The Imps announced the capture of Southampton forward Dan Nlundulu on a season-long loan this afternoon, but who is the new face at the Bank?
He is a 22-year-old forward who has already played games for the Saints first team. He started his football journey with Chelsea, but swapped Stamford Bridge for St Mary’s when he reached Under 15 level. He made his debut in October against Everton and has since played nine times in the Premier League, although that does total just 157 minutes. His longest appearance came as they lost 2-0 at Leicester in January, as he got 36 minutes. He did play all 90 minutes of their 2-0 win against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup, scoring once, and appeared against Arsenal and Bournemouth in the same competition. He also has a handful of outings for their Under 21 side in the EFL Trophy, with his most notable actions scoring one and creating another as they lost 3-2 to Forest Green Rovers in 2019.
His senior experience might be limited, but it proves Southampton do rate him on some level, and they’re not the only ones. He has been linked with a move to Spanish side Real Betis, due in no small part to his five goals in 10 Premier League 2 matches. Another report suggested he was also coveted by a number of English clubs as he entered the final year of his Saints contract. However, he has now penned a three-year deal at St Mary’s.
The forward has certainly been catching the eye, but what are his core strengths?
— Dan Nlundulu (@nlundulu) January 20, 2021
What type of player is he?
It seems the French-born forward is very much a central striker, 6ft 3 tall but not just a target man, also a player who likes the ball at his feet. All of his football has been played centrally according to Wyscout, so don’t expect him to start playing out on the left or right. He’s not a lightweight kid likely to get knocked off the ball easily though – quite the opposite. Indeed, as recently as October, Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “He’s a type of striker we don’t have in our side so far. He gives us physical options, can keep the ball very well. He’s also learned to work hard in front. This was something our youth have to learn and in the past month we were working a lot with the under-23s and with these teams.”
Having worked closely with Che Adams and Danny Ings he found himself on the fringe of the first team according to the Austrian manager, who added: “He has learned a lot from them and all the coaches because they are really taking care of him. I think everything must aim to the goal that we have more quality and more alternatives for our first team. This is the goal for the future.”
What a way to kick off 2021! pic.twitter.com/phpK6q1OWQ
— Dan Nlundulu (@nlundulu) January 5, 2021
What’s he been playing like in the Premier League 2?
With him having little experience in senior football, it would be unfair to pull Wyscout stats off, and the Premier League 2 matches are not all recorded so it wouldn’t be fair. However, he has been impressing in the ‘B’ team at Southampton. In one game, his side found themselves 3-0 down to Manchester City. Nlundulu was a key driver behind a remarkable comeback, scoring twice, including the all-important fourth goal in the dying stages. That came a while before his climb into the senior setup, and recently his outings for the reserves have been limited thanks to his involvement in the senior side. Notably, he faced off against Manchester City again earlier in the year, when they had a certain Morgan Rogers up top. Rogers scored twice in that game, but Nlundulu hit a hat trick to give his side a 5-2 win.
The Southampton Way 😇
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) October 26, 2020
What does his arrival mean for the Imps?
The big question is this: where does he fit in? It seems he is a number nine, a central striker with a keen eye for goal. I wonder if he might be played as a ten, just behind Tom Hopper, with a tendency to get ahead of him. I thought Brennan worked well in that role, but in truth, we didn’t really have a ten last season. We played much more like a 4-2-3-1, rather than a 4-4-1-1 or even a 4-4-2. Nlundulu appears to be more centrally focused than many of our players, and I expect him to be the player Callum Morton wasn’t able to be, mainly because of injury. He certainly gives us options in attack, and puts pressure on (or takes it off) Tom Hopper. I suppose it depends how you look at it; Tom might not be expected to play every game as he was last season, but he might also find some very stiff competition for the striker’s role.
One thing I will say is this: Dan Nlundulu has come here to play regular first-team football, and I expect him and Lewis Fiorini to be regular starters. I think Chris Maguire will start too, which suddenly makes our attack seem much stronger on paper if both Fiorini and Nlundulu live up to the expectation placed upon them by their parent clubs.