Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg determined to lead Southampton to safety and hails former boss Pep Guardiola

Alam Khan - Reporter 01:05 23/11/2019
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  • Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg played in the Champions League for Bayern Munich five years ago.

    So he is not thinking about life in the Championship as he fights to lead Southampton out of relegation trouble.

    Hojbjerg, 24, has always relished a challenge.

    Having grown frustrated by the lack of first-team opportunities in Bayern’s all-conquering side, he switched to the Saints three years ago for £12.8 million and is now captaining them through a difficult period he hopes will soon pass.

    “When you play for a team like Bayern Munich you are dominating, only expecting one thing – and that is to win,” said the Denmark midfielder, whose side are in the bottom three as they visit Arsenal on Saturday.

    “So it’s a little bit different in terms of that playing for Southampton.

    “But the joy I have at Southampton, of being a leader, taking responsibility and showing my character, showing my qualities week in week out, that is something I am proud of and happy for.

    “It’s not always easy and will not always be easy, but I also know it is moments like these and the moments in the past that make me so much stronger.

    “When I get away from them and make the next step after that, then I am very proud of myself and the team because these are the moments when you realise what is important, what are your targets as players, as a sportsman and as a human being.

    “These difficult moments make me even more hungry to succeed. I don’t know about pressure, I think I came from nothing to Bayern Munich.”

    Hojbjerg has been driven to succeed ever since joining Bayern from Brondby’s youth team at 17.

    He made his senior debut a year later – becoming one of Bayern’s youngest-ever players in the Bundesliga – and was part of squads that won two league titles, two German Cups, the Champions League in 2013 and the FIFA Club World Cup later that same year.

    Hojbjerg, whose current Saints contract runs out in 2021, told Sport360 exclusively: “People were expecting big things when I was younger, but the moment at Bayern was not really there for me to show it,”

    “There was not really space and I had to take the step that I took by leaving.

    “My progress has been very positive since then and I have come into the position now where maybe one day I can also make the next step higher again.

    “I am the captain of a Premier League club, playing for my country, but still learning, still playing good football and still having years to progress. I think that’s a positive step. But I’m also happy where I am.”

    Saints will need Hojbjerg’s commitment and combative edge to help end a seven-match winless run in the Premier League, which included the joint-record 9-0 loss at home to Leicester.

    He missed the disappointing 2-1 defeat to Everton through concussion, but returned to action with Denmark as they sealed a place at next summer’s Euro 2020 finals.

    While the Saints have struggled at home this season, they have picked up seven of their eight points on their travels as they head to the Emirates Stadium.

    They also showed great spirit at Manchester City with the champions having to overturn a 1-0 deficit with late goals from Sergio Aguero and Kyle Walker.

    And Hojbjerg knows only that sort of performance, where they frustrated City with their defiance, will help them climb the table.

    “We have to take just one step at a time, one performance at a time,” he added. “We have to do everything in the week to prepare. But however we execute, the spirit and mentality from the game against City is key.

    “I know everyone was probably supporting City and everyone playing for Manchester City was maybe not happy with the way we played, but we knew what we had to do.

    “City are a fantastic team, have a fantastic way of playing football, but sometimes this is the only way to go there and try to get points.

    “In terms of spirit, in terms of mentality I was very very proud of the team, very proud of everyone.

    “We played against the best team in the world and the details were in their favour at the end because they worked so much for it.”

    Hojbjerg expected nothing less from a side coached by Pep Guardiola, having been given his Champions League starts by the City boss when he was in charge of Bayern.

    And he added: “He is moulding players. He’s putting the top class to the world class, that’s for sure what he’s doing.

    “His way of playing, his style, it’s very on point [according to] who he is and what he is. I can’t say he’s more suited to the Premier League because he won in La Liga, won in the Bundesliga and now he’s been winning here.

    “He has to say whatever league suits him, but his work? A lot is details, details and details, a bit stressed as well. But, no, he’s a big coach.”