Many players would be disheartened to have seemingly cemented a place last season, only to be displaced by a 18 year old, regardless of how prodigiously talented that replacement might be. Yet huge credit is due to Kyle Walker-Peters for the way he has dusted himself down and reinvented himself. Rather than sulk about his predicament, he has made himself essential to the team in a new role at left back.
There has always been a sense amongst Southampton supporters that Walker-Peters is just too good to be left out of the side but early performances where he was shoe horned in at left back were uncomfortable viewing. Although defensively strong, it seemed almost inevitable that when pushing forward, he would always seek to cut back on his right foot. This predictability did not help for a team which needed more width rather than going more narrow.
Not so against Aston Villa; the 24 year old was superb in utilising either foot to give Matt Cash and Leon Bailey a difficult night at St Mary’s. To say Walker-Peters was a strong presence would be doing him a disservice – he was everywhere both defensively and on the overlap, working neatly in tandem with Mohammed Elyounoussi. There was an impressive range of one and two touch passing, a flurry of well aimed crosses and a defensive awareness which was relied upon heavily in the final 30 minutes.
Whilst the Armstrong goal will steal the headlines, the continued development of Walker-Peters over the last 11 games is truly extraordinary. Hasenhuttl too deserves some credit for the way he has handled his young charge following the unexpected way in which Tino Livramento has burst on to the scene.