Southampton have been dealt another injury blow with the news that young midfielder Will Smallbone has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury.
The 20-year-old made his third Premier League appearance of the 2020/21 season at Leicester on Saturday but landed awkwardly on his knee part way through the second-half and was subsequently brought off after 61 minutes.
Now he will undergo a lengthy recovery process for an injury that will unfortunately set him back in his development after some bright displays for the first-team.
Speaking to the media, Ralph Hasenhuttl said:
"“We have another big injury with Will Smallbone. It’s the worst for him and for us, an ACL injury, so half a year out, maybe.“It’s horrible for the young lad and for us. In the moment with injuries it is definitely not our best run, but there are some circumstances in this strange season that leads to a lot of problems with a topic that we didn’t have for the whole of last season.”"
Before picking up this injury, Smallbone had put in a great performance and did not look out of place despite playing a senior game for the first time in nearly four months.
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He was clever and economical on the ball whilst playing in one of Saints’ two number 10 roles – a position that allows him to link play closely with the strikers and receive the ball in good areas from the central-midfielders.
Saints are probably still trying to work out the best position for Smallbone long-term given that he is also capable of playing as a central-midfielder himself. However, flexibility in terms of playing position is good at this stage of his development.
Right now though, the long road of recovery starts for the academy graduate and Ralph Hasenhuttl has suggested it could take around six months to come back from his ACL injury.
The timing of an injury at any time is bad for a player but this one is a major blow for Saints and Smallbone at this stage.
He would have provided a valuable option for selection in the 10 games Saints could play between now and the end of February but instead joins a growing injury list.
Recovery from matches and from injuries has been affected by Covid-19 restrictions this season and this appears to be part of the problem when it comes to this current injury crisis.