to move clubs in order to compete regularly for trophies, both in England, and in Europe. He has had the best education so far in order to prepare him for that, and remains in the best place to allow him to progress in the immediate future though, and he will be an important player for Saints as they look to improve next season.