UNITED KINGDOM, March 16 – Southampton are set to welcome back Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama for the visit of Liverpool on Sunday with statistics showing the side are more successful with him in the team.
Both Wanyama and captain Jose Fonte will be available for the game against the Reds at St Mary’s after serving suspensions.
While Fonte’s absence was just for one match, in which Saints battled to a 2-1 win over Stoke, Wanyama has been out far longer.
The combative midfielder picked up his third red card of the season as Saints defeated West Ham on February 6, with the fixture schedule meaning six weeks on the sidelines.
Wanyama missed the wins over Swansea and Stoke, which book-ended defeats to Chelsea and Bournemouth and a draw with Sunderland.
Whether he will get straight back into the side or not remains to be seen after the performances of Oriol Romeu and Jordy Clasie against the Potters.
However, the statistics show Wanyama’s positive influence on the side, with Saints averaging a slightly better points per game ratio with him in the team than without during his near three seasons with the club.
With Wanyama in the side, Saints have averaged 1.52 points per game in the 77 Premier League games he has featured in since his move from Celtic in 2013.
In the 29 he has missed Saints have averaged a shade less at 1.48 points per game.
Regardless of which formation Saints opt for this weekend, they are likely to field two central midfielders to shield the back four.
Various Saints managers have always been keen to play Wanyama against the sides in the upper echelons of the Premier League, with his destructive nature often negating some of the opposition’s attacking talents.
However, after so long out Ronald Koeman will be carefully assessing Wanyama’s fitness and sharpness in training in the coming days.
He will also be debating whether he really wants to disrupt a winning team too much, and take the decision to drop either Romeu or Clasie.
Fonte is also back following the one game ban he picked up for the red card against Sunderland.