Southampton have not had a particularly good start to their 2021/22 Premier League campaign, with four draws and three defeats in their opening seven games.
One player who has yet to get his season up and running for the Saints and who Ralph Hasenhuttl should be putting in his starting XI to face Leeds United in their next Premier League match is Stuart Armstrong.
On the chalkboard
Having returned to team training prior to Southampton’s previous Premier League game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge after struggling with a calf muscle issue, we feel that the Scotland international should be in the starting XI to face Marcelo Bielsa’s side next week if he is fit enough to feature for his first match of this season.
Southampton signed Armstrong back in the 2018 summer transfer window from Celtic on a four-year deal for a fee of £7m.
Since then, the 29-year-old – who is currently earning a weekly wage of £50k-per-week according to Spotrac – has made 104 appearances for the Saints across all competitions, in which he has managed to score 14 goals and provide 11 assists.
Last season saw Armstrong, who was once labelled as a “role model” by Hasenhuttl, score four goals and provide five assists in the Premier League, ultimately earning him an overall season rating of 6.82/10, making him Southampton’s sixth-highest rated player according to WhoScored.
Looking ahead to the Leeds clash, we feel that he should definitely be in Hasenhuttl’s starting XI if he’s fit enough to play. He could even provide the team with a suitable replacement for James Ward-Prowse, who was given a red card in the Chelsea game, resulting in him being given a three-match ban.
Only three players contributed to more goals for the Saints last season. One is the suspended club captain and another is Danny Ings, who is no longer at St Mary’s. Therefore, the Austrian manager would certainly be wise to call upon the Scotland international to provide a cutting edge in the final third.
If Armstrong does play a part in the Leeds game and has a positive impact on the team in terms of contributing to a goal, we feel that he could potentially be the player to keep Southampton away from the relegation zone and save their season – if he is trusted to play regularly throughout the rest of the campaign and can match or exceed his 2020/21 goal contributions return.
Nonetheless, whether or not he plays a part against the Whites, we feel that this could still be a great opportunity for Southampton to grab their first league win of the season considering that Marcelo Bielsa’s team have also had a difficult start to their campaign.