Mauricio Pellegrino has begun to demonstrate that Saints are developing under his leadership – but there’s still a long way to go until he proves himself to be the real deal at St Mary’s.

Saints played in a new system against Manchester City. It looked organised and it was clear what the team’s direction and purpose was.

The team worked hard for a common goal and, but for Raheem Sterling’s last-gasp winner, they would have got the point they deserved from City.

The 5-3-2 formation was set-up well and every player knew his job. For the second game running, Saints looked to have a direction under Pellegrino and the St Mary’s boss’s tactical choices were clear and understandable.

Saints had set-up to absorb as much pressure as they could from City’s sensational attack and they did that as well as any team will this season.

Pellegrino showed tactical nous and had the courage of his convictions to deploy this system and change a winning side.

Knowing his team have a packed fixture list until through to the New Year, Pellegrino knew he must make the most of his squad and deploy rotation to keep them fresh for the next game.

Going into a winnable game AFC Bournemouth, he knew he wanted the likes of Sofiane Boufal, Steven Davis, Dusan Tadic and Charlie Austin to be fit and ready.

Ultimately, the Cherries match is more important than City, but it was still vital to come away with pride from the Etihad Stadium.

They succeeded in that and they’ve also shown that they know how to play effectively in a different formation, which may well prove valuable going forward.

It felt like a crushing defeat at City – because of the timing of the winning goal – but Saints will have only gained confidence from that performance and haven’t lost important momentum going to the Vitality Stadium.

Pellegrino has the option now to play the same team that did so well against Everton last weekend, knowing they’ll be fresh and ready for it.

The Toffees win was fantastic. For the first time this season, Saints played with direction for a full game and that should now be the precedent they set themselves heading to Bournemouth.

With Austin upfront Saints had the focal point they’ve be crying out for for so long.

They are among the most prolific crossers of the ball in the Premier League, but have only now just started to play their tallest and most targetman-like striker.

Now, Pellegrino knows Austin's value.

The early parts of this season had been highly frustrating from a Saints perspective. Often, there has been little sign that Pellegrino knew what direction he was taking this team in.

All the component parts of a decent team were present. We were usually told by players and Pellegrino himself that ‘quality is there’, but it was about harnessing that ability and turning it to something worthwhile.

There have been many laboured performances and that has led to frustrating results, especially at St Mary’s where the team’s form continued to be poor following a difficult end to last season.

The promise of free-flowing attacking football that Pellegrino and vice chairman of football Les Reed made on the new manager’s arrival looked on the pitch to be a long way off.

Around Pellegrino swirled an unhappy fanbase and, it seemed, having failed to take advantage of a favourable opening run of fixtures, the pressure was well and truly on.

The 46-year-old remained a picture of calm during this period and publicly was adamant that he was under no pressure and kept believing it would come right.

Pellegrino would undoubted rile many when he’d sometimes say that Saints ‘deserved more’, especially at home where his team had won just two in seven and struggled to score.

The pressure was on and the backdrop was that Saints were heading into one of the most difficult runs in their Premier League history. The fear of being dragged into a relegation scrap was real.

But there was a clear message from the Argentine that the process of moulding this team in his image was a long one. He described this process using a gym analogy before the 4-1 win over Everton.

“I don’t ask for patience, but I know how my job is,” he said. “It’s a transition and a journey, and a long way.

“When you go to the gym, the first two months you don’t see anything in the mirror, but you know you’re doing exactly the right things.

“This is the same. You know you’re doing the right things, but maybe in one year’s time, two years’ time; maybe your shape will be better, no?

“But you have to keep going to the gym.”

For all the drama and worry that surrounded the club, Pellegrino was relaxed and focused on the job at hand.

Now, following the performances against Everton and Manchester City, Pellegrino’s men are starting to show they’re making gains, but more to the point Pellegrino has got hit team playing with purpose.

So often had Saints played some pretty stuff and created chances, but failed miserably to deliver. The Burnley, Swansea, Huddersfield, Stoke, Newcastle and Brighton matches were such occasions.

But now they’ve found that purpose and fight. It should have happened a lot earlier, but, as they say, it’s better late than never.

Now, Saints must prove another point at Bournemouth.