Chelsea have found themselves heavily linked to Luke Shaw of late, as have many of England's other top clubs. Southampton don't want to sell, however, and have reportedly turned down offers from both Chelsea and Manchester United already this January. With both Patrice Evra and Ashley Cole's contracts set to expire in six months, the next several days will almost certainly feature more rumors about Shaw. With that in mind, we decided the timing was right to take a closer look at the player.
So what makes Shaw a player Chelsea and other top clubs covet? That one is easy enough to discern, as Shaw is young, English, and very talented. The left back turned 18 last summer, and has been a regular starter for Southampton for the bulk of the past year. His performances have generally been impressive, especially when you consider the player's young age.
Shaw stands 6'1" tall, and has excellent strength, stamina, and pace. He plays the game with considerably more polish than you'd usually expect from a teenager, especially when his side are not in possession.
In defense, Shaw isn't overly aggressive most of the time. Rather than attempting tackles or interceptions which could result in a good chance for the opponent, Shaw tends to simply play things safe and capitalize when the opposition makes an error. He doesn't commit too many fouls, and doesn't get beaten often.
Where most young players tend to be caught out by taking too many risks, Shaw has worked himself into the conversation for the World Cup squad because he's avoided taking them. This has been a big reason that the Southampton defense has conceded less shots than 18 other Premier League clubs.
Going forward, Shaw tends to be far more aggressive. He doesn't force himself forward into attack, but tends to pick his spots. When he does get forward though, he's generally very direct.
Shaw isn't one to simply recycle possession, he generally looks to drive by defenders and put balls into dangerous areas. He doesn't shoot all that often, and his aggressive passing hasn't led to the creation of too many chances. Where the defensive side of Shaw's game is beautiful in its simplicity, his decision making going forward reminds us that he's just 18.
There is considerable upside offensively, despite the player being relatively inefficient in attack at the moment. Shaw is good with the ball at his feet, and has all the physical tools to force defenses to pay attention to him. The hope is that with experience, he'll learn to identify more dangerous areas for the ball to be delivered. This will also likely create a few more shooting opportunities, as at the moment, his crossing is inefficient enough that defenders don't have to focus on taking it away.
The 18-year old would seem an ideal target for a Jose Mourinho system... physical, hard working, solid and conservative in defense, while direct and aggressive in attack. It's not hard to see why Chelsea would make a massive bid for Shaw, despite having a few decent internal replacements for Ashley Cole already.
The £25-30 million being bandied about may seem steep, but the player is the sort of target that could easily prove worth it. At 18, Shaw should have plenty of good years in front of him. He's already been at Soton for long enough to be considered 'homegrown' when he's no longer a U21. He'd be considered 'association trained' by UEFA, a designation that won't change going forward with any club but the Saints.
Whether or not Southampton decide to cash in on Shaw now or in the future, when they do, it's easy to imagine all of the big clubs in England making offers. He's already on of the better left backs in the Premier League, and Chelsea would be foolish not to be involved. What sort of price the club should be willing to pay for the youngster is another matter entirely, but he'll likely continue to be linked to Chelsea until leaves his current club.