Last season: 2nd (Championship) - Promoted
Premier League champions odds: 3,500-1
For a side that was a regular at the top flight table for 27 consecutive years since 1978 and reached the FA Cup final less than a decade ago, the last few years have been a roller-coaster of a ride for Southampton. They came perilously close to plunging into the abyss before slowly resurfacing, to the point where now face their first Premier League season since 2005.
Under Nigel Adkins the club have achieved back-to-back promotions and the former goalkeeper with a physiotherapy degree has instilled a sense of stability within the club since he was appointed at St Mary’s in 2010.
The Saints have been a well-balanced force under the guidance of the former Scunthorpe manager – they finished last season with the highest-scoring attack in the Championship and the third-best defence – but questions linger on whether they will be able to sustain performances of such high level in the top-flight.
Saints fans know that if they’re to emulate Norwich and avoid relegation after consecutive promotions, the squad needs strengthening and Adkins acted swiftly in the transfer window, securing midfielder Steven Davis from Rangers and Jay Rodriguez from Burnley for £7m, making him the most expensive player in Saints’ history.
The 23-year-old scored 21 goals in 47 games last season for Burnley and will join Rickie Lambert, Billy Sharp and Lee Barnard in a front-line whose members have never played in the Premier League as yet.
Lambert scored 31 goals in 48 games last season and, while it would be foolish to expect him to maintain the same scoring record in the top-flight, Southampton fans will hope he can deliver the goods yet again similarly to what Grant Holt did for Norwich last season.
If the deal for Uruguayan Gaston Ramirez can be concluded, Rodriguez’s record as the most expensive player won’t last long as Saints bring in a player that will truly excite the fans and bolster their midfield attacking options, not that they are short…
Adam Lallana’s contribution to the goal tally will be crucial for the Saints. The 24-year-old midfielder will be one the players to watch in the Premier League this season, following his excellent displays over the last three campaigns as he became the first Saint to score more than 20 goals in a season since Matt Le Tissier in 1994-95 and was then named in the League One Team of the Year for the 2010–11 season and in the Championship Team of the Year last season.
Adkins has admitted interest in Blackpool winger Matt Phillips but no direct approach had been made at the time of writing, while rumours linking Blackburn’s Scott Dann with a move to the South coast have cooled since Southampton have clarified they’re not ready to meet Blackburn’s £6m request.
The back-four, so solid last season, lacks Premier League experience like the rest of the team – with Kelvin Davis and Danny Fox two of the exceptions, having played at Sunderland and Burnley – but has been bolstered by the signing of full-back Nathaniel Clyne from Crystal Palace.
Southampton will hope enthusiasm and resilience can secure their survival in the Premier League and will need plenty of both as they face defending champions Manchester City next Sunday in their first game of the season.
Predicted finish: 18th
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