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Three areas Southampton must improve before the transfer window closes

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Southampton

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…

Central Defence

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.

Attacking Midfield

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.

Forward

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.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Bristol City

Sam McQueen linked but losing Joe Bryan would hurt Bristol City

The Englishman has been at Ashton Gate since 15 years of age.

Josh Kerr

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Joey Bryan
Photo: Getty Images

According to the Bristol Post, Bristol City are being linked with Southampton‘s Sam McQueen as the club’s replacement for full-back Joe Bryan, meaning the South-West club could be preparing for life without the 24-year-old, who has made over 229 appearances for the club.

The Robins ultimately look set to lose Bryan during the summer transfer window with Burnley, Everton and Aston Villa all keen on signing the left-back. With only a year left on his contract at Ashton Gate, the club could be tempted to cash-in for the home grown defender, for a fee of around £6 million.

Despite McQueen being a sensible replacement for City, his arrival wouldn’t quite soften the blow of losing Bryan, who has quickly established himself as one of the best all-round defenders in the EFL Championship.

The full-back has been with the side since he was 15 years of age and has gone on to become one of their most important players. Many will remember the 24-year-old’s wonder strike to help beat Premier League giants Manchester United in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, after a display that saw him named man-of-the-match.

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Losing a player of his calibre will not help the club’s attempts to challenge for the play-offs next season. Considering the club were in contention for a top two place as recently as Christmas, it is difficult to comprehend the board selling one of their best players.

The Robins sat second in the Championship during the festive period but went on to finish a disappointing 11th after only picking up 20 points from their final 22 games.

Lee Johnson reportedly sees McQueen, who was told he can quite St Mary’s this summer, as the most likely replacement for Bryan this summer, if the right offer comes in for the latter’s services.

The Saints defender played 22 times in the 2017/18 season, mostly from the bench, but is a player who could definitely prove his worth.

At 23, he still has years to improve and with a full Championship season under his belt, he could emerge a shrewd replacement for long-term servant Bryan.

However, the news won’t float well with City fans who would prefer to keep their homegrown player, rather than attempt to replace him.

Nonetheless, with a year left on his contract, cashing in on the £6 million talent, while bringing in Sam McQueen, could prove a smart piece of business from the Robins.

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Southampton

Mark Hughes appointment offers Southampton much needed stability

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Photo: Getty Images.

Southampton are closing in on making an appointment as their manager for 2018/19 and beyond with reports indicating that Mark Hughes will extend his initial short term stay with a three year contract.

Sky Sports say that talks are ongoing with an agreement nearing between the two parties as the Saints look to bounce back having narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League as one of the most disappointing performers over the past season.

It came after yet another managerial change last summer, with Claude Puel being dismissed and Mauricio Pellegrino appointed. The Argentinian lasted less than a year and was fired in March, too late from the point of view of many fans, with Hughes brought into to rescue the team.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Hughes may not be the most glamorous and exciting of appointments, lacking the unknown factor that the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman has in the past, but he does bring in Premier League experience and much needed stability.

Since taking over in March, he managed 1.10 points per match, compared to 1.09 for Pellegrino before him, but he did turn things around and save the team from the drop, with a new mentality getting the best out of some of the many players who had been underperforming.

Southampton have not had the same manager for more than two years since Nigel Adkins got the team promoted from the third tier back to the Premier League, and with a long-term contract Hughes could be that man.

After years of frequent change, cashing in on those who performed well and losing managers, for the first time in 2017/18 the gamble backfired and almost cost the club dearly. An investment in stability is the best logical next step.

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Celtic

Celtic playmaker Tom Rogic could be a star at Southampton

The 25-year-old is out of contract at Celtic next summer.

The Boot Room

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Photo: Getty Images

Celtic playmaker Tom Rogic is attracting clubs from all over the world but Premier League side Southampton are reportedly the latest team to be interested in throwing their hat in the mix for the Australian international.

According to reports from BBC Sport, Mark Hughes is very impressed with Brendan Rodgers’ 25-year-old star, who has played a vital role in Celtic’s treble-chasing side this season.

Rogic has a respectable eight goals and eight assists, despite being injured for a large chunk of the season, and could represent an impressive signing for Hughes and his Saints side, who last night looked to have ensured their Premier League survival after beating relegation rivals Swansea 1-0.

The Australian born midfielder may be interested in returning to England after progressing through the ranks at the Nike Academy in St George’s Park before making it professionally in his home country.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Southampton are, arguably, England’s best at spotting young talent and, at only 25, the midfielder definitely has his best days ahead of him. Hughes should ensure those are seen in the Premier League rather than the SPL.

Rogic’s technical ability and range of passing are up there with the best in the league and Celtic’s number 18 has scored some crucial goals this season.

He displayed his importance to Rodgers side and showed his goalscoring threat when he netted Celtic’s fourth in a 5-0 win over Old Firm rivals Rangers last Sunday, in which the Hoops clinched their seventh consecutive Scottish league title.

It not only displayed his goalscoring prowess but also how he has been a thorn in the side for the Gers. This was his fourth goal in four games against their Old Firm rivals.

However, despite Rogic hunting down yet another treble with Celtic, the midfielder only has one-year left on his contract and this may tempt Rodgers to cash in on the midfielder rather than wait and risk losing him on a free transfer.

This would spur the perfect opportunity for the Saints to bid for the midfielder and take an outstanding technically gifted player who would certainly thrive in the Premier League.

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