MAYA Yoshida admits that after nearly four seasons at Saints he still must improve if he is to start playing regularly in the Premier League.
Yoshida reckons he has gone some way to proving that he is up to scratch after a solid defensive display in the West Ham 1-0 win on Saturday, which he capped off with his second goal this term.
But the Japanese defender had an indifferent first-half of the season, with two glaring errors in defeats to Manchester United and Manchester City.
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It led to manager Ronald Koeman giving him some home truths about improvements he needs to make, even after playing 77 times in the top-flight.
“I need to show to the supporters and the coaching staff [that I’m capable],” Yoshida said. “I know it isn’t enough yet, so I need to continue to play much better constantly and try to get back the position.”
His good relationship with Koeman has helped him through a difficult spell, in which he has been regularly on the bench and used in an unfamiliar role at right-back.
“He (Koeman) knows about me. That’s okay. I have a good relationship with him. He told me what I need to do to get a position. I just try to do that,” he said.
The Saints boss has given Yoshida some stark advice.
“[I need to make] fewer easy mistakes and more concentration for 90 minutes and he (Koeman) said I need to improve concentration,” he explained.
“I have two or three times made a very easy mistake, careless mistakes during the game, so I need to decrease those kind of mistakes.
“Then I will be a much better player.”
The 27-year-old, who has made 22 appearances in all competitions this term, would rather play at centre-back where he feels more comfortable, but isn’t about to shy away from playing at full-back if that’s what is required of him.
“Of course, centre-back is much easier,” he said. “Right-back also – if gaffer say ‘can you play?’ I want to try it. I’d prefer to play as a right-back than sit on the bench.”
He added: “It’s really tough because every time I have to be ready, but sometimes I don’t get the chance and sometimes I get chance.
“It needs good preparation when the right moment come. Once I knew Matt Targett was injured this (last) week, suddenly I get my chance (against West Ham).
“Mentally, I have prepared for that kind of chance. I’m very happy to have a good show there.”
Six of his appearances this season have come from the bench, with Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte ahead of him in the centre-back pecking order and Portuguese international Cedric Soares preferred to him at right-back.
“I need to try and keep my fitness,” Yoshida said. “Always on the bench it is difficult to keep my fitness and intensity.
“In the training after the game, the substitutes train in more intensity than the other lads for the recovery. So I try to do my best. That’s the only way to keep my intensity.”