The hard work has begun for Southampton, as new boss Mauricio Pellegrino is determined to get the most out of their pre-season trip to Austria.
With less than a month until the kick-off of the Premier League, the Argentine believes it is vital that the Saints are prepare for the ominous task ahead.
Time to get away
As is commonplace with Premier League teams in the modern game, Southampton will spend a large chunk of their pre-season abroad, as they seek be as prepared as possible for the upcoming campaign.
The Saints are currently in Austria, training ahead of their inaugural friendly of the season against Swiss outfit St Gallen this Saturday. After a brief return home to play Brentford, the squad are off to France, where they will face Ligue 1 side St-Etienne. Pellegrino's first match at St Mary's will be against Augsburg on 2nd August, before Sevilla visit just three days later.
With players needing to adapt to a new style of play, match preparation, against a varying level of opponent, will be key for Southampton over the next month, as they look to work things out in time for when the serious stuff starts.
Plenty at stake
As well as allowing bonds between players on the pitch to develop, the next few weeks will feature some intriguing individual duels amongst the Southampton squad.
Strikers Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin are set to do battle for the single starting spot up front in Pellegrino's system, while emerging centre-backs Jack Stephens and new signing Jan Bednarek will be desperate to show what they can do. Similarly, midfielders James Ward-Prowse, Steven Davis, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oriol Romeu will be hoping to catch the eye of their new manager, with probably only a couple of starting places up for grabs.
Evidently, the objective of the Saints' pre-season stretches far beyond simple match practice.
No time to lose
A simplistic view of the football calendar suggests that the off-season is the most irrelevant time of year; there are no competitive matches, and all the biggest stories are occurring off the pitch. However, Pellegrino is under no illusions of the importance of the next month.
The 45-year-old believes that "every single day is important for us", as he and his side look to develop "one model, one behaviour". Unity seems to be the key priority for the former Argentina international, as he is focusing on creating "one team on the pitch" from "a lot of diversity".
Nevertheless, the Southampton board showed that they are ready to give under-performing managers the bullet when they sacked Claude Puel after a single season. As a result, Pellegrino's admirable diligence to preparation will need to translate until success when the season starts, or he too will be on his way.