Emmanuel Mayuka 21 Striker Southampton
2012 has been quite the year for 21 year-old Emmanuel Mayuka; especially when you consider that this time last year he was still establishing himself in the Swiss league with Young Boys. The year began with a tense and dramatic penalty shoot-out victory in the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia and has ended with him playing in the Premier League for Southampton; even if there hasn’t been the greatest amount of actual playing time.
Mayuka is a striker oozing with talent and it’s clear to see why Nigel Adkins looked so pleased with himself when he unveiled the striker as his fifth summer signing in August. Blessed with pace and a strong-athletic build, Mayuka is ideally suited to European football. Comparisons to Didier Drogba are unfortunately a symptom of the Ivorian’s success with Chelsea and Marseille; although Mayuka’s frame is a little misleading in that instance. He is strong, robust and capable of being a handful but he is nowhere near the powerhouse that Drogba was, nor never he will be.
Mayuka has worked hard on bettering his left foot, a real weakness one year ago, and is now a solid triple threat for defenders. He scores with both feet as well as taking to the air. There isn’t a weak side he can be pushed him onto or an obvious game plan carried out by his team-mates that he can’t make work given his ability.
Unfortunately, Emmanuel hasn’t really been given a fair crack at really establishing himself in the Premier League after such a strong end to last season with Young Boys. Coming back from Gabon as the tournament top scorer and with a CAN winner’s medal around his neck, Mayuka was full of confidence in the final few games of what was to be the end of his time with the Swiss team that had signed him from Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Mayuka’s agent wasn’t so much thrilled with the incredible development of his player at the Africa Cup of Nations as he was by the potential to cash in much sooner than he had probably expected. When he joined Young Boys in 2010, he had the shoes of Moscow-bound Seydou Doumbia to fill. The process was supposed to be repeating itself with Mayuka working hard to better himself, much like Doumbia had done, before being sold on at a comfortable profit.
However, few had expected Mayuka’s time at the Berne club to end so soon. In comparison to Seydou when he joined CSKA Moscow, Mayuka is far from a seasoned, complete and confident striker. He remains a young talent in need of prolonged competitive action. Time spent moulding his posterior into the plush seats of the Premier League benches will do him no good.
Unfortunately, Nir Karin was not to be denied. The Israeli agent piggybacked the slightly unexpected AFCoN success of Zambia and released a highlight reel of Mayuka in March this year. As well as featuring the list of his client’s fine achievements already amassed during his career, the video, which is still readily available to watch on YouTube, opens with Karin’s personal contact details. They linger on the screen for just long enough to make it clear his intention. Mayuka’s departure from Young Boys while seemingly no fault of his own left a bitter taste in the mouth of many involved in his recruitment and training.
One has to worry that even though he has potentially got every skill he needs in his arsenal, he has moved just a little too soon. Strikers live and die for confidence. A centre forward snatching at chances and desperate for a goal during his limited time on the pitch isn’t always the best thing. The Zambian front man may have been better served staying where he was for just another year, working on the kinks in his games and growing as a player before making such a big jump up in prestige.
Southampton’s poor start to the season hasn’t helped his chances either. Nigel Adkins has been punished already this season by experienced teams – namely Manchester United and Manchester City – for changing his forward line towards the end of games when trying to hold onto to valuable league points.
Mayuka’s chances have become limited in the face of Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez being constantly deployed to lead the line. His last few substitute appearances have seen him forced out wide into unfamiliar territory. The results have not been good.
Of course, there is little need to panic yet. At 21, he has age on his side and with another African Cup of Nations looming; Mayuka could force himself into the Saints team all the way from South Africa. If Mayuka can produce another strong showing in the tournament for Zambia, he’ll deserve a run in the side; assuming of course that his agent doesn’t cobble together another highlight reel. Mayuka has got all the basics for a striker and with a bit of fine tuning, he’ll score plenty of goals through his career.
“A lightning fast striker who likes a flashy trick and, as he showed the the African Cup of Nations, has a knack for an important goal. Hopefully he'll be given his chance at Southampton, rather than be pigeon-holed as an impact player.” - Simon Furnivall (Lovely Left Foot)
"Left foot, right foot, head - Mayuka's comfortable with all three. A clever player with bags of pace and the ability to find the right gaps but so far his move to Southampton has only served to move him from a tabloid "Next Big Thing" to a Premier League bench warmer. However, with Saints in free fall right now you'd not bet against him getting a run in the first team soon." - Alex Knott (Swiss Football Correspondent)
C Take your time to do the work now and the rise will come