SAINTS midfielder Stuart Armstrong admitted it was “an unusual season with a lot of changes at the club” when he lost at St James’ Park.
However, the Scottish international defended manager Reuben Selles, even refusing to answer a question about disagreements between the players and the coach on the field.
During Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Newcastle United, Celles was a living figure on the pitch, his nervous energy spilling onto the pitch.
There were several visible instances of players turning to listen to the Spaniard’s screeching instructions before gesturing as if to mean “we know” or even “calm down”.
However, when asked, Armstrong, who scored the first goal thanks to an assist from Camaldin Sulemana in his second Premier League goal of the season, lost.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say that,” he replied after a moment’s silence. “It’s hard.
“A few years ago we did really well with those stats in the first 45-60 minutes, but in the last third we couldn’t match it and lost points, so that’s definitely the case today.”
“Reuben has a tough job ahead of him, it’s been an unusual season with a lot of changes at the club,” added Armstrong.
“But going back to the weekend, the first 45 minutes were really good and we were trying to get through, but Newcastle are a high level team chasing football in the Champions League and we missed at a very important moment of the season.”
Armstrong was one of three players brought in approximately 70 minutes later, with the Saints still at 1–1 in the game.
Der Scot, Camaldin and Llanco were replaced by Adam Armstrong, Moi Elyounoussi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Not a touch on Armstrong in open play, a mistake by Maitland Niles that led to a goal, and 10 minutes later the Saints were two goals behind and close to their fourth loss to the Magpies of the season.
However, Armstrong defends the change, saying: “Obviously the team needed new energy and that momentum to get ahead once we got the ball.
“We had a few cases, but not enough. Throughout the game, the team, including me, could handle the ball better and control it better. If you have the ball, they can’t score.”
There’s usually no shame in losing to Newcastle, who went from relegation contenders to nine points clear of the top four in two seasons under manager Eddie Howe.
However, the Saints didn’t have the luxury of only beating the teams around them – they now have just four games left in the Premier League season and are six points behind.
“This is a very difficult result. I thought we were in a very good position in the first half, but they had many opportunities and few chances,” Armstrong reflected on the game itself.
“When you have something to hold on to, you sink deeper and the pressure builds. We must be more decisive in such situations, difficult outcome and difficult situation.
“We need to find solutions, but we don’t have them. The more possession they have in your half, the more pressure builds. It’s a very hard day.”
Author: Alfie’s house