Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was both surprised and delighted with Theo Walcott’s performance when playing centrally in Friday’s victory over Newcastle.
An early strike by Che Adams plus Stuart Armstrong’s goal eight minutes for time saw Saints move to the top.
It is the first time they have graced the Premier League summit, with the boss suggesting “anything is possible“.
The London-born ace usually operates in a wider berth but coped well with moving infield. Hasenhuttl was full of praise for the man who returned to St Mary’s after leaving his boyhood club in 2006.
“The idea was to play him a little bit more in the red zone, like Danny did in the last game,” said the Austrian. “With Moussa (Djenepo) and Stuey (Armstrong) also in the red zone, we had Theo always reachable for Prowsey (James Ward-Prowse).
“This was a good decision I think because then he could speed up the game there on dropping back five and create a lot of chances.”
Strike partnership has boss buzzing
Ings may well be out of action for a month – a huge blow giving his start to the campaign. The England hitman had bagged four goals from five top-flight outings, backing up the 22 he scored in 2019-2020.
He was injured in the 4-3 win over Aston Villa having scored the fourth goal at Villa Park. Walcott may well be given the nod to continue up front with Adams as Hasenhuttl has confidence in the duo.
“I like the way they worked together,” he added. “Also against the ball is massive the work they have to do there.”
Walcott has made no secret of how happy he is to be back on the south coast. That has not been lost on his manager.
It is a season-long loan move that may become permanent. Hasenhuttl has been impressed with what the England man brings to the party – not just on the pitch.
“The good thing from Theo is he can really run – I think it means something for him to play for his old club and this is what he shows,” he continued.
“I am very happy. I can say surprised that he learned so quickly what we are doing here. This is the good thing for me. It seems that he’s a tactically experienced guy.”
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