Now that Celtic midfielder Stuart Armstrong’s move to Southampton has been confirmed, who is the new man and what can Southampton fans expect from their club’s first signing of the summer? We had a look ourselves but also got some insight from people who know the 26-year-old best: Celtic fans!
Who is Stuart Armstrong?
Armstrong is a 26-year-old attack-minded midfielder who was at Celtic for three-and-a-half seasons after signing from Dundee United in January 2015. The Scot also has six caps and a goal for his national side after making his full senior international debut in March 2017, hailed by ex-Scotland and Southampton manager Gordon Strachan as
“the best Scotland debut I have ever seen”.
“Armstrong is at his best playing as a number 10 – an attacking midfielder with a brain, who can assist as well as get you goals”
Being a youth product of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Armstrong made the move to Dundee United in 2009 and made his first-team debut at just 18 years of age. The midfielder was nominated twice for the Scottish Premiership young player of the year award whilst at Dundee and was named in the PFA Scotland team of the year for 2013-14.
At 22, Armstrong made the move to Glasgow as he signed for Celtic, scoring his sole goal in the second half of the 2014/15 season on his Celtic Park debut. The 2015/16 campaign was a more successful campaign for the midfielder as he scored four times and recorded eight assists in 39 appearances across all competitions.
It was the 2016/17 campaign in which Armstrong really came of age though, scoring 17 goals in all competitions which contributed to Celtic’s treble win that season. Along with seven assists, the imminent Southampton signing was named in the Scottish PFA team of the season once again after an outstanding campaign.
“Stuart has only turned 26 and has two years learning under Brendan Rodgers. The manager has totally transformed his game and was a large part of why Celtic went a whole domestic season unbeaten during the 16/17 season. There is no reason why he now can’t kick on and play the best stuff of his career in the next few years”
However, the last season, during which he suffered from a knee injury, could be why his price tag seems low after scoring just five goals in 41 appearances.
“Last season was like a come down for most of the Celtic players after hitting the heights the previous season. It wasn’t just Armstrong who underperformed but it’s easy to see why he did. Playing with niggling injuries and not being able to put a good run of games together meant he was always playing catch up.”
What are his strengths?
Armstrong seems to have good football intelligence which may be what Southampton need given their lasting problem with goal drought. Being able to pick out the right pass that could split defences is exactly what we need, especially with the likely departure of Dusan Tadic, and so hopefully this is something that Armstrong can bring to the table in the Premier League.
“He’s energetic, does not shirk from a tackle and has tremendous fitness levels. He’s got bags of experience and can also play his part in central midfield.”
Southampton’s probable first summer signing also seems to be rather versatile and can be played anywhere in an attacking midfield position which will definitely improve the depth of the squad that’s at Mark Hughes’ disposal.
“Some Celtic fans are not as fussed about losing Stuart as they would have been last season but they forget how instrumental he can be. Turning games and helping to dig the team out of a hole.”
The midfielder also has a good deal of experience from his Celtic days, featuring against Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain last term in the group stage of the Champions League.
“He has been part of Celtic’s last two Champions League campaigns as well as rising to the occasion in the Europa League back when he first signed – scoring against Inter Milan in front of a packed house. The big games don’t seem to phase him. “
What are his weaknesses?
When you look at his recent stats it would be assumed that the Scotsman is rather inconsistent having had a fantastic 2016/17 season and a less impressive 2017/18 season. Hopefully, this isn’t this case as Southampton definitely struggled severely from inconsistency last term which was a large factor which contributed to why they stared relegation in the face for so long.
“It wasn’t just Armstrong who underperformed but it’s easy to see why he did. Playing with niggling injuries and not being able to put a good run of games together meant he was always playing catch up. The midfielder had to go in for surgery in January for a hernia operation which seen him lose more game time and his place in the squad to Tom Rogic. Towards the end of the season when he did come back from surgery he was showing glimpses of himself again.”
Is he worth the price tag?
Sky Sports have reported that the fee of Armstrong’s move to the south coast of England is in the region of £7m so is this a bargain deal for Saints or are they overpaying?
In today’s market, the fee is almost nothing when you consider the inflation on transfer prices. Furthermore, if you consider the fact that Dusan Tadic could be out the door for over double the Scot’s fee (at around £18m as reported by the Telegraph) then the acquisition could be shrewd business from Southampton.
“In today’s Premier League market, £7million for a player like Stuart Armstrong is an absolute bargain. You just have to look at the money James Maddison has gone for to realise how much of a deal Southampton are getting. Both Armstong and Maddison played in the same league during the 16/17 season and Armstrong was miles ahead of the now Leicester player. Of course, Maddison is younger and has improved but Stuart is a player coming into his peak years now and is capable of rising to a very good level. Had Celtic got him pinned down on a longer contract last summer, the club would have asked for at least £10million this summer from any suitors.”
It seems safe to say that Armstrong could be a great coup for Southampton given his age and what he’s already achieved in his career thus far. However, it will be fascinating to see how he fares in the Premier League, especially when you think of how successful Victor Wanyama and Virgil Van Dijk were for Southampton after their moves from the Scottish giants.