Despite the arrival of new manager Mauricio Pellegrino it hasn’t quite been a sparkling summer as far as Southampton are concerned, not least because the dark cloud of Virgil van Dijk is still looming above.
After months of conjecture – it’s almost a will he, won’t he situation with Liverpool – a definitive outcome is still no clearer and the new Premier League campaign is now just a matter of days away.
It seems that Southampton aren’t willing to let him leave, but equally won’t have him anywhere near the first-team squad due to his firm desire, as per Sky Sports, to leave St Mary’s over the summer.
Now add a chastening 4-0 defeat to middle of the road Bundesliga outfit FC Augsburg on Wednesday evening to this and, with just nine days until they kick-off against Swansea, there is still a lot to be done.
The Boot Room looks at three areas on the pitch that the Saints need to improve before August 31…
After the arrival of young Polish defender Jan Bednarek from Lech Poznan earlier this summer, Southampton aren’t strictly in need of more central players, but it is an area they need to sort out.
The Virgil van Dijk saga has left the club entering the new season with an almost hostile atmosphere, with the Dutchman and new boss Pellegrino almost at a stand-off over the situation.
With the Saints looking to improve on their 8th place finish last season and join Everton in challenging for the top six, the last thing they need is distractions off the pitch once the action starts.
If Pellegrino continues to insist Van Dijk is going nowhere, and holds him to the six-year contract extension he signed just last season, then, sooner rather than later, the 26-year-old will simply need to accept it and work on reconciling a relationship with the club, or face watching his career slip by.
It was noticeable towards the end of last season that there is too much reliance on the shoulders of young Nathan Redmond, and the Saints could do with another wide outlet before the window ends.
He created 57 chances in 37 Premier League appearances last season, only second to Dusan Tadic, and there is nobody in the Southampton side that has his raw pace, endeavour and his final product.
Plus, add the fact that the 23-year-old has been away with England’s Under-21 side at the European Championships this summer and he has not had much time to rest up before returning for pre-season, and it is likely that he will have to be used sparingly for a while, to ensure he doesn’t simply burn out.
Sofiane Boufal has shown signs of being able to have an impact at the highest level but he lacks the consistency needed for a side with top six aspiration, so Pellegrino would be wise to add personnel.
It seems a peculiar thing to say that Southampton need a new striker considering they have Shane Long, Charlie Austin and Manolo Gabbiadini residing in their ranks but more options certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Considering that Long is best utilised as an impact player from the bench, and that Austin is only recently returning from a lengthy spell on the side-lines, it really only leaves their £14 million man from Napoli as a trusted starting option – and should anything happen to him they would struggle.
Following the sale of Jay Rodriguez to West Brom earlier this summer there is a spot open for further striking options, so Pellegrino would be foolish not to invest in another natural and proven goal-scorer.
The likes of Atletico Madrid’s Luciano Vietto, as per Sky Sports, have already been linked with a switch to St Mary’s this summer, and a signing of that calibre would no doubt give them a huge boost up front.