The 2015/16 Premier League season will be the fourth successive campaign back in the top flight for Southampton following back to back promotions from League One and the Championship. They have finished 14th, eighth and seventh in their three years back in the top flight, qualifying for the Europa League for the upcoming season, but can they continue to improve in the EPL with the distraction of Europe on top of the domestic league and cup competitions?
The 2014/15 season was the first full season under the stewardship of the St. Mary’s club for Dutch manager Ronald Koeman following the departure of Mauricio Pochettino and despite and large exodus of players leaving the first team squad looking thin as the season kicked off following the 2014 World Cup the side found themselves sitting second in the table come the end of September. Thanks to an excellent first half of the season from Italian striker Graziano Pellé the Saints stayed in the top four of the league until the end of January and even though his goals tailed off in the latter stages of the 14/15 campaign the South coast side still finished a respectable seventh in the league, winning many admirers with their attractive style of football. Can they replicate this during the upcoming season?
2015/16 EPL Preview:
Southampton will believe that they can continue their fine performances from last season into the current season, but to do this they will need to keep hold of their best players. Already they have lost influential defender Nathaniel Clyne but as Ronald Koeman showed last season he has a keen eye when it comes to the transfer market and he will certainly believe that he’ll be able to improve on his squad no matter who leaves the club this summer.
Ins and Outs:
Juanmi – The Saints have signed the 22 year old striker from Spanish La Liga side Malaga on a four year deal and the youngster brings a record of 20 goals in 99 appearances since breaking into the first team in 2009. He scored eight in 38 last season to be the top scorer at Malaga, who finished ninth in the league, and after winning the U19 European Championships in 2011 and 2012 with Spain he broke into the first team to win his first cap earlier this year.
Cédric Soares – 23 year old Portuguese right back Cédric (as he is most commonly known) arrives at Southampton from Sporting Lisbon where he has made 94 appearances since his 2010 break through and he has bagged one goal for the club in each of the last three seasons. He broke into the Portuguese national team last year and has been capped four times after playing for all the underage sides. He will prove to be a natural replacement for the departing Clyne after moving on a four year deal worth £4.7m.
Maarten Stekelenburg – The former Ajax and Roma stopper, who has been capped 54 times by the Netherlands, moves to the Premier League side on a season long loan from Championship side Fulham and spending last season on loan at Monaco in France. The 32 year old brings a vast amount of experience to the club and will challenge number one goalkeeper Fraser Forester for a place in the starting XI.
Nathaniel Clyne – The biggest of the outgoing moves from St. Marys is that of the 24 year old who leaves after three seasons, 104 appearances and five goals. He moves to Liverpool in a deal worth £12.5m.
The club has also released another seven players, with former Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc and veteran defender Jos Hooiveld two of the biggest names. Boruc joins EPL new boys Bournemouth following a season long loan spell last season while Hooiveld is currently looking for a new club after spending last season loaned to Norwich and Milwall. Striker Dani Osvaldo has also been released too with following the £15m forward having spent the last 18 months on loan with Juventus, Inter Milan and Boca Juniors following a training fight with team-mate Jose Fonte.
Southampton EPL Preview Bets:
With The Saints finishing seventh last season and arguably having been able for higher had they had experienced a goal drought at a vital stage of the 2014/15 campaign it is not surprising to see that much of the betting value comes on Southampton once again challenging for a place in Europe again next season.
Online bookmaker William Hill make Southampton the joint seventh favourites to take the league title at odds of 301.00 with Everton as the sportsbook believe that the Merseysiders will be much more competitive without the distraction of Europe this season. Will the Europa League cause Southampton to fade this season in the EPL?
The price of Southampton to win the Premier League without the big six sides of Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur suggests not. The Saints are available at odds of 2.75, ahead of Everton at a price of 3.75, to triumph in this category and they’re ahead of Everton once again to finish in the top six of the league too at 3.50 to 4.00.
While the strain of the Premier League, the League Cup, the FA Cup and the Europa League may add some stresses to the Southampton side looking to compete and move into the top six of the league. However, we do agree with William Hill as we can see them having enough quality and player to power, with Koeman sure to add much more, to compete at the top of the league and, as such, we’re backing them to take the Premier League title without the top six at odds of 2.75 in the William Hill Sportsbook.