RONALD Koeman has been handed an exciting but tough brief upon taking over at St Mary’s.
Tough, because he is captain of an unstable ship at the moment, as players he never managed depart while he tries to prepare for the new season.
But also exciting, because he has an unusual opportunity which befalls few managers.
Ronald Koeman signs his contract with executive director Les Reed (left) and Saints CEO Gareth Rogers
Koeman has an instant chance to put his stamp on things at St Mary’s, to mould a team in his own image.
Few managers come into a club and get carte blanche to get the chequebook out and to buy half a team or more of new players.
That’s exactly what Koeman has.
Of course, he has lost plenty of talent, some of which he would surely have preferred to have kept, but he also has the opportunity to make this his team.
It won’t be like Nigel Adkins effectively just managing Alan Pardew’s side for a few years, or like Mauricio Pochettino tinkering with many of the same faces.
This will very much be Koeman’s side.
He will have envisaged how he wants Saints to play and have the chance to build a team of players able to deliver the football he wants.
However, with only just over a fortnight until the beginning of the new season there is a lot of work that needs doing very quickly.
When looking at the areas that require strengthening, Koeman could be forgiven for thinking ‘all of them.’ He wouldn’t be far off the mark.
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At the back there is major work to be done.
With three of the four players that started last season already sold – Calum Chambers, Dejan Lovren and Luke Shaw – and still question marks over Jose Fonte, there is much rebuilding required.
At right back there is at least Nathaniel Clyne, even if you do need cover there.
At left back there is young Matt Targett, but to expect him to be first choice right now is asking a lot. You probably need an experienced player in that role.
At centre half you need to replace Lovren, otherwise you have just Jose Fonte, Jos Hooiveld and Maya Yoshida.
In terms of holding midfield, replacing Morgan Schneiderlin would be tough because of all he brings to Saints.
Morgan Schneiderlin (left) and Jay Rodriguez have been linked with Spurs
That departure really would be a hammer blow as he is the heartbeat of the side.
But at least Saints do have Jack Cork, Victor Wanyama, James Ward-Prowse, Steven Davis and Harrison Reed all able to fill those slots.
The attacking roles have been decimated with Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert sold and Jay Rodriguez either being sold or at best missing the first few months of the season as he recovers from his ACL reconstruction.
It begs the question: where are the goals going to come from?
Saints have signed Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle. The former offers them creativity from deep, the latter a target man up front.
New striker Graziano Pelle
There are obviously plenty more bodies needed in that area, with only youngsters and those previously viewed only as fringe players to fill the voids otherwise.
Massive gamble Saints are meticulous in their scouting, but they must not under-estimate the need for Premier League experience.
You can buy more cheaply from abroad, and good quality players too, but you cannot throw a bunch of them and some youngsters together and expect them to thrive in the Premier League.
That’s not to say they can’t, it might happen, but it’s a massive gamble.
And therein lies the major problem that Koeman faces, to convince players of the required calibre to come when so many others have wanted to leave.
Make no mistake, Saints are still an attractive prospect.
They are a Premier League club who can pay good wages, so there will be a queue of players wanting to join, especially from abroad and lower leagues.
But whether those guys are of the standard you require is another question altogether.
Koeman’s job is certainly a mixed bag right now.