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: Bazunu shines and Bella-Kotchap flashes potential in first impressions of Saints' defensive recruits

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. Yesterday, we took a look at the defensive recruits and today it's the midfielders' turn...

Romeo Lavia

Signed On: July 6

Signed From: Manchester City

Minutes Played for Saints: 105

With just one professional appearance under his belt prior to joining Southampton earlier this month, Lavia is perhaps the most unknown of those who arrived on the South Coast thus far this summer. But the early signs are promising.

Brought in to challenge for a first-team place before eventually succeeding Oriol Romeu - who has just one year left on his current Saints contract - Lavia has been playing with what appears to be the early indications of Hasenhuttl’s likely starting XI for the opening day of the season. 

Meanwhile, Romeu has been at the centre of the less experienced side full of fringe players. It’s entirely possible that the Saints manager wants Romeu’s calm experience amongst the largely untested group, but purely on the basis of their play, Lavia could well be leading the race for a starting berth on August 7th at Tottenham.

Daily Echo: Lavia arrived from Man City for a fee of around £12m. Image by: Southampton FCLavia arrived from Man City for a fee of around £12m. Image by: Southampton FC

On paper, Saints’ formation through their first two pre-season games has looked like a 3-5-2 but the make-up of the midfield has it much closer to a 3-1-4-2 with Lavia sitting in front of the defence and Ibrahima Diallo and Will Smallbone or Moi Elyounoussi further forward helping out the attack.

Required to protect the back four while instigating attacks, it’s a lot of responsibility to place on Lavia but he seems to be handling it with ease thus far. Playing in the hole between defence and attack, Lavia is often the bridge, coming short to take the ball from his defenders before looking to move it up the pitch.

Idolising Sergio Busquets growing up, Lavia possesses pieces of the legendary Spaniard’s skillset, seen in his constant scanning and moving as he opens himself up to get the ball. Its not always the most dramatic piece of play but it’s essential for his role in the team.

Here’s one example of that from early on against Leipzig. With Salisu on the ball, Lavia is one step ahead, scanning all around the area before making a move to the free pocket of space. 

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But before the pass can get made, the angle is closed down and Elyounoussi play it backwards. Instead of staying still, Lavia moves again to find more free space.

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Below is another example from the second half against Klagenfurt as Lavia finds the space between the Austrian side's press while also presenting a perfect angle for Salisu to find him.

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Once on the ball, Lavia’s range of passing - both over short and long-distances has helped Saints progress the ball up the pitch quickly and effectively, the 18-year-old frequently passing through lines of pressure to take opposition players out of the game.

Here is one example from the friendly against Klagenfurt as Lavia looks up and plays a sharp pass in between the defenders and through to Stuart Armstrong.

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And below is a window into his more extravagant passing ability, finding Kyle Walker-Peters with a perfect chipped ball over the top which led to Saints' penalty.

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Perhaps even more impressive than his passing though is when Lavia is able to carry the ball himself. Clearly unfazed by the presence of opposition players pressing him high up the pitch, Lavia has dazzled with a little drop of his shoulder before cannoning into the free space ahead.

In the below example, Lavia gets played the ball with a Leipzig midfielder closing in.

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Instead of taking a touch, Lavia plants his foot faking a dead stop before turning up the pitch and exploding past the opposition marker. All without actually touching the ball.

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The beauty of this is in the speed and subtlety of Lavia's movement. As can be seen in the below image, the Leipzig player is firmly planted on his heels expecting Lavia to stay put while the Saints midfielder has turned and is already powering up the pitch, helping create separation from his marker.

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Of course, as a defensive midfielder, Lavia's number one job is to protect the back four. Known during his time at Manchester City as a tenacious tackler with excellent recovery speed, Lavia has displayed the traits which show he can do the dirty work as well.

A good example of that can be seen below, from the second half against Klagenfurt. As the Austrians counter at Saints, Lavia retreats quickly to get in position in front of the back three.

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As the Klagenfurt attacker attempts to cut inside, Lavia reads it perfectly and gets his toe to the ball.

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When it breaks free, his first instinct is to then explode up the pitch, taking his side away from danger and starting a Saints counter.

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Despite his age and limited experience, Lavia is already displaying impressive maturity as well as an impressively well-rounded ability. He'll get the season to learn from Romeu, but it would be no surprise to see Lavia steal the Spaniard's starting role sooner rather than later, such is his talent and potential.

Joe Aribo

Signed On: July 9

Signed From: Rangers

Minutes Played For Saints: 105

Perhaps the signing that was accompanied by the most fanfare thanks to Aribo's impressive CV for both club and country, the Nigerian has had a quiet start to life in a Saints shirt.

It's crucial to point out he still hasn't been at the club for two weeks yet, so it's hardly a surprise to see him in the process of getting up to speed.

Operating as the second striker in Saints' 3-5-2 shape, Aribo has largely started towards the right side while coming centrally to help aid the striker, Nathan Tella against Leipzig and Adam Armstrong vs Klagenfurt.

Neither forward is the most physical and as such, Aribo has frequently found himself playing with his back to goal, helping Saints build attacks and take the ball down against physical central defenders. He can do this job but Aribo is at his best with the game in front of him, able to carry the ball and break into the box.

Ideally, Aribo gets on the ball close to goal where he can really do damage but he's also capable of carrying the ball from deeper as seen in this example against Klagenfurt.

Aribo wins the ball back and drives away from the opposition player, quickly eating up the space ahead.

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Within moments, Aribo is near the halfway line and has attracted the attention of three Klagenfurt players, creating the space for Stuart Armstrong to run into, Aribo finding the Scotsman with a simple pass.

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Aribo has shown flashes of the ability that made him so popular in Scotland but it will take time for him to build up the understanding with his teammates that's so important for someone who plays in the style that he does.

Constantly making runs just outside and inside the box, Aribo's smart movement has at times not been spotted so far in Saints' pre-season run. Below is a perfect example against Leipzig.

As Moussa Djenepo cuts inside, Aribo darts in between the two Leipzig defenders and into the space between the Germans' defence and goalkeeper. 

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The pass eventually does arrive but it's late and too heavy, allowing Leipzig's goalkeeper to come out and claim it.

Below is another example from Saints' 0-0 draw with Klagenfurt.

As Walker-Peters drives into the box, Aribo can be seen arriving late, available in space for a cut-back.

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Walker-Peters ends up ignoring Aribo and playing a superb ball towards Elyounoussi at the back post, but these are the details of Aribo's game that will take time to perfect with his teammates. Fortunately, they have another three pre-season games before the real thing starts.

And while we're yet to see the best of Aribo's magic on the ball, he has been a crucial part of Saints' game-plan out of possession, often acting as the first line of pressure.

With Leipzig passing around the back, Aribo is level with Tella as the highest line of pressure, watching the play develop and waiting for his moment to pounce.

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As the ball is passed back to the deepest Leipzig defender, Aribo makes his move. The genius of this is in the angle he takes up, running towards the ball in an arc rather than in a straight line so as. tobe on the right of the defender and keep them closed into that area of the pitch.

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Leipzig eventually try to force the ball forward where Elyounoussi is able to intercept and start a new Saints attack. There will certainly be more to come from Aribo, his skillset is too diverse and his talent too great, for there not to be. But it may take time. Until then, he'll still be on hand to make an impact as he did against Leipzig.

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