To call any assessment of Saints' summer signings premature at this stage would be a major understatement.

With just two of five pre-season games in the books, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s entire side is still shaking off the rust and getting up to speed for the new campaign. That certainly includes the four first-team signings (plus Mateusz Lis) who have joined thus far as they continue to learn what their manager wants from them while developing an understanding with their teammates.

READ MORE: Why a new striker won't solve Saints scoring problem

And while it's the earliest of days, we've now had our first glimpses of Saints' newest recruits and what they could bring to the South Coast...

Gavin Bazunu

Signed On: June 17

Signed From: Manchester City

Minutes Played for Saints: 45

Given the first opportunity of Saints' pre-season campaign against RB Leipzig, it took less than ten minutes for Bazunu to flash his prodigious talent.

A relatively quiet and typically 'pre-season' opening was ignited when the ball fell to Leipzig midfielder Dominic Szoboszlai 25 yards from goal. Without hesitation, he lasered his effort towards the top corner but at the last-second Bazunu came out of nowhere to tip it over the bar.

READ MORE: The remarkable rise of 'midfielder with gloves' Gavin Bazunu

It was truly a remarkable save and while it’s just one moment from a game that ultimately does not matter, it provided further belief about the potential this young goalkeeper has.

Most have seen the save by now, but the angle below highlights just how ludicrous it was.

Daily Echo:

Daily Echo:

But it wasn’t just one moment that impressed Saints fans. Bazunu was consistently calm and composed with the ball at his feet, finding teammates with both his short and long-range passing while also leaving his line on multiple occasions to claim crosses.

One example of the latter came midway through the first half when a Leipzig free-kick was curled into a dangerous area. Committing early, Bazunu made sure it was his.

Daily Echo:

Daily Echo:

Still just 20 years old, there’s massive pressure on the shoulders of Bazunu as he enters his first season of Premier League football. But it's clear from the way he carries himself and the confidence he possesses on the pitch that his age is just a number.

Required to be a leader from his position as goalkeeper, it's a duty Bazunu has relished from the age of 16 when he broke into the Shamrock Rovers first team and was happy to bark instructions at experienced ex-Premier League defender Joey O'Brien.

Still in the infancy of his Southampton career, Bazunu already seems to be adopting a leadership role, as displayed on Saturday when he used the first-half drinks break to go over some tactics with fellow new signing Armel Bella-Kotchap, pointing to the various imperfections he had spotted from his perch in the Saints goal.

Daily Echo:

Left out of the squad for Monday's clash with SK Klagenfurt, it is understood that Bazunu is not injured but Hasenhuttl wanted to give Alex McCarthy 90 minutes before doing the same with the Ireland international as the two goalkeepers compete for the starting job.

Armel Bella-Kotchap

Signed On: June 21

Signed From: VFL Bochum

Minutes Played for Saints: 105

Of the three goals, Saints have conceded thus far in pre-season, just one - Angelino’s free-kick for Leipzig - came with Bella-Kotchap on the pitch. The sample size is so slender that any statistics mean very little but Saints have looked a more solid defensive cohort with the new signing in the team.

Part of that of course is owed to the more first-team nature of the defensive set-ups Bella-Kotchap has been a part of.

Utilising a 3-5-2 thus far in pre-season, Bella-Kotchap has been operating on the right side of the three next to Jan Bednarek and Mohammed Salisu while the second team has seen minutes given to Jack Stephens, Lyanco, Yan Valery and Dynel Simeu. This is obviously a good sign for Bella-Kotchap's chances of starting immediately as opposed to enduring a lengthy bedding-in process like Salisu went through in his first season at the club.

From the right of a back three, Bella-Kothcap’s natural front-foot aggressive instincts can shine while there’s slightly less of a need for the same kind of discipline as in a back four. 

Here is one example from the first half against Leipzig as Saints have the ball near the corner flag. Take a look at just how high Bella-Kotchap is, acting as the first line of defence while offering himself as an outlet if needed...

Daily Echo:

Bella-Kotchap plays on the front foot and that aggressive nature led him to three fouls in the first half against Leipzig, the most of any player on the pitch. But none were in hugely dangerous areas and that physicality is a major part of the way he defends.

Below is one of many examples from the friendly against Leipzig of Bella-Kotchap's front-foot approach, aided by playing with the security a back three provides.

As Leipzig break with the ball, Bella-Kotchap is just out of the picture...

Daily Echo:

But as soon as the pass is played, the centre-back springs into action, committing to the ball and getting there in front of the Leipzig attacker.

