Striker ‘a priority’ for Saints boss, can’t confirm Walcott interest

Date published: Friday 5th January 2018 12:09

Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino says recruiting a new striker is a priority as he prepares to spend some of Virgil van Dijk’s hefty transfer fee.

Saints pocketed a reported £75million when Holland defender Van Dijk completed his move to Liverpool on January 1.

Confirmation of the transfer came during the south coast club’s dramatic slide down the Premier League table, with a nine-game winless streak leaving them just outside the relegation zone on goal difference.

Goal-shy Saints also lost top-scorer Charlie Austin to injury in that time and, with fellow strikers Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long each struggling to hit the back of the net, Pellegrino wants to add extra firepower to a team which has struck just 21 times in 22 league games.

When asked which part of his squad he wished to strengthen, the Argentinian coach replied: “I think right now in our offensive because we have Charlie for a couple of months out.

“Somebody that can replace him, especially with similar qualities.

“It’s our priority.

“We’ve got a couple of targets, four, five, six targets and we’ve got confidence that someone else can come and it will be great for us.”

Out-of-favour Arsenal forward Theo Walcott is one player rumoured to be interesting Southampton.

Walcott left Saints for the Gunners 12 years ago but his career has stalled this season and he has failed to make a league start.

Pellegrino, whose team travel to Championship Fulham in the FA Cup third round on Saturday, was coy on the speculation, despite his admiration of the England international.

“There are many players that we’ve got interest in but I can’t say anything. Obviously Walcott is an excellent player but I can’t confirm this,” Pellegrino added.

“We are looking for players that can improve the level of the squad, can help us to be stronger.

“I think that we are on the market ready to try to bring somebody that wants to come, but I know that will be difficult because in January it’s not easy to bring players.

“But the market is huge and I think we have some opportunities.”

While many Premier League managers opt to make wholesale selection changes in domestic cup competitions, Pellegrino has confirmed he will be fielding a full strength XI in west London.

The under-pressure coach received the backing of his chairman Ralph Krueger this week but defeat to lower-league opposition could increase the number of restless fans at St Mary’s.

And Pellegrino is keen to return to winning ways for the first time since late November.

“Now we’ve got another opportunity and we will use this game as a reference to try to move one step forward,” he said.

“We want to show that we want to improve.

“I will try to choose my best 11 to try to win this game.”

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