This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…

Starting his first Premier League game of the season, Michael Obafemi was undeniably the surprise inclusion in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s line-up to face Arsenal on Saturday afternoon. The 19-year-old has been on the fringes of the first-team squad, so getting the nod to start up front at the Emirates was some show of faith from his manager. And boy did he deliver.

The teenager may not have gotten on the score-sheet, but he made life for the Arsenal defence a living hell. The Republic of Ireland international buzzed around at the top of the pitch, spinning in behind the opposition back-line and harassing them into mistakes. In one instance in the first-half, one simple ball over the top was chased down by Obafemi, and the 19-year-old nipped in ahead of Sokratis, only for the Greek to get back to spare his blushes.

It was the kind of high-intensity pressing that worked well alongside main man Danny Ings. The latter has scored six times in the Premier League this campaign, which is just under half the total goals his entire side have netted (13). It all means the Saints could desperately do with a strike partner who can take the load off his shoulders. And in Obafemi, they have someone who has the desire to work hard for the team, and act as the perfect foil for their star goal-scorer.

As per Sofascore, the 5 foot 7 man had a 93% pass accuracy against the Gunners at the weekend, ensuring safe possession of the ball and rarely losing it. His two key passes were actually the joint second-highest in the entire Southampton team, and it showed he could link up the play well too. So whilst Hasenhuttl may more high-profile options like Sofiane Boufal on his bench, the Austrian must simply keep faith in the man who vindicated his decision to start him.


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Vijievan Jeevathayalan