Defender Mohammed Salisu thrilled manager Ralph Hasenhuttl with a combative effort against West Ham striker Michail Antonio on Saturday, but the manager insists: "He is not in Vestergaard's department with the ball, but we want to improve him."
The 22-year-old Ghanaian centre-back has started all four Premier League games this season and secured his first clean sheet of the season with Jack Stephens in the 0-0 draw against West Ham.
Salisu had to wait patiently for opportunities after coming in a multi-million pound deal from Real Valladolid last August, but he appears to have carved out a place for himself in Saints' lineup.
Salisu missed just four of the remaining games after not playing since February, but failing to maintain a single Premier League clean sheet, missing Sheffield United's 2-0 victory in March.
But he excelled at the back against a lethal Hammers side that had scored 10 goals in their first three games. The sight of Antonio going down the tunnel a few seconds early was the icing on the cake for a tenacious defense.
“He still has to improve his game with the ball I think because we see that can be much better but we are going slowly this way, yeah, it’s not something you learn from one day to the other.
“We force him to play more football, he didn’t do it so much in his career so far, but this is what we want. He is not in Vestergaard’s department with the ball but we want to improve him.
“And finally I’m happy for the guys, both centre-backs, to get their first clean sheet this season, and Alex (McCarthy) also, he did a very good job and this is how it should be.”
“Absolutely yes, this (physicality) is the key why I decided to give him the chance again against him (Antonio). he added.
“Yes, we have seen this in pre-season that he has these qualities and we have this first game where we stop him, and it’s good to see.”