MAYA Yoshida believes the competition for places at Saints is helping him improve and insists he wants to take his game “to a higher level”.

The Japanese defender, who arrived at Saints in 2012, has mainly appeared for Ronald Koeman’s team from the bench recently.

He has come in for some criticism after an errant back-pass gifted Manchester United a goal in last month’s 3-2 home defeat.

Yoshida, though, who has played at centre-half and right-back for Saints, is knuckling down with improvements to his game and enjoying competing for a place in Koeman's team.

"It is always positive, as I say, the good competition makes the players better," he said.

"Virgil (van Dijk) is a good player and, of course, Jose (Fonte) is always good as a captain.

"In high level competition (like this) I can improve."

He added: "It is difficult for me, but now it is a little bit better.

"But I need more improvements, so just keep go on and I need to improve a lot if I play as a full-back and a centre-back also I need to improve."

The 27-year-old knows the importance of being versatile to optimise his chances of getting some game time and doesn’t want to limit himself.

"(I will) Try to get my position as a centre-back but also I can play at full-backs when team need help, or depend on how we play," he said.

"So that’s always try to finding myself as a new challenge, because I don’t want to make a limit.

"It is easy to limit yourself."

Yoshida has the most amount of appearances for a Japanese player in Premier League history, but is very forthright about that record.

The Saints man has played 70 top-flight games now for Saints and surpassed former Arsenal, Fulham and West Brom player Junichi Inamoto's 60-match record in last month's goalless draw at the Baggies.

"To be fair I am not interesting about this, because this is big record for Japan but nothing special for other Premier League players," he explained.

"So just go to another level and my target is not at that level. It is at a higher level.

"It is great to be that, but I need more."

Since his move from Dutch side VVV-Venlo, Yoshida has worked under three managers and seen the full effect of constant changes in playing staff at St Mary's.

He admits it hasn't been easy.

"Every season the best players, they be gone, so it is not easy for club to manage the team that isn’t the same team," he said.

"We have good philosophy as a team and as a club, so I think nothing big change for last few years but certainly getting better and better mean a lot of improve.

"As a team and new player understand what we do and the coach manage very well, so nothing worry about this but if we have success more and more, maybe new player want to come to Southampton more.

"It means we going to be stronger team."