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Saints have their first season under new manager Mauricio Pellegrino up and running.

With the first international break now in full swing, Saints can reflect on an unbeaten start to their Premier League campaign, as well as a humbling League Cup defeat.

There has been so much going on at Saints in recent weeks that here at the Daily Echo we asked chief sports writer Adam Leitch to take a step back and analyse the early stages of the campaign.

  • So, has it been a good start to the season?

At this point you would have to say it has been solid.

The League Cup defeat to Wolves aside for a moment, there is the considerable positive of an unbeaten start in the Premier League, and two clean sheets in that time as well.

Of the three top flight games, you could only really be disappointed with the opening day draw against Swansea, which was a game Saints would have expected to have won.

They knocked over West Ham in an entertaining tussle, and the goalless draw at Huddersfield was a perfectly acceptable point on the road, especially considering the way the Terriers have started life in the Premier League.

  • How is Pellegrino settling in?

He warned that it was not going to be a quick process to get the team playing the way he wants them, and sure enough it has been a case of baby steps.

Saints have moved into the transfer market, but the majority of the squad is the same as that which Claude Puel had to work with.

Therefore, it was totally unrealistic to think a new manager was just going to sweep in and instantly put right any problems that existed.

Sure enough, Saints generally still look solid at the back – two clean sheets in three league games underlines that fact – but are still struggling for goals.

  • What is going so wrong in terms of goalscoring then?

For all the positive words written here so far about the unbeaten start in the league, it has been the struggles in the final third that have continued to be the most frustrating thing for Saints fans.

The team do so many things right, but just that last little bit is still missing.

There is a debate to be had over whether that is because Saints don’t have the right balance of personnel in their squad, or if there is a more fundamental issue.

Certainly there does appear to be something of a collective crisis of confidence in front of goal and in the crucial areas.

Saints don’t look like a team that really believe they are going to score a lot of goals.

For all the talk of the negative football under Puel, there hasn’t been significant changes from Pellegrino.

The team does have more attacking intent, but he appears to be the second manager in a row to decide that with the squad Saints have that building from the back rather than high press, or expansive football, is the way to go.

  • The football has been better, though, hasn’t it?

It’s early days but, yes, it has been more interesting to watch.

While the eventful West Ham victory obviously grabs the attention in that respect, even the goalless draw against Huddersfield was entertaining.

Make no mistake, Saints have some really good players. They have fringe first team players that would walk into the teams of many of the mid-table or lower Premier League clubs.

They are technically very adept, they have shown character and determination and fight already this season.

They are just missing that last little bit.

It’s very hard to say exactly how they find it, but that’s up to Pellegrino to work out.

  • How big a blow was the League Cup defeat?

It was a very disappointing night indeed.

Not only was it a poor performance from a strong Saints side up against a significantly weakened Wolves team, but it really does limit what can be achieved this season.

Given that last season getting to the League Cup final and finishing eighth wasn’t enough for Puel to keep his job, it puts it into perspective.

There was more at play with Puel than just that obviously, but even so that came in a season when Saints had the rigours of the Europa League group stage to deal with.

Their first half of the season was about as hectic as the club have ever had, and though European elimination was bitterly disappointing, they did somehow manage to hold the campaign together and made it to Wembley.

When you look at the bigger picture, it was almost a distraction they could have done without given their European commitments.

However, this season it would have been most welcome.

Playing 38 Premier League games over the season does not produce a hugely demanding schedule, and so a cup run remains something exciting for a club like Saints, as well as a ready-made route back into Europe.

Getting knocked out in the first tie of the season leaves Saints with the possibility of playing only 40 matches this season.

Maybe the FA Cup will go well, hopefully it will, but if it doesn’t then the top flight campaign had really better be exciting or this will be a damp squib of a campaign at St Mary’s.

  • Which players have stood out for Saints so far?

Jack Stephens has picked up where he left off last term and has continued to improve.

He needed to show that he wasn’t just riding the crest of a wave and could be a consistent Premier League performer, and happily he is doing just that.

Oriol Romeu has been as imposing a presence as ever in the centre of midfield.

  • Who needs to step up?

There has been no lack of effort this season, but in the early stages there are a number of players still searching for a bit of form.

Probably of greater interest is going to be how Pellegrino manages his squad.

Saints have taken a very deliberate course of action over the last few years to sell some players for big money and then reinvest that cash into multiple new faces to grow their squad.

The theory is that if you want to compete on numerous fronts – Premier League, European football and cup ties – then you do need more depth than Saints had.

This season they don’t have European football to introduce some rotation, and now they don’t have the League Cup either.

That is going to mean a fair few fringe players are staring down the barrel of struggling to get a kick in the first team this season - unless an unlikely string of injuries, suspensions or woeful form take hold.

That will be a test of Pellegrino’s management.

  • What can we expect going forward after the international break?

Saints do have more winnable matches on the horizon.

They do have to play Manchester United towards the end of September, but other than that are in a pretty kind run of matches to begin Pellegrino’s reign.

They really need to get a win when they get back to business at home to Watford, and use that to try and kickstart some momentum.

It’s never easy in the stop-start early stages of the campaign with three international breaks in the first few months, but Saints need to get going and restore a bit of self-belief.