Tactical Watch: What "roadrunner" Armstrong will bring


Sam Tighe takes a look at what Adam Armstrong will bring to Southampton’s forward line as Tactical Watch returns for the new Premier League season, in association with

Southampton will attack the 2021/22 Premier League season with a new-look strike-force. This week the club confirmed the signings of Adam Armstrong from Blackburn Rovers and Armando Broja from Chelsea (on loan), bolstering the forward group with both quality and depth.

It’s no surprise that Armstrong’s remarkable 28-goal season in the Championship has been rewarded with a move to the top tier. That gaudy strike rate marks him out as a marquee signing for the club and his instinctive, lively playing style will suit Ralph Hasenhüttl’s tactical template to a tee.

“I think that’s what attracted me towards Southampton – the way they play, they’re on the front foot, the pressing, counter-attacking,” he said on Tuesday. “That’s something that’s my kind of game as well – I’ve scored most of my goals on the counter-attack or from chances being created high up the pitch where I’m taking balls off defenders.

“I spoke to the gaffer and it just seemed perfect.”

At 5ft 8in, Armstrong is no traditional aerial threat – but he is roadrunner-fast and, as he says, loves to play on the shoulder of defences. He naturally drifts onto the defender’s blindside and operates in an area they can’t see, zig-zagging back and forth to create space.

Eleven of his 28 Championship goals last season came in the form of finishing off a swift counter-attack, either running through and finishing 1v1 – something he’s exceptional at – or tapping home from an angle he’d created for himself.

In the penultimate game of last season against Rotherham United, Armstrong dispossessed a defender near halfway, ran through and finished calmly – all in the space of approximately four seconds.

There’s great balance to the 24-year-old’s finishing and great durability to his game, too. He’s ostensibly right-footed but 10 of his goals last season came from his left peg; you can only really tell that he prefers his right because that’s the one he uses to slam penalties home! And from 2019-2021 he played in 86 of a possible 92 games for Blackburn, starting 80 of them; he’s barely ever injured and therefore easy to build and plan around.

While able to drop in and take the ball to feet in deeper positions, it’s clear Armstrong prefers to play his game running into space with the ball played ahead of him. That should suit Southampton’s counter-attacking intent – the quicker the ball moves forward, the more dangerous Armstrong becomes.

At Blackburn he struck up strong relationships with Ben Brereton Díaz and former Saint Sam Gallagher – two strikers in the target man mould that he could work and bounce off. Ché Adams, whose overall game has developed greatly over the last two seasons, can provide the same dynamic at St Mary’s, while the intelligence that underlines Theo Walcott’s game should mesh well with Armstrong’s runs.

The 24-year-old plays fast, plays instinctively and adds a fresh dollop of authority and composure in front of goal. His speed, movement, ball-striking and composure will add a sharper edge to Southampton’s attack, while he can be counted on to run the hard yards Hasenhüttl demands of all.