THE CLOCK is this week ticking down on Mauricio Pochettino and Nicola Cortese’s short-term plans for Saints.

The January transfer window shuts this Thursday night and every club in the top flight then has to stick with what they have through to the end of the season.

Unlike in the Football League, there is not a somewhat generously named emergency loan window to fall back on.

Whatever your targets, you need to ensure you have the players in to achieve them when 11pm comes around on Thursday, January 31.

Because after that time, there is no turning back.

Thus far, Saints have only signed only one player during the window – £4m Norwegian centre half Vegard Forren.

There is little doubt the centre of defence was the major priority.

It could even be argued that Saints could do with another centre half – Davide Astori is still being linked – with Forren joining the currently injured Jose Fonte, Maya Yoshida and Jos Hooiveld as cover in that area.

However, Saints will be weighing up priority areas if they are to go back into the market and tie up any more deals.

You can never have too many good players, of course, and you can always attempt to sign a player better than what you have already got.

But if Saints are not looking to do that, then they have the necessary strength in depth in pretty much most areas.

There is not a position where they do not have two choices – with decent first team experience – from which to choose.

That is not to say the quality wouldn’t go down if the first choice was out, but at least there is proper cover available.

Due to that, Saints will surely only sign again if it is to improve their first choice side.

Philippe Coutinho has long been linked with Saints.

He is well known to new manager Mauricio Pochettino who had the Inter Milan playmaker on loan at Espanyol last season.

If he does sign it will be another suggestion that Pochettino has been waiting in the wings for some time.

The rumours surrounding Coutinho first surfaced a few weeks ago when Nigel Adkins appeared safe in his job.

Or, of course, it could just be a bizarre coincidence ...

Coutinho would bring Brazilian flair, but it seems likely he is on the verge of signing for Liverpool rather than Saints.

But if Coutinho does rejoin Pochettino, you cannot help but look at who he might replace – club captain Adam Lallana, when fit again, £12m summer signing Gaston Ramirez or the in-form Jason Puncheon who has performed so admirably this season.

Puncheon is out of contract at the end of this season and has yet to sign a new one.

You can’t get all those three, plus Coutinho and a striker such as Rickie Lambert, in the same team.

And that’s before you take into account the presence of Guly do Prado.

Saints have shown a real penchant for signing attacking players over the past year.

They are undoubtedly looking to find players that can fit into the style that Pochettino has been brought into the club to achieve.

But they must also ensure a careful balance is struck.

That surely will be top of the agenda as the executive chairman and his new manager mull the final few days of their first transfer window together.

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