Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Southampton Return - Premier League Season Preview

Keeping up

There is no doubt that Saints manager Nigel Adkins has secured himself as a fan favourite in less than two years of being in-charge; the forty-seven-year-old has driven the club to back-to-back promotions. The clubs stability has also seen a huge change since the arrival of Nicola Cortese, who took over from his great friend Markus Liebherr, who sadly passed away in August 2010.
New Signing: Jay Rodriguez

Cortese has given Adkins whatever he wants since his arrival, although he does seem to wear the trousers when it comes to signing players. This summer, Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis, Nathaniel Clyne and Paulo Gazzaniga have been brought in to strengthen the South coast outfit.

The style of football which has been played by Southampton for the past two seasons has been beautiful to watch, free-flowing passing and movement have been a pleasure to watch for the fans. The question on everyone’s lips is whether the team can still play that style of football when in the top tier. Pre-season has seen Adkins’ side mix up the formation, trying out a 4-3-3 style, as well as the classic 4-4-2 with talisman Rickie Lambert partnered upfront with Billy Sharp/Rodriguez.

Player to watch

Most Southampton fans would probably say Adam Lallana as their player to watch in the Premiership this season, although I think most people have heard of the talented midfielder by now. My player to watch is Morgan Schneiderlin, a personal favourite, but his talents seem to have gone un-noticed whilst his playmaking abilities have won us numerous matches in the second and third tier of English football. The French under-21 international has been a vital part of both promotion campaigns, despite only scoring three goals in two years. His ability to pass a long-range ball cross-field is outstanding, not to mention his positional and defensive knowledge, despite being just twenty-two years of age. Enough of the praise from me though, he will soon be a well-known part of the Southampton side this season when he comes up against some of the best players in the world.

Morgan Schneiderlin - Southampton v Nottingham Forest - npower Championship
In Action: Morgan Schneiderlin

Player to sell

Not Needed: Lee Barnard
As much as I hate to say it, I think Lee Barnard’s time with Saints is up. The striker scored enough goals for the club to deserve a starting eleven spot, although regaining promotion to the big-time may be just one step too far for the striker. He seems to suit the Championship with his knowledge and experience, but I doubt his ability in the Premiership, especially with three top-quality strikers ahead of him in the pecking order. I am surprised a Championship club hasn’t come in for him yet. Although the reason for this maybe because of his court case which has gone quiet in the media, the 28 year-old was arrested after a brawl in a night-club which resulted in him being dropped from the first team in League 1.

View on the manager

Nigel Adkins is tipped 40/1 to be sacked first this season, I think he will be fine as long as Southampton don’t finish bottom by a distance. If we keep picking up the odd three points here and there, I think he should be safe. Some consideration should be taken from what he has done for the club, although I worry Nicola Cortese will look past that and focus on surviving in the top tier. Adkins is known for his positivity and enthusiasm, but as proved in recent seasons, many managers don’t get away with being good in front of the camera, it’s all about results.

Realistic ambitions

As expected, the newly-promoted side is going to be tipped for relegation. However, if Adkins can find the correct formation to use and the right style of play (which he has done so far in his Southampton reign), then he could become even more of a Southampton icon and keep the Saints up. Results will depend on the new signings, Rodriguez must impress in the top flight, despite not having any premiership experience. Rickie Lambert must also stay fit and carry on scoring goals like he did in the Championship/League 1. Adam Lallana could help keep the side above the relegation zone, his 11 assists and 13 goals last year prove he is good enough to step up to the plate.

League position

The lack of premier league experience could prove vital in survival for Southampton, if they stick together and show a real team spirit, they may be able to beat the drop. I have faith in Nigel Adkins to do the job again for Saints; Cortese must show faith in his manager too though. I think 16th place is a realistic ambition for the side this season, if the team can get in front and retain leads like they did last season (won all 21 matches after being in front at half-time) then they could beat the drop.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Shoot Magazine - Conference Season Preview

Click here to view my Conference season preview: Shoot