With 12 goals conceded in their opening ten Premier League games of the season, it’s safe to say that Southampton have not been as defensively weak as some of the other teams around them in the league table at this moment in time.
One senior player that has played a significant part of Southampton’s season so far is 25-year-old centre-back Jan Bednarek.
He has played the full 90 minutes in each of the club’s six previous league fixtures, keeping a clean sheet on three of those occasions against Manchester City, Leeds United and Watford.
Looking away from Ralph Hasenhuttl’s senior side, however, there is one player that Southampton currently have in their youth ranks that could go on to become the next version of Bednarek at St. Mary’s. That happens to be 20-year-old defender Oludare Olufunwa.
As a product of Southampton’s youth system, Olufunwa has made 14 appearances for the club’s U18 side, managing to score one goal as well as making 24 appearances for the Southampton B team, netting twice and providing one assist along the way.
So far this season, Olufunwa has featured on eight occasions for the B team across all competitions, predominantly playing as a centre-back but also as a right-back. Impressively, he’s donned the captain’s armband on two occasions in their matches against Norwich City and Middlesbrough, showing not only how important he is to the team, but also how versatile he can be on the pitch.
That part of his game is something that stands out to the academy staff too. Dave Horseman once said:
“He has demonstrated good leadership abilities on and off the field and we are delighted he has extended his stay at the club.”
Matt Hale added after he penned terms with the club: “Dare has shown real promise during his first year as a young professional.”
That ability to inspire others is something that has been key in Bednarek’s progression on the south coast. The Saints boss once hailed the Pole as the “perfect role model.”
Looking ahead to the future, if Olufunwa can continue to play regularly for the Southampton B team and make the most out of any potential opportunities he may be given, we feel that he could become a regular senior figure for the Saints in the coming years, much in the same way that Bednarek has done since his arrival in England.