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Transfer Rater: Paco Alcacer to Southampton

Football Whispers
 By Alex Crook

Five things for Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino to sort out first

Southampton unveiled Mauricio Pellegrino as their third manager in as many seasons on Friday.

Pellegrino, 45, won the race to replace the sacked Claude Puel ahead of Dutch legend Frank de Boer, as Saints chiefs were impressed with how the Argentine guided little Alaves to the Spanish cup final and see similarities with fellow countryman and their former boss Mauricio Pochettino.

But what five things does Pellegrino need to do to ensure he matches Pochettino's success on the south coast?

1. Persuade star duo Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand to stay

Van Dijk's on-off move to Liverpool has been one of the sagas of the summer so far.

Although the Merseysiders withdrew their interest after Southampton accused them of tapping the player up, there are still plenty of other suitors for their captain. Chelsea are reportedly lining up a £60 million bid to test Southampton's resolve, so it is up to Pellegrino to convince the Dutchman he can satisfy his ambitions on the south coast.

The same goes for England left-back Ryan Bertrand, who is reportedly keen on linking up with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

2. Reunite a divided dressing room

Puel did not so much lose the dressing room as he never really won it over in the first place. His lack of charisma had several senior players doubting him from the start, and that lack of rapport with his players was one of the key factors why he was fired despite leading Southampton to an eighth-place Premier League finish and to the EFL Cup final.

One of Pellegrino's biggest challenges will be to breathe fresh enthusiasm into a squad who by the end of Puel's short-lived reign were left feeling flat and disenchanted.

That is why the new manager's work on the training ground in the early weeks of his tenure and during preseason will be doubly important.

3. Sign at least one top class centre-back

As a former defender himself, the ex-Liverpool star will be well aware of the importance of building a successful team from the back.

Southampton never replaced former captain Jose Fonte following his January move to West Ham and even if they convince Van Dijk to give them one more year, finding a top-level partner for him is a must.

Rookie Jack Stephens and the previously maligned Maya Yoshida did an outstanding job as fill-ins at the end of the season but should be no more than squad players in a team with genuine European ambitions.

4. Find a solution to Southampton's goal drought

The lack of goals -- especially at home where they scored 17, the same as relegated Middlesbrough -- was the biggest blight of Puel's stewardship. The fact Charlie Austin finished the season as their second top-scorer (six, one behind Nathan Redmond) despite being out injured from December until the final weeks of the season tells its own sorry story.

Pellegrino has plenty of forward options at his disposal, with Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini, Shane Long, Dusan Tadic and Redmond in his ranks, but he needs to find the right combination to get the goals flowing again.

5. Bond with the fans

Southampton supporters struggled to relate to Puel and never once sung his name. They found his football a turn-off and his news conferences dull.

Pellegrino is regarded as a more dynamic character, and a strong relationship must be built between the fans and the man in the dugout to help the players on the pitch.

Alex Crook is ESPN FC's Southampton blogger. Follow him on Twitter @alex_crook


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