Daily Echo:

Here is another example from the second half of Saints' 3-1 defeat. As a Southampton attack breaks down, Leipzig play the ball forward and look to counter at Saints' depleted defensive numbers.

Daily Echo:

As the ball travels to the feet of the Leipzig forward, Bella-Kotchap muscles his way past and wins the ball before drawing a foul, curtailing the Germans' counter-attack while keeping Saints' pressure alive.

Daily Echo:

It's this physicality and anticipation that make Bella-Kotchap the raw yet exciting proposition he is. However, it does likely mean there will be a learning curve with mistakes baked into the hyper-aggressive approach.

Playing in a bank of three centre-backs could help alleviate some of the pressure on Bella-Kotchap but it remains to be seen what formation Hasenhuttl chooses to use or if he will go away from his 4-2-2-2 for any extended period of time.

Slightly less expected than his trademark brand of physical defending he showcased in the Bundesliga, has been Bella-Kotchap's encouraging role when Saints have possession of the ball. Asked to get all the way wide on the right side, Bella-Kotchap has frequently been seen pulling out wide towards the touchline when Saints start to build attacks.

This opens him up as an option when Bednarek or Romeo Lavia have it centrally while also allowing the wing-back in front of him - Kyle Walker-Peters in this case - to get up the pitch and act as an extra attacker.

Here is one example from the second half against Klagenfurt on Monday...

Daily Echo:

With Bednarek on the ball in the middle of the pitch, Bella-Kotchap pulls out wide. The ball is soon played into him and he looks up and passes forward - Walker-Peters' advanced position clear from the second image.

Daily Echo:

Below is another example. of the same set-up from earlier in the half. This time, Lavia comes short to receive the ball and Bella-Kotchap is positioned wide to offer himself as a viable option. Once again, Walker-Peters is allowed to roam forward.

Daily Echo:

With one pass against Leipzig hit desperately far out of play and another which missed its intended target, Bella-Kotchap's value on the ball has largely come when he's able to carry it forward rather than pick out incisive passes.

From the right side of the back three, Bella-Kotchap frequently had the space and freedom to drive forward himself, something that helped shake up the opposition pressure and give Saints another route to advance their attacks.

After receiving the ball wide inside his own half against Leipzig, Bella-Kotchap spots the space in front of him and his first inclination is immediately to drive forward.

Daily Echo:

He ends up carrying it to the halfway line before he's bundled over, winning a Saints free-kick.

Daily Echo:

At just 20 years of age, Bella-Kotchap still has a lot to learn and will now face the steepest of learning curves that is the Premier League. Errors will come - hopefully not too many of them - but the defender has already flashed elements of his potential in his brief Saints career thus far. There's certainly reason for optimism with their newest defensive project.

Mateusz Lis

Signed On: June 17

Signed From: Altay SK (Free following the expiry of his contract)

Minutes Played for Saints: 15

Joining the club on the same day as Bazunu, it's safe to say the same kind of hype and excitement did not accompany Lis' arrival. The expectation has always been that Lis will head out on loan this season, a feeling that was strengthened when Willy Caballero signed a new one-year contract.

But as of now, Lis is still at the club having been a part of the group that travelled to Austria. How much longer will he stay? That much is certainly unclear but he did get the chance to make his unofficial Saints debut in the additional 15 minutes tacked onto the 90 played against Leipzig.

Daily Echo: Mateusz Lis posing after signing for Saints. Image by: Southampton FCMateusz Lis posing after signing for Saints. Image by: Southampton FC (Image: Southampton FC)

And while it was only the briefest of cameos, Lis did himself no harm. Within the first minute of his introduction, he was forced into a smart low save, which he made without any fuss.

Granted, this was a game that didn't matter, but Lis appeared comfortable, playing a number of effective passes while claiming the ball confidently when crosses arrived in the box.

With Bazunu and McCarthy battling it out for the number one job and Caballero acting as the mentoring third-string, the overwhelming likelihood is that Lis will still spend the 2022/23 campaign away from St Mary's.

The early impact of Romeo Lavia and Joe Aribo will be assessed in part two, published on Saintsplus tomorrow.

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this article - we appreciate your support in reading the Daily Echo.

Subscribing to the Echo means you have unrestricted access to the latest news, features and Saints coverage - all with an advertising-light website.

You will also have full access to Saintsplus, your new home for Southampton FC tactical analysis, features and much, much more.

Don't take my word for it - subscribe here to see for yourself.

Follow the latest breaking news in the Southampton area by joining our Facebook group - Southampton News - Breaking News and Incidents

Follow the latest court and crime news on our dedicated Facebook group - Hampshire Court and Crime News