A summer of upheaval at Southampton is becoming as fixed an annual event as Christmas and Shrove Tuesday, and ahead of the 2017-18 campaign things have been no different on the south coast. A managerial change, key players wanting to leave, a big-money signing of an unknown overseas import and deep uncertainty ahead of the new season represent the proverbial Four Horseman of the Apocalypse for Saints, whose followers must wake up after the off-season and wonder what will be left of the club which ended the previous campaign.

That Mauricio Pellegrino's arrival to replace Claude Puel is not the headline story of the summer tells you all you need to know. The 45-year-old has enjoyed a low-key managerial career but arrives from Spain with a similar reputation to that of Mauricio Pochettino - who had significant success at St Mary's.

Virgil van Dijk's future at the club has been the central transfer narrative of the summer in the Premier League. The Netherlands international has not been involved during pre-season, training away from the first team and handing in a transfer request. Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have all been linked with a £60m move for the defender, whose future at Southampton looks to be over.

Signing a replacement will be among Pellegrino's key tasks between now and the end of the transfer window. The turnover of players has otherwise been one of the smallest since Southampton returned to the Premier League in 2012. Just four players have come and gone on permanent deals, at the time of writing, with Jay Rodriguez being replaced by Juventus' Mario Lemina in a deal worth £15m, the stand-out deal.

Last season

Premier League: 8th

FA Cup: Fourth round

League Cup: Runners-up

Manager - Mauricio Pellegrino

Chairman Ralph Krueger has a decent record of appointing new managers - something he has been able to put into practice several times - so Pellegrino starts his tenure at Southampton with a degree of credit already in the bank. His unspectacular managerial career is similar to that of one of his predecessors, Pochettino, taking Alaves to their first-ever Copa del Rey final last season the Argentine's most noteworthy achievement so far, though that alone was enough to spark interest from Crystal Palace.

The manner of Puel's dismissal means Pellegrino knows he must instill vitality and excitement into a side who was drained of adventure last season. Southampton scored just 41 goals in the top flight last term, with only Burnley netting fewer from the teams outside the bottom three. One concern for the ex-Barcelona and Valencia defender is that Puel was sacked after an eighth-place finish and a major cup final appearance, a showing that might be difficult to improve on, though as the French boss learned style may be more important than substance.

A two-year spell working under Rafael Benitez at Liverpool after making a handful of appearances for the club - prior to following the Spaniard to Inter Milan - means he does not arrive in English football ignorant to its traditions or make-up, while his time with the Champions League winner adds further credibility to his otherwise undistinguished career. Regarded as tactically flexible - perhaps unlike his mentor - and a coach who makes the best out of his resources it appears Southampton may have struck gold again.

Key player - Nathan Redmond

As far as god-given talent is concerned, there may be no-one in the Southampton squad with the qualities to match the ex-Norwich City winger. He might not always be flavour of the month among Southampton fans - though his eight league goals last term was only bettered by Charlie Austin - but he has the capacity to define the Pellegrino era.

If the new boss does indeed employ a high pressing game which underlined Alaves' success then Redmond will be key to making it stick. Still only 23, the Birmingham-born player is agile, tricky and knows where the goal is and could quite easily erase all memories of Puel.

That rival clubs from the high echelons of the division have cast their eye over Redmond tells you all you need to know about his capacity to thrill, but discovering some consistency will be key to ensuring his second season at St Mary's does not flatter to deceive.


Southampton supporters are well-practiced in scaling back their expectations in time for the new season, and this term will be no different. Managerial changes and at least one significant departure is normally met with pragmatism and should ensure Pellegrino gets a free run at impressing the home faithful. But perhaps failure to finish in the top half would be deemed a slightly underwhelming start.

Prediction - 9th

Though time will obviously tell, on the face of it Krueger appears to have got it right again by enlisting Pellegrino, someone who knows the league, can provide entertainment and instigate an engaging brand of football. The problem might be that he does not have the players available to follow Pochettino and Koeman in challenging for a European place but a campaign well away from danger and at the summit of the jostling in mid-table is all but assured.

Mauricio Pellegrino
Pellegrino attempts to stem another summer of change at St Mary's Stadium Getty Images