Southampton supporters have been pretty downbeat in recent times after seeing their team bow out of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night.
Mark Hughes’ men went into their last-16 clash with fellow Premier League side Leicester City off the back of yet another defeat in the league, going down 3-2 to basement club Fulham at the weekend to slip into the division’s bottom three. And their Carabao Cup distraction didn’t do them much good either as they went out 6-5 on penalties to Claude Puel’s side, leaving the Saints having to lick their wounds ahead of their encounter with Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday.
As such, there have been many disappointed Saints fans up and down the country in recent times, although one positive for the South Coast outfit has been the emergence of midfielder Stuart Armstrong, who Hughes lured to St Mary’s from Celtic for just £7.16 million (as per Transfermarkt) during the summer.
And after two goals against Claudio Ranieri’s Cottagers at the weekend, alongside improved performances in some of his other starts, the Scotland international has all the hallmarks of a Southampton lynchpin.
Ultimately, there was much excitement and anticipation when Armstrong made the move south of the border during the close season, what with the 26-year-old having shone at Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic between 2015 and 2018, helping the Bhoys win back-to-back domestic trebles.
And with 17 goals in the 2016/17 season, the campaign in which Rodgers’ men went the whole domestic season unbeaten, it was clear that Armstrong had an abundance of ability in that midfield area, only to make a sluggish start to life with Hughes’ Southampton.
The 26-year-old, capped 11 times by Scotland in the last two years, started their opening weekend draw with Burnley but then had to wait until the start of this month for his next Premier League start – this all despite the Saints going through a testing run in winning just once so far this season.
Yet Armstrong did return to the side in their 1-1 draw with Watford back on November 10, looking at home in the more advanced role in the midfield, before producing the goods with a fine display at Craven Cottage at the weekend.
Yes, he may have ended up on the losing side, but Armstrong was certainly the stand-out performer with both goals for the visitors, the second of which a stunning strike and exactly the sort of inspiration a team near the bottom struggling for goals needed – it almost paved the way for three points.
Thus, it appears that Armstrong is beginning to get to grips with life in English football, and if his most recent displays are anything to go by, Hughes has not only pulled off a genius addition, but also one that is well on his way to becoming a Saints lynchpin.
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