With just four points on the board from seven Premier League games so far this season and without their first win of the campaign, Southampton and their fans have not had much to shout about in recent weeks.
Their previous league outing saw Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side fall to a 3-1 defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge that also saw club captain James Ward-Prowse pick up a red card resulting in a three-game ban that will commence after the current international break.
Despite their poor start to the season, one shining light that the club can take pleasure in is the fact that midfielder Will Smallbone made his return to the pitch during Saints B’s 4-1 defeat away at Charlton Athletic in the EFL Trophy. He returns after picking up a serious ACL injury away at Leicester City back in January.
Smallbone, who is a product of Southampton’s youth academy, eventually made his senior debut for the club in January 2020 in a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup after working his way through their youth teams.
Since then, the midfielder, who is currently valued at £1.8m according to Transfermarkt, has made 13 appearances for Hasenhuttl’s side across all competitions in which he has managed to score one goal and provide two assists along the way.
Moving forward, with Southampton set to take on Leeds United at St. Mary’s after the international break, we feel that if Smallbone, who is currently earning a weekly wage of £17.3k-per-week according to Spotrac, is fit enough, he could definitely be the right man to come in and play while Ward-Prowse is serving his ban.
Following on from the Leeds game, Southampton then takes on fellow league strugglers Burnley before a Carabao Cup clash once again at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, after which Ward-Prowse will be back with the team.
However, given how long Smallbone was out of action for, we feel that Hasenhuttl will have to be careful with just how many minutes the midfielder plays. The last thing he wants to do is potentially cause any further damage to his injury and keep him out on the sidelines for another period of time.
Either way, with Leeds and Burnley both currently next to Southampton in the league table, we feel that the Saints will undoubtedly be targeting these fixtures as their possible first wins of the season. Having a player like Smallbone cover while Ward-Prowse sits out will definitely aid their cause.