Sunday, April 22, 2018

Could Southampton be the dark horses in the Premier League title race next season?

Crippy Cooke in Editorial, English Premier League 20 May 2016

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman

Leicester City’s shock Premier League title triumph has placed real pressure on a number of promoted and existing clubs to push for more than mere consolidation each season.

All talk has been on which club could be the next to surprise the masses in the top-four, and the answer may well lie with Southampton given what they’ve shown since their promotion from the Championship.

Southmapton in the best shape

It’s gone largely unsaid outside of the Southampton camp that the South Coast side finished in their highest ever position (6th) with the most ever points (63) in their Premier League history, and they’ve improved each season since returning to the top-flight in 2012. Ronald Koeman was the man to lead them to their best Premier League finish, and has committed his future amid speculation from European giants.

Southampton boast a talented squad and should have no trouble keeping their best performing stars as they’ve secured Europa League football for 2016/17. The Saints boast real pedigree too, beating the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, while finishing just three points adrift of a Champions League spot in the table.

Southampton squad strong enough for top-four push at least

Despite still being a selling club, Southampton have continued to improve each season, and 2016/17 might be a good year for them as a result. Europa League football will provide a distraction if they don’t have a big squad to rotate next season, but Southampton have a lot going in their favour which could see them pushing on to challenge for a Champions League spot.

The squad doesn’t need to be changed too heavily in the summer like a number of clubs around them do. Koeman is unlikely to tamper with his goalkeeper (Fraser Forster), back-four (Cuco Martina, Jose Fonte, Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand) and half of his deep-lying midfield partnership (Victor Wanyama), but he does need a couple of new faces.

Minimal changes needed for Saints

Southampton could do with finding a regular partner for Wanyama as Oriol Romeu and Jordy Clasie have both been in and out of the side this season. They might be in the market for an attacking midfielder too as Steven Davis isn’t getting any young in the #10 role. And despite the Saints boasting three talented strikers (Graziano Pelle, Shane Long, Charlie Austin), they may cash in on 30-year-old Pelle to free up funds for another centre-forward.

The sides around them are likely to spend large sums of money to overhaul their squads which doesn’t guarantee instant success, and Southampton’s settled squad could start strongly in the Premier League as a result. Southampton are 150/1 to win the Premier League title next season, but Leicester City have proven that long odds are there to be quashed so can the Saints challenge at the top in 2016/17?


Crippy Cooke

Crippy Cooke has somehow written for the Telegraph, Independent, Huffington Post, Zoo Magazine, Daily Mail, ITV Football, MSN Sport, Yahoo Sport, London24 and Bleacher Report among others, despite knowing less about football than your average Fan TV member . The weekly accumulator enthusiast is saving up his winnings to pay for a much-needed hair transplant but grows more on his chin than his head. He lives and breathes football and somehow makes a living writing from it.



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