Premier League Preview - Southampton
MANAGER: Nigel Adkins
STADIUM: St Mary`s Stadium (32690)
LAST SEASON: 2ND (CHAMPIONSHIP)
Southampton were another run-away train in the Championship last-season, deserving their promotion at the first opportunity. In fact it was successive promotions for the Saints who were able to call on their new-found wealth to force them over the line and back into the top tier.
The signing of Billy Sharp in particular was inspired as Southampton as they vied with the division`s elite for supremacy, eventually coming out on top in the battle for promotion - both they and Reading were the victors as Nigel Adkins enhanced his ever-growing reputation as a manager with the will to succeed.
IN: Jay Rodriguez (Burnley, £6m), Paulo Gazzaniga (Gillingham, undisclosed), Steven Davis (Rangers, free), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace, free).
OUT: Dan Harding (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Bartosz Bialkowski (Notts County, free), Lee Holmes (Preston North End, free), Ryan Doble (Shrewsbury, free), David Connolly (released), Radhi Jaidi (retired), Aaron Martin (Crystal Palace, loan), Tommy Forecast (Gillingham, loan)
This will undoubtedly be a very tough season for Southampton and the bare statistics would suggest that the struggle will be on despite their expensive summer inclusions. Jay Rodriguez has been signed for £7m - certainly a surprise deal considering his lack of top flight experience, combined with only a solitary England Under 21 cap.
They are deals that are either genius or fool-hardy - either way they would be well equipped for a battle back once more should the worst happen and they plummet through the trap door. Nigel Adkins took Scunthorpe into the Championship and kept them there briefly, and this situation seems to mirror the improbability and the battle that will await the Saints coming into this Premier League season.
KEY PLAYER: Jay Rodriguez
The former Burnley man is without question the biggest gamble of the summer. Nigel Adkins has delved into the market and paid a king's ransom to snare a player with only one Under 21 international appearance. If it comes off it will be worth its weight in gold, if it fails then Southampton could be staring down a dangerous barrel indeed.
Southampton have now also shed their load that took them from League One to the Championship the season before last, and have - as mentioned - introduced some big money gambles to the set-up at St Mary`s. While the exuberance of youth will undoubtedly yield positive results in isolation - it is questionable whether such inspirational players from last season - Guly, Lambert et al - will be able to withstand the pressures of the Premier League.