Like many of his Southampton teammates, Maya Yoshida has gone from being a bit-part player under Mark Hughes to a key man under the Welshman’s successor Ralph Hasenhuttl, as shown by his amazing defensive display in the vital 0-0 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
The Japan international had only played 450 minutes of Premier League football – 360 under Hughes and 90 under Kelvin Davis – prior to the arrival of the Austrian manager at St Mary’s, but he has already featured for 350 top-flight minutes since the 51-year-old took charge last month.
The 30-year-old has been with the south coast outfit for six-and-a-half years now and despite never really becoming a regular in the starting XI throughout that period, he has never thrown his toys out of the pram or made a fuss behind the scenes.
While Yoshida was taken out of the starting XI against Manchester City on Sunday – presumably due to rotation and the team in general looking tired during the defeat to West Ham United previously – he was restored into a back three alongside Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard against Maurizio Sarri’s men, knowing that he was jetting off to compete for his country in the Asia Cup after the final whistle.
It was always likely to be backs-to-the-wall stuff for the visitors to the capital, and it largely proved to be the case although the centre-back, along with his defensive allies, stood up to the task admirably by making a season-high 11 clearances in a single Premier League match, as per WhoScored.
As well as that eye-catching feat, Yoshida also made three tackles, eight interceptions and blocked two shots from opposition players, while he showed that he is improving his distribution with the ball by successfully completing three of the five long balls he attempted.
Yoshida has never been seen as the most reliable centre-back among the St Mary’s faithful, but he has proven in recent weeks that he is hugely experienced, a model professional and potentially one of their best right now, and Hasenhuttl will be devastated to lose him until February should things go well for both him and Japan.
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