Armstrong admits to “poor” start to Southampton season


Stuart Armstrong says he has begun the 2019/20 Premier League campaign in disappointing fashion but has vowed to improve.

Scotland international Armstrong signed a four-year contract with Southampton in June 2018, ending his three-year stint at Scottish giants Celtic, and upon his arrival said he wanted to “hit the ground running” at the club.

The 27-year-old generally received praise for his performances during his debut campaign on the south coast, making 29 Premier League appearances and scoring three goals to help his new employers avoid relegation to the Championship.

Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, the first person from his country to manage in England’s top flight, has been working hard to trim down his squad since taking charge in December 2018.

Matt Targett, Sam Gallagher, Charlie Austin, Jordy Clasie and Steven Davis all permanently left St Mary’s this summer, while Mario Lemina, Jack Rose, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Jake Hesketh, Josh Sims, Fraser Forster, Wesley Hoedt, Harrison Reed and Guido Carrillo departed on loan.

Armstrong made the cut to remain with the first-team squad but he has only amassed 47 minutes of league action this season, having come on as a substitute against Liverpool, Brighton and in Saturday’s 1-1 home draw against Manchester United.

The Scottish midfielder is yet to produce his best during the current campaign and he himself has acknowledged this, insisting he will be working hard to improve after a below-par start.

“Pretty poor. I wasn’t involved in the first game of the season then came back in and played parts in the next three,” he was quoted as saying by The Courier. “It had been difficult because in the summer I came away here [with Scotland] and got injured so I missed a bit of the pre-season at Southampton.

“It is always difficult not being involved but the best thing to do is try to work even harder and put the effort in during training and show that you want to be part of the team. I would like to think I have done that so far and I will keep on doing that.”

Armstrong is currently with Scotland’s national side after being called up by Steve Clarke for the crucial Euro 2020 qualifiers against Russia and Belgium, who top Group I after winning all four of their games.

Failure to pick up any points from these matches would leave the Scots with a lot of work to do to finish in the top two automatic qualifying spots for the major event, which will be held in 12 cities in 12 European countries from June 12 to July 12, 2020.