There was an interesting statistic flying around after Saints' victory over Sheffield United on Sunday, courtesy of BBC Sport:
Stuart Armstrong is one of three players to have scored four or more Premier League goals from outside the box in 2020. The other two are Southampton players - Danny Ings with five and James Ward-Prowse with four."
With confidence sweeping through a squad that has now won sixteen of 30 Premier League fixtures in 2020, its maybe no surprise to see Saints players shooting as regularly as they can.
Even Oriol Romeu, a defensive linchpin by trade, was seen attempting a 25-yard, left-footed effort in the 3-0 win over the Blades. Suffice to say, while Romeu's enthusiasm was great to witness, the shot predictably ended up in the Northam Stand!
Still, if you don't buy a ticket then you can't win the raffle!
So does Ralph Hasenhüttl now encourage his side to take aim at goal whenever they can, or is it down to his players to weigh up the odds before unleashing from distance?
Speaking ahead of tomorrow's game at Arsenal, the Austrian explained to Total Saints that he will always be supportive of his side trying their luck from range, particularly against more defensive teams.
"I think, when the opponents are sitting a little bit deeper, and the back five or back four is dropping very quick, then you don’t need to go in behind because then you have a good chance around the box also to score, and you see there is often deflected shots. I think Stuey [Armstrong], I remember a goal against Leicester away last season. It was also a deflected shot with the left-foot." said Hasenhüttl.
"When you don’t shoot then you can’t score a goal – so you have too. I don’t like to shoot when you don’t have any chance to score but very often it’s a half-chance, I mean, you have a half-chance to score, and you shoot on the goal and it’s a little bit deflected, it’s tough for every goalkeeper."
Hasenhüttl added, "Yes, maybe its not a coincidence that we score more from outside the box than any other team and we have with Prowsey definitely one of the best free-kicks in the league, or maybe in the world. We don’t have that many free-kicks for this quality he has, to be honest, we don’t have enough fouls around the box. But we’re also not looking for this moment, because we don’t want to go down. We want to score from the game and we have good chances also in the last game to do it."
It's a far cry from just a few seasons ago when, with morale much lower at Saints, players would often get themselves into a positive shooting position, only to pass responsibility to a teammate as quickly as they could.
These days its the polar opposite, with efforts coming in from left, right and centre!
Interestingly, Saints are only 13th in the 2020/21 Premier League standings for 'Shots' - at time of writing - with 134 (1st. Liverpool with 186).
However, Hasenhüttl's side are joint-third highest scorers with 24 - and have also now chalked up two or more goals in seven consecutive Premier League matches at St. Mary's.
With the manager's obvious backing, and a wave of optimism running through the team, Saints fans look set to cheer a lot more long-distance strikes before the season is over.
Article by Ben Stanfield
(Photo by Matt Watson, Southampton FC)