Fulham star Ryan Sessegnon was the last Fulham player to return from international duty last week and consequently the last one to meet Claudio Ranieri.
As has been proven already in his young career, though, the 18-year-old is a quick learner. On the pitch, he played with a clarity of vision against Southampton and a joy that has been largely absent during his maiden Premier League season.
Off it, he was able to grasp the nuances of the Ranieri touch as soon as he walked back into the club’s Motspur Park training ground on Thursday morning. Most of them centred on unity.
Sessegnon said: “Our body language today was down to everything that the gaffer’s done since he’s come in. He’s changed a lot of things in terms of we eat together and we leave together now.
“Before we used to just come up to the canteen and when you finished, you’d just go. Now you can’t leave until everyone’s finished. I think it’s about keeping that team bonding and everyone together.
“The warm-ups we do in training are all together, too. We have to follow each other in a line or in patterns. Little things like that help on the pitch.”
Anyone who witnessed Fulham mount comeback after comeback in the Championship last season will vouch for the unquenchable team spirit fostered by former manager Slavisa Jokanovic, but that was with a group of players who had grown together over two seasons.
Sessegnon added: “There are about 12 new players who have come in this season and it was hard for the old gaffer to gel everyone together.
“The team that got us promoted was a good team, but to gel that team with the new players straightaway was very difficult. Now the fact that we’re all eating together helps with that.
“The gaffer has told me just to be positive and go forward, don’t play back too many times. He sees me as someone attacking in the final third of the pitch and hurting teams. I tried to do that today.”
Sessegnon’s vision set up Fulham’s second goal for Andre Schurrle after Aleksandar Mitrovic had cancelled out Stuart Armstrong’s opener for Southampton in a first half full of attacking intent and defensive lapses.
It was Armstrong’s turn to equalise for the visitors in the second period, before Sessegnon’s flicked header was volleyed home by Mitrovic for the winning goal.
While Southampton manager Mark Hughes was left bemoaning his side’s inability to turn dominance into goals and possession into points, as well as fending off questions about the open revolt towards him among the Southampton fans, Ranieri enjoyed only positive thoughts.
Many of those centred on Sessegnon and the talent within which the Italian hopes to unleash.
Ranieri said: “Ryan is one of the best young players that I’ve met. He must be exuberant, he must be strong but I saw for the first that he is very intelligent. He could improve a lot, but slowly, slowly. He’s young, a child. It’s not easy for him, but I’m very happy and pleased with his performance.”