Saturday, 18 August 2012

Southampton Prepare For Life Back In The Premier League

The wait is almost over for Southampton as they get ready for life back in the top flight for the first time since 2005. 112 days after the Saints secured promotion on the final day of last season, Nigel Adkins' men travel to the new Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday afternoon. It is a tough start for the Saints however the fans will be glad to be back where they feel the club belongs.

Premier League football returns to St. Mary's
It has been an eventful few years for all connected with Southampton Football Club. Relegation to League One and going into administration left everybody on the edge of their seats to see if the club had a future. Markus Liebherr and Nicola Cortese came to save the club from extinction and set the vision of a five-year plan to get back to the Premier League. Saints missed out of a play-off spot in their first season in League One with a ten point deduction but it was a contempt season with a day out at Wembley in the Johnstone's Paint trophy final. The Saints ran out 4-1 winners against Carlisle that day where it was a day to remember for the 40,000 plus Southampton fans that travelled to north London. 

Onto the 2010/2011 season, the Saints struggled to get off the mark where after four matches, it cost Alan Pardew his job. His replacement, Nigel Adkins, was brought in from Scunthorpe to try and steer the club to promotion from 22nd place. Adkins had previously experienced winning promotion with the Iron which was the key to his appointment and he successfully guided Southampton back to the Championship. His positivity had worn off on all of the Saints fans and the club continued their challenge of returning to England's top division.

It was going to be a very competitive campaign with the majority of the teams in the Championship having applied their trade in the Premier League at one point in their history. An impressive 3-1 victory over Leeds on the opening day gave Saints the perfect start but things would improve dramatically for Nigel Adkins’ men. Their 100% home record was the catalyst of the Saints’ success and by Christmas, Southampton were top of the Championship. The fans were starting to think of consecutive promotions and after a little blip, Southampton will still in the top two. The games were coming thick and fast for the south coast club and it was obvious to see that the players wanted to achieve more success. It came to the final day against Coventry at St. Mary’s to secure promotion back to the Premier League and a 4-0 victory confirmed Southampton’s return. It was a memorable campaign for all connected with the Saints and with the club now in the right hands, the main aim is to establish themselves in the Premier League. 

The fixture computer couldn’t have given Saints a tougher start in their return to the Premier League. They travel to the new crowned champions Manchester City tomorrow in a match where Southampton will face against some of the best players in the world. After a home tie against Wigan, Manchester United come to St. Mary’s before Nigel Adkins’ men make the short journey to Arsenal. The players have already shown their excitement to begin their Premier League campaign and Nigel Adkins has hinted that they want to aim higher than just survival. The majority of the media have already put Southampton down as relegation candidates however Adkins is confident his side will prove their critics wrong.

The Premier League is one of the most competitive leagues in world football and Southampton will be looking to make a good account of themselves starting with tomorrow’s match at the Etihad Stadium. Despite a few good signings in Nathaniel Clyne, Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis and Paulo Gazzaniga, Adkins hasn’t brought in a new central defender which is a current weakness with only Jos Hooiveld, José Fonte, Danny Seaborne and Jack Stephens available. The defence hasn't been Southampton's strongest point in recent years although they had the third best defensive record in the Championship last season. With another possible addition in Uruguayan midfielder Gastón Ramírez, a new centre back has to be the primary priority for Nigel Adkins as Premier League strikers can punish teams instantly.

Southampton's quartet of new signings
Overall, Southampton will be pleased to be back in the Premier League and the fans will be excited for the new season to begin at Manchester City. Nigel Adkins has brought attractive football to the club which the fans haven’t seen at the club for a long time. Adkins assures that football will be played ‘the Southampton way’ and the players will have to adapt to life in the Premier League. They have been experimenting with different formations in pre-season, mainly 4-5-1 and 4-3-3, where the players will get used to if those tactics are employed. Southampton's attacking prowess was crucial last season finishing as the Championship's top scorers but the difference between the second tier and the Premier League is huge. It will be challenging season for Southampton although they can have a decent campaign and stay up comfortably. They can also spring a few surprises but one thing is for sure, they need to sort out a new centre back or two before the end of the transfer window.

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