Xenia Sports – London
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl would be open to seeing Theo Walcott make his return to St Mary’s a permanent one.
The 31-year-old forward is on a season-long loan from Everton, having rejoined the club he left for Arsenal as a raw teenager in 2006.
Walcott was on target against the Gunners in Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium.
Hasenhuttl has been impressed by both the attitude and performances of the former England international, who is enjoying life back on the south coast.
“I am very happy that he is comfortable here now and that he is happy to play for us and there is no reason why we should not think about keeping him longer here,” the Southampton manager said.
“It is always the same with older players that we must see how fit they are and see how much they can run, how professional they are.
“When you take these parameters for him then on every parameter he is on very nearly the highest level.
“He is very fit, he likes to run and he is very big benefit for the team.
“Let us first go through the season, let’s give him the chance to play and the chance to show up, the chance to play consistently at this level.
“But there is no reason why we should not keep him here longer with us.”
Hasenhuttl feels a reborn Walcott can add something just as valuable to the squad as bringing in a younger talent.
“Maybe we must also have a little bit of change of thinking, that we also have some big jewels around there, that are still able to run a lot, are still able to hunt, they are still hungry to be successful,” the Austrian said.
“Although they have won a lot in their career, they are open-minded for new things.
“If he wouldn’t play now all the time, he would also be positive for the team and this is also important that you don’t have somebody who makes it about politics all the time.
“When you find such a player, you don’t do anything wrong if you bring him in and to help you.”
Southampton host Manchester City on Saturday looking to build on an impressive start which has put them in third place.
Hasenhuttl intends to make the most of seeing the Saints in such an unexpected but fully deserved lofty position.
“You enjoy it when you look at the table and don’t have to scroll down all the time, it pops up and you see yourself,” he said.
“It is definitely nicer to see and it is a little bit less pressure.
“Over the last years you have to always scroll down to the bottom of the table, so I prefer this one.”