Southampton decided to send Nathan Tella out on loan to Championship outfit Burnley at the start of the season, a decision which has backfired following the south coast club’s struggles and Tella’s flourishing fortunes with the Clarets.

To say that the decision was a mistake is somewhat unfair, given that Tella had only just been starting to grow into his own on English soil. However, having adapted so quickly to high-flying Burnley’s system under Vincent Kompany, it’s hard not to wonder he could have forged the same level of success at Southampton, who are currently embroiled in a relegation battle

Indeed, having clinched promotion to the Premier League in 2011, Southampton have consistently treaded water above the division’s depths, but this season sit at the nadir of the table and boss Ruben Selles faces a burdensome battle in ensuring a detrimental tumble into the second tier does not occur.

And with just 19 goals in the league thus far, the addition of a further offensive weapon would go down a treat for the Saints’ third permanent boss of the campaign in order to stave off the looming danger.

Would Saints be better off with Tella in the squad?

By and large, Southampton’s wide options this season have fallen flat and have not implemented the offensive edge to ensure that Southampton preserve their top-flight status, with just 14 matches of the season to go, Selles’ outfit are five points adrift of safety.

In January, imposing talisman Paul Onuachu and fleet-footed winger Kamaldeen Sulemana were signed to bolster the offensive ranks, but perhaps the best deal that could have been struck comes in the form of Tella, who is indeed thriving at the top of the Championship table.

Burnley, relegated from the Premier League last season, have demonstrated that their stay in the second tier is a mere sojourn from their status among England’s elite, and Kompany deserves all the plaudits for crafting a cohesive and exciting outfit, 12 points clear as table-toppers with just 12 matches to play.

And Tella, hailed as “exceptional” by Sky Sports’ Mark McAdam, has been instrumental, scoring 12 goals and providing three assists from 24 starts in the league, with a further two strikes plundered in the FA Cup.

As per Sofascore, the 23-year-old has averaged 1.4 shots and 0.8 key passes for the Clarets this term, creating four big chances and completing 78% of his passes from his robust and relentless role, and he has played a major part in ensuring his loan side’s form remains so commended, notably scoring a scintillating hat-trick against Preston North End earlier this month.

He would certainly be an improvement on Saints’ Moussa Djenepo, who has recorded an average rating of just 6.62 this league season having offered just one assist as his solitary direct contribution.

Taking only 0.3 shots per game and completing 0.5 key passes, the Malian winger does not match the threat of the clinical nature that Tella brings to the table, and having scored just five goals since his £15m move from Standard Liege in 2019, it appears that Southampton are utilising the wrong man right now.

If the hierarchy do turn to replace the 24-year-old, a tailor-made replacement already sits on the books.

Lauded as “the best player on the pitch” by Owen Hargreaves for a past performance in Southampton colours, Tella is shaping into a slick and dangerous force to maraud up and down the flanks, and while this season with Burnley will be regarded positively by the powers that be at St. Mary’s, his inclusion within the beleaguered ranks at Southampton could have proved the difference in the definitive moments that might define their season, and confirm their divisional status next year.


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