Southampton midfielder and academy graduate Will Smallbone has confirmed his return to training via social media.
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl said last week that the 21-year-old was ready to return to training and Smallbone himself has now posted pictures of himself taking part in drills with his teammates once again.
His 2020/21 season was cruelly cut short when he picked up an ACL injury back in January’s 2-0 loss at Leicester – he had looked to be getting back on track after a previous hamstring problem up until that point.
It remains to be seen how long it will take for Smallbone to regain the match sharpness he needs to play again but it is good to see him back given that he could give Saints a real boost in their recently trialled 4-1-4-1 system.
Smallbone and Armstrong are needed for Southampton’s 4-1-4-1 to be effective
Ralph Hasenhuttl chose to line his team up in a 4-1-4-1 formation for their Premier League clash with West Ham last Saturday and it worked quite well. The setup was solid defensively but Saints did not create too much until the latter stages of the game.
The central-midfield three was of most interest. Oriol Romeu was the sitting player in front of the defence whilst James Ward-Prowse and Mohamed Elyounoussi operated in front of him and tried to push forward to join the attack.
Elyounoussi has not played in that sort of role much before and is perhaps more suited to playing as a winger or number 10, but it was clear that Hasenhuttl wanted his guile coming from central areas.
The Norwegian was not able to have a huge impact on proceedings but both Stuart Armstrong and Will Smallbone could be candidates for that position when they return to match fitness.
Having played most of their games in centrally and having creative abilities from those areas, both could be the perfect fit when Saints try a system away from their normal 4-2-2-2.