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Ralph Hasenhuttl: 'Injury-hit Southampton cannot rely on young players'

The Saints are facing a deepening injury crisis.

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has warned it is time to stop dreaming and face the reality that the Saints squad needs more experienced depth if the club wants to move to the next level.

Having sat top of the Premier League in November, Southampton saw their progress falter on the back of a deepening injury crisis.

Spanish midfielder Oriol Romeu has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign after suffering a fractured ankle in the 3-0 defeat at Leeds on Tuesday night.

On-loan Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino is another not available for Monday night's trip to Everton after he picked up a hamstring problem having come on during the second half at Elland Road.

Kyle Walker-Peters, Theo Walcott and Ibrahima Diallo are still not match fit, while promising youngsters William Smallbone and Michael Obafemi are both long-term absentees.

Swiss teenager Alexandre Jankewitz could be drafted back into a depleted midfield on Monday night, having recently served out a ban for his red card in the 9-0 trashing at Manchester United.

Hasenhuttl, though, accepts genuine progress up into the top half of the Premier League can only be built around enough experienced cover, rather than having to rely on the promise of the next generation.

"It is not the time to dream, it is about the time to see the realities," the Southampton manager said.

"I really like to develop young players, to push them to become (at) one time Premier League players, but it is not so easy.

"A Premier League player has something special and you cannot make from every young player a Premier League player, this is not possible.

"This is what we have seen now and definitely we have to find the right changes for the future.

"Because otherwise we will always end up in a situation that we have two or three good months to step up, and then this is enough for staying in the league, or for being in a comfortable position, (but) then end up being between (place) 10 or 20.

"This is not what we want here. We want to be more successful and this is only possible if you have a bigger squad and better players in the width (depth) of the squad.

"This is the goal for the future I think, otherwise you will never make a step forward."

Despite the current selection problems, Hasenhuttl still believes the group have enough about them to produce the required result.

"We have to find a way back to perform with the players we have," said the Austrian, whose team have suffered seven defeats from the past eight Premier League games.

"Yes we have a few injury problems, but we are not tired or not fit or don't play good football.

"There are a few things missing and this is what we have to put on the pitch to turn things around."

Hasenhuttl added: "It is not about jumping over the (safety) line in the last games – it is about coming as quick as possible back to a winning team.

"We have the quality, but it is not enough to know this – it is important to show this."

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Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl pictured in February 2021
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