Ralph Hasenhüttl has spoken of his pride in Southampton’s recent performances – but insists now is not the time to “lean back” as the Premier League season draws to a close.
Saints have already gone six games unbeaten for the first time under the Austrian’s stewardship, and can extend that run to seven against Sheffield United at St Mary’s on the final day.
From finishing 16th last season and 17th the year before, Saints are guaranteed at least 12th place this time around, and will climb to 11th should they better Everton’s result at home to relegation-threatened Bournemouth.
“We had a lot of time in lockdown to analyse the season, which gave us another opportunity to develop our game,” Hasenhüttl reflected.
“What I have seen in the last weeks is definitely the best I’ve seen so far since I’ve been the manager here at this club. This is good, but it’s not something to rest on or a time to lean back.
“That is the goal for the weekend: take these three points, with everything we have, and then go unbeaten into the break – that would give us massive self-confidence for next season.
“From 16th to 12th or 11th is a good step, especially after our very difficult start in September, October.
“But going into next season there are still 10 or 11 teams better than us, so we have to learn and progress.”
Should Danny Ings sign off a superb individual campaign by scoring again on Sunday, the striker will give himself a chance of claiming the Premier League Golden Boot.
Ings (21) needs at least a brace to catch leader Jamie Vardy (23), whose Leicester side host Manchester United on the final day in a Champions League shoot-out.
“It would be an amazing thing for him, absolutely,” the boss added. “I think it’s worth even more when it’s for a club like Southampton – not for one of the top clubs in England.
“We are very proud of him. He’s one of our own, and we will do everything to support him on the weekend to score again.”