Jay Rodriguez: Why the Striker Needs to Step Up His Game for Southampton

Mike MillerContributor IIIJanuary 16, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Ciaran Clark of Aston Villa holds off a challenge from Jay Rodriguez of Southampton during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park on January 12, 2013 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Jay Rodriguez has been in the headlines a lot the past few days, and not for the right reasons.

Rodriguez drew a penalty kick when he went to the ground without any apparent contact in Southampton's win against Aston Villa on Saturday. Rickie Lambert converted the penalty, which proved to be the only goal in the match.

But Rodriguez's actions against Aston Villa aren't the only disappointing display this season. In fact, most of his performances this season have been on the disappointing side.

According to WhoScored.com, Rodriguez has only received a rating of higher than 6.50 in four of the 10 matches he has played at least 45 minutes in. His overall rating is only 6.26, which ranks 21st on the list of Southampton players.

Certainly more was expected out of Rodriguez when Nigel Adkins went and grabbed him from Burnley for a then club-record £7 million in June. The young Englishman has only produced two goals and one assist in his 18 appearances.

Rodriguez hasn't been the most creative player for Southampton. He only has made five key passes and three successful dribbling runs this season, according to WhoScored.com. The 23-year-old hasn't kept possession of the ball well either.

Rodriguez has turned the ball over 1.5 times per game and is only completing 72.8 percent of his passes. Part of that could be attributed to his constant shifting of positions, as he has played in five different spots this season.

When used as a striker, as Rodriguez was used against Aston Villa with Lambert dropping into more of an attacking midfielder/trequartista role, Rodriguez has been at his best. In his four appearances as a striker, Rodriguez has averaged a 6.72 rating with a goal and an assist.

With Adam Lallana still sidelined with a knee injury and Emmanuel Mayuka off to play in the Africa Cup of Nations, Adkins doesn't have many other attacking options to go to.

Steve De Ridder and Tadanari Lee have yet to start a Premier League game this season. Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse are more defensive options who can't really be counted on to score, and Guly do Prado just hasn't proven he can play at the Premier League level yet.

Since Lallana's injury, the Southampton offense hasn't been as crisp. In the past five Premier League matches, Southampton has only tallied six goals (1.2 per match). That figure is down a bit from the rate it had with Lallana, which was 22 goals in 16 matches (1.38 per match).

Rodriguez will definitely need to pick his game up in the next five matches, as Southampton face a grueling run.

Wednesday is the makeup game from Chelsea's participation in the FIFA Club World Cup. Southampton then host Everton before travelling to Old Trafford to face league leaders Manchester United. A crucial relegation six-pointer against Wigan offers a slight breather before the Saints take on Manchester City at St. Mary's.

Southampton will do well to get five points out of those five matches.

So now is the time for Rodriguez to step up and prove that he was worth the investment Southampton made in him. If he can't, Adkins may be forced to go shopping for a replacement while the January transfer window is still open.