SAINTS manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has commended “nasty” Lyanco and compared the budding cult hero to former fan-favourite Oriol Romeu following the Brazilian’s starring role in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal.

Initially starting at right back, Lyanco spent much of the encounter as a third central defender where he frequently faced off against compatriot Gabriel Jesus.

Never one to shirk a physical battle, Lyanco committed numerous fouls before eventually earning a booking in stoppage time for an off-the-ball incident with Eddie Nketiah.

While many Arsenal fans believe Lyanco should have seen red at some point in the clash, Hasenhuttl doesn’t want to discourage the defender's natural enthusiasm as his fighting performance played a crucial role in Saints' impressive draw.

“I think it is important for him to understand what is necessary to be a nasty opponent, to be in the challenge and to be there,” the Austrian explained on Thursday afternoon.

“Your opponent can feel you because it is in the rules so there is no problem there and everything is good.

“He can be a nasty one, absolutely, because he is very good in one-on-ones and he comes from behind.

“He is not scared, and he defends on the front foot. This is what I want to see from him without all the other things that are not necessary, but he knows that.

“He has very strong belief and is a fantastic character who likes to work with us and likes to play for us. He is exactly what we need.”

Thus far in the 2022/23 campaign, Lyanco has been utilised up front, in central midfield, right back, and centre back.

He’ll play wherever he’s needed and his relentless desire to help the team no matter the job at hand has seen him become a St Mary's hero - with Hasenhuttl comparing the 25-year-old to recently departed Romeu.

“He can become a fans’ favourite because if I am a fan of this club and I see somebody fighting so much for this club, that is exactly what you want to see,” Hasenhuttl added.

“This was the reason Oriol Romeu was so loved here because he left everything on the pitch. This is what people want to see and it is great to watch.”

As a whole, Hasenhuttl has challenged his team to be ‘nastier’ in recent weeks and it’s a trait that was far more clearly displayed over the course of seven days that saw Saints take five points against West Ham, AFC Bournemouth, and Arsenal.

“We do not want to be disrespectful, but we have shown we can break rhythms of teams and that we can show a different face with set pieces," the boss explained.

“The long throw is definitely a tactical tool to come quickly into the opposition half and in the opposition box.

“We have scored two goals from throw-ins so far, which is not bad. This is something we have worked on a lot and invested in this part of the game.

“I am sure there will come a big output between now and the end of the season. We will have games that are decided by set pieces and games that are won by set pieces.”

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