The past seven years has been a mixture of agony and ecstasy for Southampton F.C. 2005 saw The Saints relegated after 27 years of top-flight football, and things only got worse for the club when administration in 2009 left them languishing in League One. However the arrival of Nigel Adkins as manager and Nicola Cortese as Chairman has seen an awe-inspiring turnaround for the team, bringing them back into the premier league.
But can they survive against England's footballing elite, or are they destined to return to the Championship? Here is a closer look at what factors will determine The Saints outcome this season.
Why The Saints are Staying Up:
Nigel Adkins has been nothing short of incredible for the club, earning them back-to-back promotions since arriving in 2010. Fans and players alike revere him, and his honesty and integrity are a breath of fresh air in the Premier League. He's displayed smart business sense in the transfer period, picking up great talents like Nathaniel Clyne, Jay Rodriquez and Northern Ireland's skipper Steven Davis.
While most newly promoted teams focus purely on survival, Adkins has stated that The Saints are in it for the long haul. Both Nathaniel Clyne and Steven Davis cited 'ambition' as being the main catalyst in deciding their moves to The Saints - a reassuring sign to the fans that the club is on the right track.
Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese has been instrumental in instilling that sense of ambition at the club, and his long-term strategies and shrewd business sense have been crucial for Southampton's continued success. In a 2010 interview with The Times, Cortese stated;
"Clubs spend money they do not have; they spend next year's income. They spend money that will not arrive for two years and say, "But we'll have some success and bring in more cash to cover the shortfall." It cannot be sustained. In good times you need to be saving money for the bad times."
This kind of business sense has been severely lacking in the Premier League as of late, and will ensure the club don't find themselves in the kind of financial trouble that has plagued newly promoted teams in the past.
Key Players in the Campaign:
Nathaniel Clyne (RB):
One of the brightest young prospects in England, Clyne is set to light the Premier League on fire. A fantastic campaign with Crystal Palace saw him named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year last season and it is quite surprising a bigger team didn't snap him up. Incredibly fast and a solid one-on-one defender, Clyne plays with confidence and maturity that belies his young age.
Rickie Lambert (ST):
The Championship's Player of the Year scored an impressive 21 goals last season to ensure The Saints were promoted back into the Premier League. He's been the clubs talisman since his arrival in 2009, and he's maintained a 100% penalty conversion rate while playing for Southampton. At 30 he can't be expected to play every game, but thanks to the arrival of Jay Rodriguez he won't have to.
Jay Rodriquez (ST):
15 Goals in 37 appearances last season saw the 23 year old named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, and his first goal for The Saints came against Arsenal last month. An exciting young prospect who will be crucial to the team's success this season.
Adam Lallana (AM):
Another Saint's player who was selected for the PFA Championship Team of the Year last season, Lallana's influence in the midfield can change the course of the game. The 24 year old is a great dribbler, while his speed and finishing compliment Southampton's exciting brand of football to a tee.
Why the Saints Could Go Down
Lack of Depth:
Despite capturing some exciting players, The Saints squad still lacks the depth it needs to deal with a full season at this level. Defense is a main area of concern as the squad's back-up options are virtually nonexistent. Although they have a fantastic youth academy that has groomed the likes of Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a couple more proven players are imperative to the Saints survival. Injury to the likes of Lambert or Lallana could spell disaster for the team.
A Tough Start to the Season:
The Saints have an incredibly difficult start to the season with Manchester City on Sunday, followed by Wigan, Arsenal and Manchester United. A poor start could see the team lose confidence, and crucial midfielder Jack Cork's injury doesn't help matters.
The Saints exude a confidence in their play that make them an exciting team to watch, and they could replicate the success of clubs like Swansea and Norwich. If Lambert can continue his incredible hot-streak in front of goal and the new signings step up to the challenge, they could finish as high as 12th. Realistically I see them finishing just above the drop zone, but regardless of their position come May, they should provide some great entertainment in the season ahead.