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Southampton will embark on the new season with another new manager at the helm, as Mauricio Pellegrino gears up for his first taste of English football. Th Argentine is the fifth manager to take up the job since the club’s return to the Premier League in 2012.
Last season, the Saints finished in a more than decent 8th place in the Premier League and also managed to reach the finals of the EFL Cup under former manager Claude Puel. But that did not meet the lofty ambitions that have developed at the St. Mary’s after highly impressive spells under Ronald Koeman.
Pellegrino has done more than a good job at his former club Alaves in the La Liga and he has that pedigree to take the club to further heights. Perhaps a place in the Europa League spots maybe?
The club have brought in young centre-back Jan Bednarek from Lech Poznan in the window. No other player has come in so far and that should change soon though.
Forward Jay Rodriguez left the club in search of regular football and joined rivals West Bromwich Albion. Youngster Harrison Reed signed for Norwich City on a season-long loan, while Cuco Martina joined Everton for free. Martin Caceres was also released from the club, along with Lloyd Isgrove, who joined Barnsley.
The biggest issue for Pellegrino, upon his arrival, has been convincing Virgil van Dijk to stay at the club. The Dutchman has handed in a transfer request, and has already been asked to train away from the first-team. It is almost certain that he will leave and it is only a matter of time before his destination is decided.
The best scenario for the club would be that they convince Van Dijk to stay at the club, and things click under the new boss, which lead to them being the major threat for the top-six clubs ahead of heavy spenders Everton.
The worst-case for Southampton will be that the appointment of Pellegrino proves to be a misfit and the club slip down into the bottom half of the table, having established themselves as an upper-half table side in the last few years.
Their best line-up with the current squad would somewhat look like this:
Fraser Forster, Cedric Soares, Jack Stephens, Maya Yoshida, Ryan Bertrand; Steven Davis, Oriol Romeu; Dusan Tadic, James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond; Manolo Gabbiadini;
Dusan Tadic. The Serbian attacker is one of the most influential players for Southampton in the attacking third of the pitch. He finished last season with 3 goals and 5 assists and was the club’s most creative outlet. Tadic firing on all cylinders and creating chances in large numbers for the likes of Gabbiadini and Redmond will be vital to how the Saints fare this season.