Southampton have had a comparatively quiet summer on the south coast this year, with just one big change so far and no key players having left, as of yet.
French manager Claude Puel was dismissed in somewhat harsh circumstances at the end of last season and has been replaced by former Liverpool player and coach Mauricio Pellegrino, who guided Spanish minnow Alaves to a ninth place finish in La Liga and the Copa del Rey final in their first season in the top flight last term.
By this time of the summer, with the new Premier League season just days away, fans at St. Mary’s have usually waved goodbye to a host of top players leaving for pastures new, usually Anfield. However, this time around there has been talk around just one player, Virgil van Dijk.
The Dutchman, who has been the centre of a saga involving Saints’ pantomime villain, Liverpool, this window is currently training alone, however, the manager and club have, time and again, reiterated their desire to sway the 26-year-old’s focus back to his current club, having signed a new six-year-deal just 12 months ago.
Should they manage to hold onto the former Celtic man, arguably their top priority in terms of dealings this summer, then there is the opportunity to build on a side which managed to finish 8th last season despite bagging a paltry 41 goals, less than when they were relegated in 2005, and finished the season without a home win in seven games.
With incomings in mind, the Saints are supposedly on the verge of sealing a club record deal for Juventus midfielder Mario Lemina, with the Gabon international set to have a medical early this week.
The 23-year-old, who according to Whoscored’s traits is proficient at keeping things tight in the middle before recycling possession, has struggled to force his way into Max Allegri’s side in Turin and is on the search for first team football.
With the Saints currently 5/1 with Betway (as of 07/08/2017) to break the top six, Pellegrino does need to add if he is to get his new club back into the European places, having twice qualified for the Europa League under Ronald Koeman before falling out of the top seven last term, however there is a sense that Lemina is not what he needs.
The Fans’ Player and Players’ Player of the Season was Oriol Romeu. The former Chelsea and Barcelona man was left with the thankless task of filling a Victor Wanyama sized gap in the midfielder after the Kenyan’s move to Tottenham last summer and did so seamlessly.
The Spaniard had an outstanding season and became vital to Saints’ successes in the EFL Cup as his screening of the back four assisted in their route to the final past the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, without a goal conceded.
Last term it wasn’t keeping other sides out that hampered the southerners, it was breaking their opponents down and finding the back of the net.
While a midfield duo of Lemina and Romeu sounds tantalising, it would lessen their options going forward and, given the price tag for the Juve man and the form of Romeu last term, neither will accept a place as the others understudy.
If the persistent overachievers are to do so once more under their new boss then, while a club record deal will more than likely help, it must be spent in the right areas. While the riches in the Premier League have reached a new level this summer, Southampton have forever built their success on well thought out deals and have never overpaid for a player they don’t need.
Unless more deals are to follow, a move for Lemina could be a shot in the foot.