Feb 2 (Reuters) - Manager Ralph Hasenhuettl has helped Southampton rediscover their identity since taking charge, according to midfielder James Ward-Prowse, who sees a lot of similarities between the Austrian and former Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino.
Hasenhuettl, 51, replaced the sacked Mark Hughes at the start of December and has instilled an attractive high-pressing style of play reminiscent of the team’s best football under Pochettino, who is now in charge of Tottenham Hotspur.
After losing his first match at Cardiff City, Hasenhuettl helped Saints win back-to-back Premier League games for the first time this season against Arsenal and Huddersfield, and the team are now unbeaten in their last four in the league.
“It’s that identity of who we are as a team and a club,” Ward-Prowse was quoted as saying by the Times. “I feel we lost that in recent times.
“For a few of us who were here (under Pochettino) you can see the similarities. The main one is how they play without the ball. They want to press high, they want to dominate the game.
“You can tell already they have (the same) passion and love for what they do. They make you feel happy as a player.”
Hasenhuettl’s arrival has had a marked impact on Ward-Prowse, who scored an equaliser to earn Southampton a draw against Crystal Palace in their last match, and the 24-year-old praised his new manager’s vision and training methods.
“That communication between manager and player has not been there very often in the last few years,” Ward-Prowse added. “He gave me a clear outline of what is needed.
“I admit I’m not the most physical player, but I’ve listened to the manager and I want to play in his team... it’s a mentality thing. We didn’t approach games aggressively enough at the start of the season.”
Hasenhuettl has helped Saints get out of the relegation zone and they are now 16th in the table ahead of their game against 17th-placed Burnley, who also have 23 points, later on Saturday.
“Physically, we’re doing a lot more,” Ward-Prowse said. “He has done well to get his messages across, by what he calls mind-training in the auditorium. We watch clips and see how we can learn.
“When a manager is so inspiring, and when he demands so much, you want to do it for him.” (Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)