Belfast Telegraph

Mauricio Pellegrino demands improved mental strength from Saints stars

Mauricio Pellegrino has challenged his Southampton players to close a "huge gap" mentally and bolster their resolve to climb the Premier League table.

Saints boss Pellegrino has identified mental strength as a key area for improvement, and has been at pains to point out to his squad the fruits of consistent hard graft on the training field.

"I think mentally we've got a huge gap in all my players where they can improve," said Pellegrino.

"And it's the same as a team, too. Maybe individually, physically and technically you've got a roof. But mentally, this gap is huge.

"For the goalkeeper the mentality for me is really important.

"And for all of them, and the mentality as a team.

"For me the best way to help them improve on this is to give feedback - positive feedback - and work in different aspects, not just on the pitch.

"And it's to show them through experiences in different games that you must try to take risks, even in difficult moments."

Olivier Giroud's late goal denied Saints a win over Arsenal on Sunday, with Pellegrino's men forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Charlie Austin's strike at least sealed a share of the spoils for Southampton, who on Wednesday night host Leicester and welcome back former boss Claude Puel.

While praising the in-form duo of Fraser Forster and forward Austin, Pellegrino insisted his players must realise they are the sole masters of their own destiny.

"The behaviour of the players 100 per cent depends on themselves," said Pellegrino.

"In good moments you have to be humble, have the humility to look forward, to try to be a better player every day.

"The good thing when you make a mistake is that in three days you have to play again.

"When you play well the bad thing is in three days to have to play again.

"In football everything can change in a couple of games.

"Fraser (Forster) has been working a lot on and off the pitch, because the mentality in the top level you have to be always 100 per cent.

"It doesn't matter about a mistake, it's about how you react.

"The people that make mistakes are those that take responsibility.

"Fraser is a consequence that in our football everything can change suddenly.

"With Charlie (Austin) too, that's a consequence of his job, his level of preparation.

"He was always fighting, even when he was outside the team waiting for his opportunity."

Frenchman Puel guided Saints to eighth in the table and the League Cup final last term, before losing his job.

Pellegrino believes the former Nice boss has handled affairs well in his new role at Leicester, admitting Saints will face a tough challenge on Wednesday.

"I respect the former manager. Claude (Puel) now is doing a good job because Leicester are getting a lot of points, they've won important games," said Pellegrino.

"We have to be careful because they are a good side."

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