How new signing Stuart Armstrong would fit into the Southampton line-up
Mark Hughes has been busy improving his Southampton squad, already bringing in Stuart Armstrong for £7m and Mohamed Elyounoussi. The Saints had a terrible season, narrowly avoiding relegation. The manager knows his team must improve, or else they might suffer again.
Of course, Southampton suffered a big loss with the departure of Dusan Tadic to Ajax but Armstrong seems more than capable of replacing him.
The 26-year-old Scotland international went through the youth ranks at hometown club Inverness CT, before moving to Dundee United. After 149 matches and 21 goals for them, interest in him grew and eventually Armstrong was sold to Celtic in 2015.
He spent 3 years at Paradise, making 144 appearances and getting involved in 63 goals – he scored 28 and assisted another 35. During his spell with the Bhoys, he won four Scottish Premiership titles, two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League cups.
Armstrong’s natural role is that of an attacking midfielder but he can also play a bit deeper as a central midfielder. So it will be interesting to see how he’ll fit in the Southampton line-up, especially with so many midfield options in the team.
Mark Hughes was experimenting with formations last term and has used four different ones since his arrival in March. He started with a classic 4-4-2 but then decided to try a 3-4-2-1, shifting to a 3-4-3. On the last day of the season, he opted for a 5-4-1 against Manchester City.
Having said that, it remains to be seen what his choice for the upcoming campaign will be. Either way, the only natural attacking midfielder in the team, except Armstrong, is Sofiane Boufal. He didn’t have the best of seasons in 2017/18, losing his starting XI spot for the last 7 matches.
And with Tadic out of the reckoning, it looks like Armstrong can make the No.10 position his. It looks like Hughes himself sees him there too.
“It is important we add a greater goal threat to the team as a whole, and to our midfield specifically, and Stuart’s record of scoring and creating makes him an extremely exciting addition in that area”, said the Welshman when the transfer was confirmed.
If the manager wants Armstrong to drop down deeper, the player will face stiffer competition for a starting spot. Harrison Reed, Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse and Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg are all excellent players and let’s not forget the more defensive-minded Mario Lemina, Oriol Romeu and Jordy Clasie.
However, Armstrong should mainly be used as an attacking midfielder. He’s most dangerous when playing behind the striker and with his arrival, Southampton fans have every right to be excited about the future.