By Christian Radnedge
LONDON (Reuters) – Southampton have resembled Jekyll and Hyde this season with their performances, but defender Jan Bednarek is fully confident in his manager’s philosophy that small, incremental improvements can lead to a big surge up the Premier League table.
The Saints, who travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, are generally regarded to have progressed since Austrian coach Ralph Hasenhuettl took over from Mark Hughes last December.
However, seven points from eight games this season have left them one place above the relegation zone.
There have been impressive performances, including at home to Liverpool, away at Brighton & Hove Albion and holding Manchester United to a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s.
But it is winning that matters and Bednarek, who joined the south-coast club in 2017 from Lech Poznan, is under no illusion that his team’s young guns have a lot more to give.
“We should be more consistent with the games we play… we play one game good, then one game bad so we should improve the simple things, just to look at the details because that’s what makes the difference,” the 23-year-old told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“We are a very young team which can still improve, which can still do better that’s why I think sometimes we play good and sometimes we don’t because there is not enough experience.
“But I think we will work it out as each game comes… I think we can be a really strong side.”
Hasenhuettl did not hold back in criticising his side, who have an average age of 25.8-years-old, after their 4-1 home drubbing by Chelsea last time out, their third successive league defeat.
But Bednarek did not suggest he was being stung by his manager’s critique, explaining that the Austrian’s style was to set high standards.
“I think he’s a really hard working person who expects a lot from himself but also from the people around him,” said Bednarek, who was speaking on behalf of Virgin Media’s new Gig1 service in Southampton.
“This is something that can only improve us as a team and human beings because we need to go into training and work hard and if you are not following him, you are not in the team.”
The Poland international has become a mainstay of Southampton’s defence under Hasenhuettl, starting every league match this season and he credits the manager for improving his game.
“There is some defending stuff I am doing better,” he said. “Tactically I think I improved a lot under his campaign because we are working a lot on it and that’s the thing, I think there are small things which makes big difference and that’s what the manager is trying to show us – just focus on the small things and at this level it can make a big difference.”
Those improvements have led Bednarek to become fully integrated into a Poland side who this week secured their place at next year’s European Championship.
But the youngster did not allow himself to think any further than the next game – or a walk with his girlfriend and their French bulldog Candy.
Southampton will need bulldog tenacity to lift themselves away from trouble, starting on Saturday at Molineux.
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge, editing by Ed Osmond)