(Reuters) – Southampton’s Michael Obafemi believes his performance against Arsenal on Saturday showed why he deserves to be a regular first-team starter.
The 19-year-old forward, who last year became the first player born after the year 2000 to feature for the club in a Premier League match, made his first league start of the season in the 2-2 draw at Arsenal.
He had previously started only in the League Cup this season and made four substitute appearances in the league.
Obafemi said he had been putting in the hard yards to impress manager Ralph Hasenhuettl, who had questioned his professionalism in July.
Hasenhuettl said the teenager was not looking after his body after he suffered two hamstring injuries.
“I was buzzing to be playing and I think I showed out on the pitch why I should be starting,” Obafemi told reporters. “I just kept my head down and kept working hard and waited for my chance to come.
“I thought I played well against Arsenal. I feel like I am doing well at the moment, so hopefully I can carry on doing that.”
Southampton, who avoided relegation last season, are back in the drop zone this campaign, sitting 19th with nine points from 13 games.
However, Obafemi is confident the south-coast club have the attacking talent required to avoid the drop again.
“We’ve got Danny Ings, myself and Redders (Nathan Redmond),” he added. “I think we will be fine.
“I don’t think we deserve to be where we are but unfortunate circumstances, like Saturday, put us in that place but we will bounce back… Next weekend is a huge game and we can start looking forward to that. We know we can do it.”
Saints host bottom side Watford on Saturday.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)