An eighth place finish and and running Manchester United close in the EFL Cup final wasn't enough to save Claude Puel from the sack, with Southampton confirming the Frenchman's departure on Wednesday (14 June). So far this summer, the annual tradition of Saints biggest and brightest talents being linked with a move to Anfield has dominated the agenda at St Mary's and there is already plenty left lying in the in-tray for Puel's successor.
A proposed takeover by Chinese investment company Lander Holdings, who are reportedly close to buying an 80% controlling stake, also casts a shadow over what could be a pivotal summer for a club who will have to immediately vindicate their decision to change managers. Sacking Puel demonstrated admirable ambition; they must now match it in the transfer market.
Business so far
Puel's departure just 12 months into his three-year contract on the south coast represents the biggest change at the club to date. At one point in May, it appeared Saints were on the verge of cashing on Virgil van Dijk and sparing themselves a lengthy transfer saga until Liverpool were forced to drop their interest in the player after issuing a humiliating apology for 'tapping up' the Netherlands international.
Elsewhere, Lloyd Isgrove, Cuco Martina and Harley Willard have been released along with former Barcelona and Juventus defender Martin Caceres, who moves on after his short-term deal signed in February expired. Jason McCarthy meanwhile has signed a three-year deal with Barnsley.
What they need
Despite Liverpool dropping out of the picture, there is still a sense of inevitably to Van Dijk's departure, meaning a formidable replacement for the Dutchman could become an immediate priority. They same could also apply to Ryan Bertrand who, along with Van Dijk is coveted by Manchester City.
Whatever happens with Van Dijk, another recruit at centre-half is needed. While Maya Yoshida showed remarkable improvement last season and with Jack Stephens performing admirably in that role when called upon, Jose Fonte's decline and eventual departure last season left a sizeable whole in that squad.
Finding the back of the net was a problem last season with only Burnley, Watford and the relegated trio of Hull City, Middlesbrough and Sunderland scoring less than Puels' pragmatic but often toothless side. James Ward-Prowse was the club's top scoring midfielder last season with four goals; a greater contribution is needed from that area of the pitch.
Manolo Gabbiadini showed promise following his January arrival from Napoli, but the contribution made by Southampton's other strikers was more befitting of a side fighting for relegation last season. A potent goal scorer is a must if their designs on climbing the table are to have any real weight.
Who could join
Whoever is brought into replace Puel will represent the most seismic change at the club this summer and with Southampton leaving themselves in a position where they must improve on their eighth place finish next season, it will have to be an inspired appointment. Thomas Tuchel could represent that, with the recently departed Borussia Dortmund boss top of the club's list of potential replacements - although latest reports from Germany suggest he has dismissed the possibility of joining the Premier League club.
While the player has talked up a potential move to Arsenal this summer, Henry Onyekuru may have to settle elsewhere, with Southampton one of the clubs credited with keen interest in the 20-year-old Nigerian.
And according to the Polish press, Southampton have already made contact with Lech Pozman centre-half Jana Bednarka over a €6m offer, enough to make him the most expensive player to leave Poland';s top flight. With the defender set to represent his country at the upcoming Under-21 European Championships, Lech are unlikely to find themselves in a hurry to agree a fee if they feel there is a chance they can push his asking price.
Who could leave
Nothing more needs to be said about the possibility of van Dijk's moving on, but finding a replacement for Bertrand should Manchester City swoop could be just as important in the coming months. Dusan Tadic could join his 327 former Saints teammates at Anfield this summer, according to The Times, who suggest a £13m release clause in the Serbian's contract could trigger a move.
Southampton also appear ready to offload their misfiring strikers with Jay Rodriguez reportedly offered to newly promoted Newcastle United, among other clubs. It is likely to be a big summer on the south coast, although chairman Ralph Krueger insists they are not in a position where they must sell before they can buy.
What the chairman has said
"We do not need to sell a player this summer," said Krueger. "Any transfer in and out now will be to increase the quality of the squad and do what is best for the club. I have to tell you, straight up, we do not have to sell anybody. We will do our best to retain the core, solidify the core and move with some synergy into next season."