Going to visit a room named the “Black Box” conjures up an intriguing set of mental images.

You picture a place of cloak and dagger secrecy, where plans and plots are dreamed up and all manner of shady goings on take place. The sort of thing that normally accompanies the phrase “if I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

There is nothing quite so cutthroat about the “Black Box” at Staplewood, but it is a centrepiece of the new development and absolutely critical to how the club works these days.

The room itself houses a large screen, which can quickly and easily access video clips and statistics of virtually any player in world football.It is used for one-on-one first team analysis, for player audits, where the club identify areas that require strengthening and make decisions about who will stay and go as they look to keep the path clear for young players to progress, and, most eye catchingly, for the manager to decide where to spend the club’s money in the transfer windows.

The man in charge of all this, and the rest of the recruitment and analysis department, is Paul Mitchell.

“Unless people have got a real black box underground, I’ve never heard of a training facility having something like that – having something designed and bespoke with that ability to deliver,” he explained.

“It’s not just recruitment. That’s where the theory started, but I’ve seen the power of that room, to sit with Fraser Forster when Dave (Watson) is going through the pre and the post-match with him, the individual departments, the different youth phases, to even deliver to a young player – you know, a young player we potentially want to sign into the academy and have him sat there with mum and dad and go through a visual presentation to say why he should choose Southampton.

“It’s just a very powerful platform for delivery, and one that even I underestimated was going to be as useful as it is.

“It’s something that makes us stand out a little bit, and I think that’s our skill. We try to do things a little bit out of left-field.”

He added: “Everything that we need to try and make that decision is there.

“Part of the philosophy and the theory is to not waste time on things that are unachievable. So you know if we’re trying to sign Diego Costa against Chelsea it’s unachievable, because Diego Costa won’t want to drop ‘x’ amount of salary. So we try and make all our processes and strategies bespoke to Southampton.

“We have to worry about Southampton. What can we achieve? How can we achieve it? How can we be more efficient? Then how can we analyse that to make it even better the next window or the next time we debrief it, and constantly just keep evolving and challenging ourselves every day. That’s the key.”

It’s fair to say that the department Mitchell runs will not come cheap, but it is a snip compared to the cost of making one bad signing in this day and age.

“As I said before, it’s not proven science, but I think our philosophy and theory was always risk management,” reflected Mitchell.

“Let’s try to offset as much of the risk as possible to make the best acquisition.

“It’s not a proven science, but you have a responsibility to your owner that invests a hell of a lot of money to work as hard as you possibly can to make the best acquisition for the football club, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re investing in the processes and the strategies more than the idea of the perception, so it is different.

“I actually do feel within the industry there is a little shift. As you’ve probably seen over the summers, the transfer window is becoming box office, it’s real intrigue, and having the media in that room you see the intrigue in recruitment. I think that will shift to people looking at best practice throughout the industry and then taking that as their own.”

Mitchell, a former professional footballer himself before his career was cut short by injury, follows the philosophy that the senior and academy teams should be a collective, so from his offices there are people scouting and analysing everything from youngsters to world superstars.

Ultimately though, especially when it comes to big money signings, it is all another way the club is taking a fresh look at becoming more efficient.

“I think it’s just trying to be more diligent with your expenditure,” he said. “We’ve seen before and heard quotes from managers that have probably perception-wise based their acquisition on the two games they’ve played against that player in the Premier League or the Football League. I work off a very simple theory of I had one good game once, but I think the 80 other times I played I wasn’t so good.

“We have to look deeper than that. We have to have a responsibility to the football club and to try to help Ronald be successful or any Southampton manager. That’s just looking at other ways, subjective and objective, that we can present players that are relevant to us and kind of cut down a lot of wasted energy and finance, and making the right decisions.”

Mitchell explained a typical day will include talking short, medium and long term, to assess everything from players coming through the Saints system to more immediate targets to help the manager.

The man in charge of all this must surely have been delighted last week to read Ronald Koeman tell the Daily Echo that he had been impressed by what he found, with players he instinctively wanted like Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic already on the club’s shortlist before his arrival, thanks in part to the ‘Black Box’.

“They’re quite logical theories when you say them out loud,” he reckoned.

“When we look to recruit players, we look to recruit a certain philosophy, that is a DNA throughout Southampton, and when we look to recruit managers we look to recruit managers for us – a certain style of play, certain attributes, a certain character, so when Ronald came in ultimately we’d have done something wrong either with the player identification or the manager identification if they didn’t work well together.

“There’s never going to be an ultimately smooth transition, but they should work and they should function together, so it’s nice to hear Ronald was surprised, because it means we’ve done something well in one of the two areas.

“The theory is definitely always trying to stick to our philosophies, stick to our methodology, and make sure they’re always interlined and parallel with each other.”